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Museveni’s wealth creation tours

 

President Museveni at one of his wealth creation rallies.

 

THE LAST WORD: Why the president’s countrywide tours may win him peasant votes but not make them rich

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | President Yoweri Museveni concluded his countrywide tour, an early campaign effort creatively dabbed “wealth creation,” with a letter to “bazukulu”. The letter is a tour de raison of the economic history of Uganda from pre-colonial times to date served by an unstinting host. I wish such rich historic insights were available to students in Uganda from primary through secondary school to university.

Yet in spite of such an excellent command of our economic history, Museveni’s strategy for wealth creation is misguided. The president seems genuinely convinced that the missing ingredient in peasant agriculture is “enlightened knowledge” by farmers on how to transition from subsistence to commercial farming. This approach is not only patronising but also naïve. It misses the lesson of a market based capitalist economy: people respond to incentives.

Peasants devote most of their time to producing food to eat i.e. subsistence agriculture. They see the commercial motive as secondary. This behavior is neither stupid nor irrational. It is based on generations of experience that has bestowed on them particular lessons. Peasant agriculture depends predominantly on nature.  The vagaries of weather have across time and space fostered the evolution of particular technical and social adaptations among peasants.

Telling farmers to change their behavior will fall on deaf ears

For instance, patterns of farming like choice of seed varieties, mixed farming (animals and crops), planting a variety of crops (instead of product specialisation) are technical adaptations to mitigate risk. The peasant is risk averse: he will avoid planting a single crop that may promise the prospect of a huge profit windfall in favour of many crops that ensure a small but steady yield. Mixed cropping is a form of insurance: if locusts descend on the maize and ruin most of the crop, the peasant will survive on cassava; if a wilt destroys potatoes, the peasant will still have his millet.

These technical adaptations are reinforced by specific social and moral arrangements peasants evolve to deal with the continuous threat to their survival. James Scott in his classic, The Moral Economy of the Peasant, calls them “the subsistence ethic.” Patterns of reciprocity, patron-client ties, work-sharing and extended family systems are social institutions erected to provide insurance against the risk of starvation. These form the moral universe of the peasant.

For instance, a hungry or sick peasant goes to a better off neighbor or relative for assistance and expects his needs to be attended to. Likewise, the better-off neighbour or relative responds positively because that is what is expected of him/her by the value system. To act otherwise is seen as wrong and attracts social sanction in form of negative gossip and a bad reputation. While such social practices are humane, they are also economically inefficient.

Without appreciating this reality, telling farmers to change their behavior will fall on deaf ears. Indeed, there have been many interventions of Museveni’s type from Latin America to Asia backed by the best agronomists a nation can find. They have almost always all failed. It is not the lack of education that peasants focus on producing for their stomachs. Rather, it is because of facing the constant risk of starvation due to the capriciousness of nature.

Museveni’s summons will not make peasants Schumpeterian entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs form a small section in every society. Joseph Schumpeter estimated them to be about 4% with another 16% being imitators. The rest are regular guys working for someone else. Historically peasants have never transformed themselves. Instead, other classes, especially the bourgeoisie (rich industrialists) have done this with the help of the state they control.

For instance, in Great Britain the transition from peasant agriculture to modern industry was occasioned by the forceful expropriation of peasants’ land to open it for large-scale commercial agriculture otherwise called the “enclosure movement”. The peasant was reunited to the land through the agency and initiative of capital, but this time as an agricultural laborer.

In South Korea, peasant agriculture was made unsustainable through deliberate state policy, making peasants destitute. This forced them to go to cities to look for other means of subsistence. It is this precarious economic situation that forced peasants to accept substandard wages in urban factories and thereby make manufacturing profitable. In practically every other country that has transitioned from peasant agriculture to modern industry, another class, the bourgeoisie, backed by the state, was responsible, not pious summons by an enlightened elite.

The future of Uganda lies in ending peasantry, not in making if profitable

I do not blame Museveni for his misguided position. First, as a politician, he has every incentive to position himself as the savior of the masses, and also do his campaign for 2021. Second it is amazing how many people actually believe this idea of development as an outcome of altruistic intentions on the part of benevolent leaders. Development everywhere has been and will always be a product largely (not entirely) of enlightened self-interest. The kind and charitable people of this world can deliver charity and welfare but certainly not social and economic transformation.

Here is my point (which may sound brutal and insensitive but which I think is realistic): there is no country anywhere in the world where agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, which has a per capita income of more than $1,000. To depend on agriculture for income is, therefore, to be relegated to perpetual poverty. Indeed, the process of growing rich (development) is a transition of most citizens from depending on agriculture for a livelihood to industry and services.

Hence Museveni cannot create a society of prosperous peasants – not in the next 4,000 years. There is no way Uganda will make 70 percent of its citizens rich while they remain peasants. Most of them will produce for the market to supplement their subsistence but that will not transform their lives or the country. At best it will make them less poor but it cannot make them rich. A few enterprising individuals among these peasants will adopt modern agricultural methods and prosper. But that is it – only a few.

The future of Uganda lies in ending peasantry, not in making if profitable – an impossible task. The only way out is to invest in manufacturing. This will attract excess labour out of our low productivity agriculture to high productivity industry. Museveni’s countrywide tours will win him votes of these same peasants but will not transform Uganda or make them rich. The President should spend more time with industrialists asking and prodding to know what they need to expand their scale and scope of business.

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amwenda@independent.co.ug

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 comments

  1. I find it unnerving that you don`t consider the impact of the measures you are suggesting on the livelihood/well being of the peasants, the mantra almost being “A lion doesn`t concern itself with the opinion of sheep”. You are suggesting large scale land redistribution to those with the means of production from the peasants but do you suppose that this process would happen without any social and political destabilization? The British already had an entrenched class system that had already dis empowered the peasants for hundreds of years such that land expropriation was probably met with grumbling acquiescence. This is not tenable in Uganda, the urban elite have relatives in these villages and you are not going to displace fathers, mothers, grand mothers, uncles (for these are the people behind the monolithic “peasants”) and expect to hold power.

  2. A number of “final” solutions for changing agriculture and enfranchising the subsistence farmers in Uganda have been advanced by experts (a number of them arm chair based), researchers, opinion leaders and farmers among others and some have even been implemented over the last four decades by the state and other actors. They include the famous Agriculture Extension Program funded by the World Bank that ended with a community participatory program (VLPA) during the olubengo era. These were followed by the sub county tractorisation and the (in)famous Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture that incorporated NAADS, then Boona Bagagawaale and now Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) complimented by other non-sector efforts for women and youth startup capital. However, at the time of launching, these interventions/solutions were considered magic bullets or at least parts of the that bullet.
    NOW, let’s first put away the facts: between 1986 up to the early 2000s, Ugandan agriculture sector growth was enviable averaging between 8% and 10% annually (Financial Year) attributed mostly to bringing back idle land in production. This growth peaked in the mid 2000s and thereafter oscillated between zero and minus 2% in instances and positive modest growth not going over 4% in the latter years to date. For each of the FYs, explanations were given for the growth or lack of it (shrinkage) BUT unpredictable and inclement weather, periodic pest, vector and disease pandemics featured significantly.
    Nevertheless, agriculture sector growth did occur and economy’s structural transformation was manifest in its contribution or share of the economy declining (a source of confusion for some) from almost 48% in the 1980s to 23% currently, where it has been for almost two decades. It was hoped that the decreased proportion of the agriculture share would transit mostly to industry. However, the share instead went mostly to services and construction sectors instead with industry hovering or fluctuating between 6% and 8% over the decades. Furthermore, it was also expected that growth of the agriculture sector occurring concurrently with declining share of the economy would also result in fewer smallholder households or farmers in the sector from the almost 65% of the population to at least 33% or decline by a half with the transient proportion engaged (preferably mostly) in industry and the rest in other sectors of the economy. It was also expected that (planned) urbanization occurring hand in hand with industrialization would facilitate migration from agriculture with even more tradeoffs, including fewer farmers with bigger farm holdings or land size facilitating more modern practices like increased mechanization, irrigation and better soil management including fertilizer use. Unfortunately, this did not happen (in my view not because of lack of incentives), mostly because Ugandans breed and continue to breed like rabbits and any growth benefits were watered down or diluted and continue to be watered down in that regard. This breeding is also manifested in horrendous data where between 10% to 18% of children between 14 to 17 years are giving birth before transitioning to adulthood! There are 700,000 unplanned births annually in Uganda and these children account for a significant proportion of that number!!!
    BUT I digress! Coming back to M9 discussion, I agree wholly with the underlying premise and have long argued that farmers’ targeted and expected transformation although proceeding at a snail’s pace will not ceteris paribus result in the so called rich peasants that M7 has been fishing for determinedly for some time now. But M& and M9 have fallen in the same trap when it comes to diagnosis although M9 has clearled the hurdles that M7 is still grappling with.
    Some digression; in an article on Kampala Capital City Authority and the CEO’s woes, Professor Sam Sejjaka talked about “pervasive moral hazard and impunity”, which in his view bordered on, or was tantamount to rational ambiguity. The gist of his article was that even when you put lipstick on a pig. Voila! It is unfortunately still a PIG! He seemingly suggested that the incentives for meaningful behavioural change citizens in the Kampala jurisdiction called for more than just putting (strong) systems and institutions in place. Ditto the Ugandan agriculture sector.
    The Ugandan theory of change for the agriculture sector is premised on the following; if you add (all adequate) proven research technologies, professional extension services, effective and operational pests, vectors and disease regimes, accessible genuine inputs including fertilizers, access to mechanization and avail them to properly targeted categories of farmers who add value to the produce and are then connected to accessible markets, with the facilitation of effective MAAIF, Agricture Training Institutes and LGs institutions operating in a favourable environment, then the desired will happen.
    Unfortunately, better said than done and as one observer calmly noted “you make fantastic plans and THEN life happens. A quick assessment of agriculture sector performance reveals the following; research is generating the technologies but the dissemination is not optimal; the revamped extension service is still mostly ‘presence’ and even if fully facilitated has to transit into a ‘jihadist’ type provider that can positively radicalize the so called subsistence and smallholder farmers, so that they become innovative, bold, enterprising, growth and commercially oriented risk takers (M9’s major point and underlying premise); adequate access to inputs is still problematic with need far exceeding supply shackled to a distribution system that is still learning how to stand and walk; water for production interventions currently target a small proportion of the farming population and largely leaves out the smallholder; fertilizer and mechanization use is still dismally low and dramatic change for year round production still a vision; pests, vectors and disease control frameworks and operational regimes are outdated, poorly resourced, subject to politicization and rapidly overtaken by transboundary events; and last but not least MAAIF and all its institutions are still fairly weak, inadequately resourced and capacitated and mostly responsive to externally driven agendas. Furthermore, benefits from synergies from inter and intra sectoral and other actor linkages are still largely moot or limited.
    It is easy to sit back like most of the armchair ‘analysts’ and soothsayers and criticize the efforts that government has put into changing Uganda. It is harder to propose and effectively pronounce one’s self on practical solutions to the sector challenges. I have pondered mightily over the last two decades and I believe and am utterly convinced that positive disruption of the status quo is no longer an option but a delayed inevitable!
    Following concerted soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that the solutions unfortunately lies in two directions; the first is (continue) waiting for the outcome of political solutions and interventions like bonna bagaggawale and Operation Wealth Creation which I believe were (largely) bold and innovative intentions to catalyse sector achievement. I also believe they highly suggest an executive (elected leaders) disappointed with the theory like, academic and invisible “technocratic” sector development ideas (ASSP) that were not quickly and visibly responding to the farmers’ needs who remember, are also the electorate. The Ugandan configuration for technocracy described as that “society in which those who govern justify themselves by appealing to technical experts who in turn justify themselves by appealing or relying on scientific forms of knowledge” is simply not working because the society was not seeing the expected benefits from the votes. As the experience from the (well conceptualized) PMA initiative revealed, the expected benefits from modernization were invisible and ultimately led to its down grading. What people do not realize, is that PMA is still being implemented, absent the overall document, (and institutional arrangements) secretariat and the working committees. If you look closely at the current GoU priorities, the PMA 7 pillars and significant funding are highly visible, configured now as the NDP. Anyway, a major conclusion is that this option of gradual long term improvements spread across the economy is simply not working for the country and is not acceptable both to the populace and to those who govern and who are accountable to the 8 million Ugandans engaged in agriculture (crop, livestock and fisheries) excluding “1.6 million persons in agriculture whose production according to the UNHS 2012/13 was for own household use only.”
    Before, I end, the analytical trap that M7 and M9 are engulfed in has two compartments described thus: the first is the thinking put together under and fed or informed by reason and history, clusters perspectives embodied in emblematic, reductionist and deterministic arguments founded on timeless certainties, considered rationalization, conventional and perceived wisdom, absolute values, universal truths and solutions. This is just academic speak for analytical thinking based on compartmentalization and precedent. In essence, it boils down to; break down a problem to its rational and component parts and look for history to provide you with lessons for previous or new solutions. Generally, the argument is that development solutions can (mostly) be derived from study and customization of previous experience laden policy and intervention failures, challenges and successes. Truth be told, it used to work BUT not completely anymore and M7 falls squarely and mostly in this compartment. The second clusters the New Normal perspectives that features thinking that (encompasses) should be “jihadist or radical” BUT in a positive way, for elected and appointed officials, technocrats and key actors in and outside the agriculture sector. I believe M9 falls squarely falls in this compartment, BUT with a leg still held in the first compartment because he boldly ventures in the new normal then attempts to rationalize the argument. Where we agree is that Ugandan subsistence farmers are unashamedly risk averse. However, I also believe that triggers for aggressive positive agricultural or “entrepreneurial like” motivational behaviour and the necessary incentives to facilitate jumping the risk taking threshold and coping with that “new” jurisdiction have not yet been identified and may never be, instead just happening as a culmination of unanticipated events.

  3. Unlike mid-18th and 19th century Britain were the elites forced the peasants off the land in Ireland,Scotland and rural England and relocated this surplus peasant population to North America, Australia,NewZealand etc Uganda doesn’t have that option and also when the other European elites whose countries had no colonies, attempted to emulate their British peers and to force their surplus peasants off the land into 19th century European urban squalor it resulted into the 1840s revolutions.

    The Industrial revolution in Britain was it could be argued driven by the class of men(traders) who had engaged in the triangular(Africa,Europe,Americas) international trade accumulating capital that they used to finance Britain’s industrial revolution and not the aristocratic land grabbers that had forced the peasants to relocate overseas and who accumulated the land for prestige and rearing sheep and also despised trade as an occupation.

    By the mid 19th century these industries funded by this new capitalist/merchant class of britain were so effective at attracting the remaining rural peasant labor that they caused labor shortages in rural Britain that the land grabbing aristocrats attempted to pass laws to restrict this loss of labor and were only stopped by the cheaply manufactured cotton cloth from textiles of Manchester that rendered sheep rearing for which they had grabbed land pointless and also the new merchant/capitalist class had also built political power to neutralize the land grabbing aristocrats legal manoeuvres.

    The Industrial revolution in Germany it could be argued kicked off because of the unification of Germany that removed the endless tariffs and barriers to trade and stimulated manufacturing and not because peasants were being forced off their land. And even then Germany’s peasants mostly migrated to the Americas for the allegedly cheaply available land and not to the newly industrialising Germany towns.

    Further on Industrialisation of USA was not due to forcing peasants off the land but a combination of end of forced labor/slavery, cheap financing by the new wealthy capitalist/merchant class of Britain and the illegal transfer of britain’s industrial intellectual property.

    The above examples should show that You obsession with looking with a kind eye on land grabbing was not and is not necessary for industrialisation. And maybe you have ulterior motives that guide your support for the theft of the peasants land.
    And the 1840s European revolutions should maybe give you a pose for thought as you and your fellow elites are likely to lose so much incase of revolution.

    Finally the reasons for Industrialisation of Japan,Korea,Taiwan,China now Vietnam was for other reasons too long to get into here and not due to stealing the peasants land as you advocate for.

    • I knew M9 was using a trick from a book he had read to rationalize the obscenity he’s espousing in the article. I however had no counter argument and knew nothing about the industrial revolution in n Europe.

      Just as I was about to move on, I saw your piece, Mr Mukasa. You sir, are my hero today.

  4. i agree completely bwana Mukasa.Massive land aggregation expeditions combined with our 1.5 million new babies every year is complete disaster. NOT HAPPENING! And looking at the current number of outcries from evicted ppersons suggests we need to tread very carefully with land.

  5. To be honest this is not the M9 way of thinking!But many thanks you hit the nail on the head. Iclearly remember telling the same things in 2004 to a group of friends at a wake of a relative deep in my village. These happily employed people were castigating our rural folks for their ineptitude. Being a villager my self I have come to appreciate their way of thinking. Earlier on we had vehemently castigated some remarks attributed to Mrs Victoria Sekitoleko about how no society had transformed through growing vanilla and by then the mantra was on non traditional crops in my village it was MORINGA! Some brave villagers cut down their old coffe trees in favour of moringa. the story is too long for today. Many years later I found the Agents of OWC ridiculing my villagemates for opting to remain poor yet you could harvest so much from a coffee tree.( conservatiive estimates put 5kg per tree). I felt offended because my father has had a plot of coffee for the last 50 years of my life and am certain putting food on the table is still a big task. I won’t delve into the school days long begone . Today hunreds of orange and jackfruit seedlings are being ferried across the ridges in Kasese.
    Luckily enough for most of the peasants especially in my village , they can easily see through the vaneer of elite lies. It took me long to see their way of thinking but now I really appreciate it. Chidding a youngman this morning busy on his smartphone – I told him how many people would pay to listen to Dr Fred Muhumuza( he was on nbs TV this morning).. Ironically most of the advisors on our Economy are his former mates in EPRC. To me it boils down to which side your bread is buttered. in one way or the other OWC will be the govt cash cow but for my villagemates government has never wished them well. Thank you

  6. 1.There are all indicators that Africa is on the rise however; the only dilemma is that Africa is developing at a snail ‘s pace why is it so?Its because the best practices in the area of Business and governance do not favor Africa for example;How do you make drastic reforms in land use without antagonizing Africans?
    2.Africans should concentrate on Agriculture and manufacturing but why haven’t they embraced it?Its because Agriculture in Africa has been associated with the poor and uneducated its just of recent that the likes of Madhvani,Mukwano,the late Mulwana and Aga Sekalala have made Ugandans appreciate Agriculture.
    3.Was the wealth creation tour of M7 worth it? Yes of course its was an absolutely brilliant scheme i fear that another country will copy M7’s ideas and implement it perfectly. Ugandan elite think it was a hoax coz we are never serious.Can you imagine Rajab’s wives would be given chicks to rear but they would keep them under a tree where cats and birds would eat them.
    4.Kinyara Sugarcane outgrowers are making a kill from sugarcane farming soon the Achoils will also reap big from the Amina’s project.
    5.How could UNAIDS appoint Byanyima as its Head and leave out qualified medical personnel?For me i dont trust Winnie and Bobi Wine’s ambitious and agenda because they have suffered rejection; so by being ambitious is away of getting back at the people who rejected them for example Bobi Wine was rejected by his wife’s parents so he has to teach them a lesson while Winnie was rejected by you know who….

    • You’re off topic winnie. The article by M9 was an intelligent piece ( of course part of his propaganda campaign for the president) but never the less packed with solid arguments.

      The comments were as well intelligent thoughts packed with evidence and stats. Your rant however is a disgrace and a sign that u didn’t understand anything above.

    • Wasn’t M7 rejected by his own in the 1980 election and decided to take out his anger by killing innocent Ugandans and destroying their property.

      IF Winnie(Byanyima-WB) and BW has suffered rejection, then at least they are channeling their anger in a positive and non destructive way.

  7. @ Ejakaait have you ever been in deep love?There is a difference between emotional rejection and ideological difference.

  8. Politics and love differ by just one letter; one is meant to be decided by an eLection,(the size of the vote) and the other by an *R*ction(the size of you know what)!!!!!!

    Most times , though,sadly, it is not the case.

    Who said the world is a fair place.

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