By Akorikin Francis
The recent hunger situation in Teso has sent shock waves to the country, sickness with many policy analysts wondering what could have gone wrong with our food systems. As the debate continues, approved my attention has been drawn to the fact that Teso sub region has a ministry responsible for its affairs.
While the word ‘affairs’ may mean many things, adiposity one would have expected that fighting hunger in the region is among the key objectives for this ministry. According to its website, Ministry of Teso Affairs was created to “initiate, design coordinate and Implement special programmes and projects for the Teso Region”.
In the same website, some of the key achievements for the ministry in the last financial year include; payment of office rent, vehicle maintenance, payment of its office electricity and water bills and catered for staff welfare.
With all due respect to the President and the office bearers of this ministry, looking at the above achievements, we the people of Teso can conclude that this ministry is a waste of public resources. In the last few months, the Minister in charge Teso affairs has been surprisingly silent on the hunger situation in the region. With exception of isolated comments attributed to Disaster Ministry, our Minister has been mute and at worst absent from the frontlines of responding to the hunger disaster.
Few years ago, when the Ministry of Teso affairs was created, many of us in Teso jumped in excitement with hope that our historical and current challenges would be decisively handled. Unfortunately, seven years after its establishment, there is no record of real progress registered by this ministry.
At this critical time of hunger, the spotlight is on Ministry of Teso Affairs to explain to the tax payers of its relevance. To some sympathizers, it’s reported that since its inception, government authorities have not allocated resources to this ministry to tackle the issues affecting the region with the Minister being reduced to only officiating functions in what it always calls ‘coordinating government programs’.
For starters, the idea for the creation of Ministry of Teso Affairs was aimed at scaling efforts to initiate and coordinate post conflict recovery efforts for a region that had suffered a lot of insurgency from Karamojong rustlers, Kony incusions in 2013 and later floods in 2007 and as a result its creation was noble. At policy level, there was general consensus that Teso just like other parts of greater Northern Uganda required affirmative action worthy creation of a ministry to handle these unique challenges.
The current hunger in Teso has largely been attributed to drought, while this assertion may hold some truths; there is increasingly evidence that the Ministry of Teso Affairs has not done its part. Hunger in Teso is as a result of both internal and external factors.
For many years, the region has been experiencing declining productivity and this was recently worsened by drought. For districts like Ngora, Bukedia and Kumi, land fragmentation has heavily affected productivity.
Many of the regions indigenous drought resistant crop varieties have been affected by diseases and pests. The only agriculture research institution based in Serere is facing a series of structural challenges from dilapidated infrastructure to limited research scientists.
Clearly besides drought, Teso food systems are in a crisis and our expectation was that the Ministry of Teso affairs working with other stakeholders would work to address this problem. Our view is that hunger should be among the ‘affairs’ that Ministry of Teso Affairs should be engaged in.
Agriculture remains a major livelihood for our people in Teso and therefore we require urgent response from Ministry of Teso Affairs on its plans to help our people get out of the current hunger crisis.
The writer is a farmer from Kapelebyong- Amuria District
And can be reached on Tel: 0774921733