The Minister of Finance, Matia kasaija has urged farmers in areas where refugees are settling to take advantage of the big market that they provide by planting more food crops.
The minister noted that as much as Uganda would not wish the refugees to be in their current situation, Ugandans must consider positively benefiting from it so we can live harmoniously with them.
“There is a big need for food stuffs to the big number of refugees in Uganda. It is, however, unfortunate that most times, organizations like World Food Program and other donors have to buy food from foreign countries to come and feed these refugees and yet Uganda has the potential to produce enough food for ourselves as well and even spare more for sell,” said Kasaija.
He was speaking at event of signing and exchanging notes between the governments of Uganda and Japan where the latter donated over 5,340 tons of rice worth $3.2 million to the refugees in Uganda.
Kasaija revealed: “If we were able to produce this much rice, then the government of Japan would have bought rice from our Ugandan farmers and the $3.2 billion would be invested directly in the Ugandan economy to boost it. There have been a lot of opportunities, especially when it comes to the welfare of refugees and in most cases; Uganda has been left behind because we lack capacity to supply the big tones of foods necessary.”
He continued: “We are surely not exhausting our potentials as far as agriculture is concerned. I therefore call upon farmers especially those in areas where there are refugee settlement camps to increase production by using modern means so that they will have enough to eat and sell in case of such opportunities so that Uganda can grow as well as take care of the refugees.’’
The Minister Of Disaster, Preparedness and Refuges, Hillary Onek said that the ministry is working with the refugees on how they can make this big number of refugees productive so that they do not become a liability to Uganda.
“We do not look to only feed these refugees. We want to empower them economically; give them education where possible as well as health services. Instead of always receiving donations, we want to apportion land to them so that they can cultivate and produce food to eat and sell.”
The Japans Ambassador to Uganda, Kazuaki Kameda, said they donated rice because of the current food insecurity problem in Uganda caused by long drought and low production levels.
He asked the government of Uganda to continue empowering these refuges through education and economic assistance, but also to work towards achieving peace in conflict areas of south Sudan, Burundi and the others.
Currently, Uganda is a host to over 1.3 million refugees and their number is expected to increase if the conflicts in South Sudan and Burundi continue.
The government requires $2 billion to cater for these refugees annually, of that Uganda is contributing $323 million annually with other assistance coming from world organizations and other well-wishers.