Last financial year 2013/2014, Teso Affairs embarked on the promulgation of the Teso Development Plan and as I speak, a final draft has been produced. The plan entails the development agenda of the region harnessing all socio-economic indicators and investment potentials. It is my opinion that I share the interventions therein with you.
- Crop production (advocacy and sensitization for cash production, re-construction and expansion of valley dams, construction of small irrigation schemes, procurement of tractors and related equipment, ox-ploughs and oxen and improved assorted seeds).
The rural population predominantly grows food-crops: cassava, millet, sweet potatoes, rice, sorghum, groundnuts, beans, peas, soya beans and sim-sim for own consumption. To a very limited extent, the people grow a surplus of these crops as well as keep cattle for sale. A few crops are grown almost exclusively for sale: cotton and sunflower but on small-sized farms.
Commercial farming, such as the cultivation of citrus: oranges, mangoes, pineapples, and avocadoes, is coming on board. Through the development plan and through interventions like advocacy and sensitization for cash production, re-construction and expansion of valley dams to provide water for irrigation, construction of small irrigation schemes, procurement of tractors and related equipment, ox-ploughs and oxen and provision of improved assorted seeds will revitalize crop production
- Fishing (de-silting fishing water bodies, destroying invasive weeds, popularizing fish farming)
Fishing is a source of income as well as a nutritious healthy food. In Teso Sub-region, abundant water bodies and swamps support fishing in many areas of the sub-region. Lake Kyoga is one of the lakes shared by Teso Sub-region and offers income generating alternatives for many people. Catch on Lake Kyoga (third largest source of Uganda‘s fish) has been fluctuating in the recent years (60,000 tons in 2008 and 2009, 49,060 in 2010 and 61,580 tons in 2011). There is some fishing in other smaller water bodies in Teso Sub-region but some of these have become shallow and need de-silting. They have also been invaded by weed, resulting in dwindling fishing activities. Through such strategies: de-silting fishing water bodies, destroying invasive weeds, popularizing fish farming fishing will be revitalized in the region.
- Livestock farming (restocking)
Teso sub-region used to be Uganda‘s meat basket and possessed the only meat packing plant, the Soroti Meat Packers. The plant was closed years ago due to lack of slaughter cattle. Prolonged war in Northern and Eastern Uganda from 1986 to 2007, constant cattle rustling from Teso Sub-region‘s northern neighbours, internal displacement of people to camps, intermittent drought and floods that hit the sub-region from time to time resulted in fewer cattle available to feed the plant.
Water for production reservoirs in form of dams and valley tanks are inadequate and quickly dry up during drought because of silting over time. Traditional grazing methods, shortage of water during dry seasons, the nature of traditional breeds, as well as animal diseases undermine yields in terms of livestock numbers, body weight and sale price. Through the restocking program the plight of Teso will be restored.
- Forestry (reforestation)
Teso Sub-region Districts have less than one sq. km of land under hardwood plantations and less than 2.2 sq km of softwood. Forests have continuously been cleared in Teso Sub-region, wetlands degraded, and the environment polluted. There are a host of factors that have brought about such state of affairs including: poverty, unsustainable use of resources, rapid population growth, urbanization, charcoal burning, agricultural expansion and the impacts of climate variability among others.
Reforestation will entail tree planting in all areas designated for forests. Communities will also be encouraged to plant trees in their own areas. The project will provide seedlings and support local capacity for seedling multiplication.
- Agricultural marketing (establishing Cooperative societies)
With cooperative societies disbanded countrywide many years ago, marketing arrangements for agricultural products involve two options. One, traders travel to farms and buy produce or livestock. Two, farmers carry their produce often on their heads or walk their livestock to weekly open markets to meet buyers. At open air markets, farmers whose goods have not sold all day long are desperately willing to sell them at giveaway prices. It is at this point that buyers are ready to buy hence farmers are always at the mercy of buyers.
Government will undertake the construction of access roads while the private sector will take care of Agro-processing. The third strategy recommended in this Plan is commercialising agricultural production. Commercial production involves the application of technology like irrigation and green houses to enable production like horticulture all year-round. Existence of crops all year-round ensures stable markets and regulates prices.
- Wetland management (land use planning and management, demarcation of wetlands)
Wetlands in Teso Sub-region have suffered the full brunt of human misuse of land resources. Some Districts like Kumi now have the least biomass cover as a result of deforestation where forests have been destroyed by human activities like bush burning, burning charcoal for household income and settlement in wetlands. Others are random encroachment on wetland, cutting of fuel wood for cooking, cutting timber and poles for construction, uncontrolled fishing, and cultivation of wetlands which have degraded Teso Sub-region‘s natural resources.
The plan will take a deliberate effort in land use planning and management, demarcation of wetlands in order to protect the environment.
- Providing road infrastructure (Tarmacking key roads that promote sub-regional growth, railway and air transport, ferry procurement, post and telecommunications)
The socio-economic transformation of Teso Sub-region will need an enabling road infrastructure to facilitate agriculture, industry, commerce, and all other activities. Road transport is a driver of virtually all development and day-to-day economic and social activities. The infrastructure is therefore a crucial input for the socio-economic development of Teso Sub-region. Road transport constitutes the threshold for sustained growth in all sectors, and provides linkages to most of the necessary inputs for supporting higher standards of living.
Presently, the only bituminised trunk road connects Mbale to Lira while only 0.5% of urban roads are bituminised. None of feeder roads or community access roads is bituminized. The road network in Teso Sub-region is therefore predominantly murram, some of which are motorable with difficulty during rainy season.
- Industrializing Teso region (establishment of a sub-regional industrial center)
Recent findings conclude that except for a few oil-exporting countries, there is a strong positive correlation between industrialization and rapid development. Industrialization creates employment and is a training environment for future entrepreneurs. This implies that Teso Sub-region‘s anticipated transformation from a peasantry to a prosperous sub-region rapid economic growth must derive a significant push from industry. Given Teso Sub-region production bias towards agriculture, its industrial base is likely to be agri-business, agro processing and agro-value addition. Government has already demarcated an industrial area in Soroti.
- Boosting trade (Establishment of regional Cooperative Unions)
Trade will occur when there is excess supply in Teso Sub-region and demand elsewhere. Today, the volume of trade in the sub-region is low. A number of factors are responsible. They include production for subsistence, few agro-processed products, unfavourable road infrastructure and weak marketing infrastructure.
New cash crops such as citrus fruits are planned for increase. Agro-processing industries, sale of livestock and beef, canned beef and fruits, juice, honey, and others will also boost to trade. Teso Tropical Fruit Cooperative Union (TEFCU) will promote fruit marketing especially after the completing the construction of the fruit factory.
- Developing Tourism (revitalizing tourist sites)
Teso Sub-region has a lot of natural resources with which to promote tourism but much of it remains underdeveloped. Tourist attractions in Teso Sub-region are little told to the outside world. The spiky rocks of Soroti, the Nyero Rock Paintings, and Tisai Island that is home to rare bird species and Teso Sub-region clays are some of the potential tourist attractions. All these endowments constitute potential infrastructure for wild game viewing, fishing, site seeing, beach recreation, forest camping and other activities. Supportive infrastructure hotels, bars and restaurants exist and are developing rapidly in the mushrooming trading
centres of the sub-region.
- Developing the Health sector (purchase of ambulances, establishing a regional blood bank, improving nutrition)
Human Health Indicators in Teso Sub-region point to no good state of health services and wellness in Teso Sub-region. Health indicators for Kumi District are illustrative. Infant mortality rate stands at 110/1000 (2007), well above the national level of 86/1000. Under-five mortality rate is estimated at 205/1000 while the maternal mortality is 30% i.e. 300/100,000. In 2009/2010, the top five causes of morbidity among children were malaria 58%, no pneumonia – cough or cold 18%, pneumonia 4% and skin diseases 3%. Malaria would have been prevented by sleeping under mosquito nets. For persons five years and above, the top five causes of morbidity include: Malaria 36%, no pneumonia-cough or cold 16%, injuries/trauma 5%, urinary tract infections 5% and skin diseases 4%. During the same period, malaria and anemia were the common causes of mortality for both children and adults. For children less than five years, the major causes of mortality included malaria 30%, anemia 26% and pneumonia 23%. For persons 5 years old and above, the major causes of mortality were AIDS 24%, malaria 12% and anemia 6%.
- Providing safe water (provision of piped water, gravity flow schemes)
Many diseases suffered in Teso Sub-region are water-borne. Inadequate access to safe water exposes the population to illness, resulting in high medical expenses. High expenses on family health divert the households’ investable resources, thus postponing the sub-regional goal of attaining prosperity. In this light, safe water is an independent variable in the equation of Teso Sub-region’s prosperity. The Government of Uganda aims at achieving universal safe water by 2015. Teso Sub-region is far behind this target.
- Improving sanitation (sensitization of communities about sanitation and hygiene, construction of new institutional pit and eco-san latrines)
Sanitation is concerned with hygiene (pit latrines, hand washing, and refuse disposal). The Government of Uganda aimed to reach 95% proper sanitation by 2015. Teso Sub-region is well behind this target.
In 2010/11 latrine coverage was only 50% in Kaberamaido and Katakwi rising to 63% in Amuria and Pallisa.
These ratios suggest that about half the population dispose off their human waste in the bush or gardens. This practice contaminates adjacent water bodies and transmits diseases. The Plan will give emphasis to high standards of personal and community hygiene and expect district administrations to use existing channels to actualize this objective.
- Skills development (construction of sub-regional Technical and vocational schools)
Skilled labour, across functions, is crucial for socio-economic transformation. At present, there is an acute scarcity of skilled labour to provide the needed skills in secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy of Teso Sub-region such as industry, marketing, and tertiary service delivery. The Sub-region lacks skills such as carpentry and joinery, bricklaying and concrete practice, electrical installation, agriculture, IT, tailoring, business/entrepreneurship, secretarial skills, medical skills, teacher training and learning. These skills are and will be needed to enable the envisaged transformation strategy of Teso Sub-region to be realised.
- Rural Electrification (Development and popularizing of alternative energy sources, provision of solar kits for schools and hospitals)
Financed by African Development Bank, the Tororo-Opoyo-Lira 132kV transmission line (260km) that traverses Teso Sub-region is being reconstructed to improve on the reliability, availability and quality of power in the area covered. The project will be commissioned in 2015. The Company proposes to extend 132kV transmission line from Opoyo to Katakwi. UECTL transmits its power to consumer substations from where UMEME distributes it to individual consumers.
Rural electrification beyond the work of REA will be necessary in order to reach the deeper villages of Teso Sub-region. Nationally, 76% of households use fuel wood for cooking; 20% charcoal, 1% electricity and 3% other. Similarly in Teso Sub-region, the main source of energy in current use is predominantly wood fuel. For example, about 99.9% of households in Kumi District use wood fuel while 0.02% of households use electricity/gas.
- Uplifting the quality of housing (construction of low cost houses)
In Teso Sub-region, only 30% of the community live in permanent houses while 70% live in semi-permanent or temporary housing, usually grass thatched. Nearly all rural houses in Teso Sub-region are grass-thatched, with mud and wattle round walls. These houses are cheap to construct and cool during day or night but also have serious disadvantages. They burn easily, harbour lots of other creatures in the roof and round shaped walls don‘t easily facilitate safe water harvesting during rainy spells. This quality of housing is also not safe for electric wiring or use of electric appliances and water plumbing.
During this Plan, communities will be sensitised to change to better houses, partner with other development partners like Habitat for Humanity to construct low cost houses.
- Mainstreaming cross cutting issues (advocacy and sensitization)
Teso Sub-region is a predominantly patriarchal society. Most decisions and resources are controlled by men although women shoulder most of the productive, reproductive, and community responsibility. For example, men decide what type of crop the family grows; where and when to grow it; how many children to produce; which ones to go to school or not etc.
Women on the other hand have limited or no control and ownership over means of production like land. They don‘t own their own labour or the full benefits of it. Yet, throughout Teso Sub-region, agricultural labour force is predominantly provided by women. For example in Kumi, women provide 70% of agricultural labour force yet only 30% have access to and control over means of production (agriculture produce) and only 7% own land. But women are less educated compared to men with about 70% being illiterate as in Kumi (2002 census). The relative illiteracy coupled with cultural factors have slowed the pace of adaptation of modern technology in Teso Sub-region. Less educated women are less likely to adopt new ideas and interact comprehensively with new ideas from Extension Workers, leading to lesser involvement in relevant programmes like CDD, NAADS and PRDP.