President Museveni opens war on environmental degradation. ‘It’s causing death and destruction’
President Yoweri Museveni has said government will suspend some road projects and divert money to help mitigate the current drought and hunger situation in the country.
“People can’t die of hunger and we focus on roads,” Museveni said before handing over relief items of 600 bags of maize flour (Posho) and 300 bags of beans to the district leadership in Namutumba. He emphasized that the elderly and less able people be the priority to get food aid.
According to reports, drought has plunged East Africa into the worst food security crisis Africa has faced in 20 years. More than 11.5 million people are currently in need of food aid. According to finance Minister Matia Kasaija, the ongoing drought in several parts of the country is the largest threat to the projected growth in the economy of five percent.
Museveni urged communities to restore granaries to store food, grow drought resistance foods and engage in commercial agriculture for both food security and incomes saying this will help them save. He said foods like cassava and millet can be stored comfortably to fight hunger.
He also urged Ugandans to engage in cost effective enterprise selection and mix to maximize profits by growing things like fruits, coffee and engaging in improved animal and crop breeds. He urged them not to fragment their land as it loses value.
Museveni said that apart from pushing for food aid, he was opening a war on environmental degradation. He walked over three kilometres across Mpologoma swamp and bridge to see the damage done as the sun set Saturday.
To highlight the environmental problems in the area, Museveni invited Rosa Malango, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to join him on the tour. She promised to support efforts by government to reclaim degraded swamps.
Malango said she accompanied the President to see what is happening with the food security situation and the wetlands and to share areas of cooperation.
“We need to protect water sources and reclaim wetlands. Support livelihoods through modern agro production (Irrigation), support small business enterprises and build improved storage facilities (Granaries or Stores),” she said.
Government to reclaim degraded swamps
The President who made on spot visits; first to Kaliro district, then to Namakoko swamp in Namutumba district and later a marathon walk across river Mpologoma on the Iganga-Tirinyi-Mbale road said the country needed to put on “new spectacles” to address the issue of drought and starvation that are causing death and destruction.
“When making an alarm for people to eat food, you are not too loud because you don’t want many people to turn up, but when making an alarm for war, you make it so loud so that many people can come to your rescue,” he said, explaining why he had to reach out to the United Nations to partner with government to reclaim degraded environs.
The President used anecdotes to highlight the gravity of the problem, said as the country was pushing the development agenda including roads, electricity, schools, health facilities alongside the campaign for wealth creation for poverty eradication, he got a call that drought has affected crops and the changing climate seasons and little rains have caused destruction.
“When you go to the bush and a small stick hits your eye, it is telling you to see properly. This drought and hunger are the stick telling us to see properly,” Mueveni said.
According to the Museveni, the drought has been caused by two factors – 60% of our rain comes from China and Indian Ocean winds. Rain from the oceans is little this season and the cold currents reduced the amount of water. 40% of the rain comes from our local resources like Lakes; Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, George, Edward etc and from the wetlands.
“People started invading wetlands and planting rice, maize and making farms like in Kigezi and Ankole. Even the 40% of our water sources are affected. That stick is hitting us in the face. We need to see properly now,” he said.
While addressing a rally at Iwungira Primary school playground, Ivukula county in Namutumba district, Museveni said government intends to install solar water pumps at water sources to pump water into reservoirs and serve the communities instead of letting people invade the swamps in search of water.
“We need to sit and agree on how to reclaim swamps. People are drying swamps. If the swamps are dry where shall we get water to pump? When God was creating these wetlands he knew the reasons why and now people who are settling there are saying God did not know what he was doing. We are now seeing the consequence, he said, adding that ” I want to forgive those who invaded swamps. Government was lazy, it was not engaged in serious agriculture so people went to the rivers to find water. Now we shall use science and get water from the rivers to the people and also encourage irrigation, mulching and improved animal and plant breeds.”