By Wasswa Joel
Since January 2022, there has been an abnormal increase in commodity across the world.
For instance, in the United Kingdom, inflation was reported at 5.5% in February, a record rate since May 1992. In Uganda, most of the commodity prices increased, but most notably the prices of laundry bar soap, sugar, cooking oil and fuel, among others.
A recent Consumer Price Index (CPI) report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) indicates that cooking oil prices have exponentially increased by 21% since December 2021.
The price of bar soap has increased by 20%. The increase in prices is negatively impacting the most people although the poor are bearing the brunt of the sudden scarcity.
Salary earners have also been greatly affected since salaries/wages rarely factor in inflation and remain oblivious to the realities of the economy.
Wasswa Joel is a Bachelor of Commerce Student, Makerere University
Mak implored to research into the Centralization of Forest Governance in Uganda
Mpigi District Local Government and stakeholders in the forestry sector want Environmental economists from Makerere University to conduct research into the impacts of centralizing the governance of national forests in Uganda.
According to section 54 (1) a of the National Forestry Act, 2003, management of all Central Forest Reserves is the mandate of National Forestry Authority (NFA) whereas that of Local Forest Reserves is the direct responsibility of the district forest officer as specified under section 48 (3) e of National Forestry Act, 2003. All forestry activities are guided by the National Forestry Policy 2001.
Poor forest governance has been blamed for the depletion of the ecosystem in Uganda. The people of Mpigi contend that since government mandated NFA to manage national forests, most of the forests have been depleted and they want national forests governance decentralized.
To achieve this districts officials and stakeholders say, Makerere University should conduct research into the impact of centralizing national forest governance to provide evidence for policy change. This call was made during the policy dialogue held at the district chambers organized by the Environment for Development Initiative (EfD-Mak) Centre on 22nd November 2022. The university team was led by the Director represented by Dr. John Sseruyange.
The meeting brought together representatives of the district political and technical arms, civil society organizations, the private sector, elders and opinion leaders, farmers leaders under the theme, “Forestry and Biodiversity: Addressing Challenges of Forest degradation and Enhancing Environmental Management in Uganda”.
The participants discussed the key governance issues in the forestry sector, how communities can be strengthened to participate in forest recovery programs and what best forest restoration mechanisms should be adopted to revert the forest destruction trends in Uganda.
Governance here referred to, “the norms, institutions, and processes that determine how power and responsibilities over forests are exercised, how decisions are taken and how citizens – including women, men, youth, indigenous people and local communities – secure access to, participate in, and are impacted by the management of forests”
Presenting the status of forests in Mpigi district, the Chief Administrative Officer represented by the District Natural Resources Officer Mwidyeki Anthony said the management of forests in Mpigi has been so challenging and has on a number of occasions raised many issues involving NFA, the district and the community living adjacent to the forests.
“It should be noted that, the once thick forests in Mpigi district which had a collection of Muvule, Setaala, Musizi and other indigenous tree species have and are still gradually being reduced to empty land or replaced with eucalyptus trees for many reasons.
The natural forests reported that indigenous species that had survived for ages are now being abruptly ruined. This tragedy has befallen all the natural forests in Mpigi, a district once blessed with a wide range of biodiversity. Most natural forests in Muduuma and Kiringente have completely gone”, Mwidyeki submitted.
Mwidyeki explained that all the central forest reserves in Mpigi district with exception of Mpanga forest have been faced with the problem of encroachment in form of cultivation, grazing and settlement while in most of all the reserves, conflicts resulting from unclear boundaries are very common and have sometimes resulted in court cases leading to loss of time and money.
The vegetation cover of most Central Reserve Forests in Mpigi according to Mwidyeki have been changed into eucalyptus plantations, boundary markers uprooted, increasing forest encroachment, land grabbing and conflicts between NFA staff and communities living adjacent to these forests.
Besides population pressure that has increased the demand for fire wood, charcoal and land for settlement, Mwidyeki alleged that there has been creation of illegal land tittles in these reserves, construction of roads and industrialization.
Mwidyeki however highlighted a number of initiatives undertaken to promote forestry. These included; Sensitization and training of communities in forestry management, distribution of tree seedlings across the district, establishment of the district nursery bed, training and supervision of nursery owners on acquisition of quality tree seed and conducting routine inspections to detect and deter illegal forestry activities.
Representing the Director, EfD Mak Centre, Research Fellow Dr. John Sseruyange underscored the importance of forests as major stores of atmospheric carbon contributing to the regulation of climate change, water quantity, mitigating the effects of high flows in wet periods and low flows in the dry periods.
He said forests contribute to soil and water protection and biodiversity conservation and supply well over 90% of Uganda’s energy requirements in the form of fuel wood.
“Sustainably managed forests give environmental benefits, sustainable economic development and improve the quality of life of people across the country”, Dr. Sseruyange said
Sseruyange reported that the Uganda forestry sector reforms (1998 – 2003) aimed at providing more efficient and effective forest administration, management and utilization of Uganda’s forest resources, through: The Forestry Policy (2001), The National Forestry Plan (2002),
The NFTPA (2003) and a new institutional framework for the management of forestry resources in the country.
These resulted in the birth of institutions such as: The NFA, the UWA, the DFS, private forest owners and community forests owners which distributed responsibilities between the central government, local government agencies, the private sector, NGOs, community based organizations and the local communities.
The reforms according to Sseruyange aimed at promoting multi-stakeholder participation, transparency, integrity and professionalism in management of the forestry sector.
“Despite these good intentions, the forest estate in Uganda has continued to shrink from 4.9 million hectares in 1990 to currently 2.3 million hectares, NFA (2015) a loss of over half of the forests in a span of 25 years. …. However, over this period, 46% of protected woodlands- mostly those under NFA, were lost.
The reasons for this decline are mostly attributed to poor forest governance, and particularly problems with forest law enforcement and governance, and associated institutional issues” , He stated.
The main causes of deforestation according to Dr. Sseruyange relate to issues of governance in the forestry sector, illegal and unregulated trade of forest products and the unsecured forest tenure rights. Other issues are the conversion of forest land to other land use types such as agriculture and urbanization, and rampant felling of trees for firewood and charcoal burning.
In her closing remarks the Deputy Resident District Commissioner Maria Lubega described the dialogue as timely, thanked the university for choosing Mpigi, pledging the district commitment to support efforts geared towards restoring the environment.
Lubega wants an evidence based report on forest governance from Makerere University for presentation to the relevant government organs.
“Two weeks ago, the President sent someone from his office to come because he was interested in the environment restoration, and we are working on this report. When the report about this dialogue is ready share with us because it is timely, and I shall share with it directly with the president because NFA is just an authority and the other one is a fountain of honor so we shall take our views to the president”. She said.
Participants speak out
During the panel and plenary discussions participants expressed the need to decentralize the management of all forest reserves to the district.
“The forest sector is the least funded. Officers vehicles get stuck with no fuel. The moral fabric of the people of Mpigi is filled with, I don’t care attitude. NFA has been nicknamed as “nfa” meaning I am dying. NFA efforts are not coordinated with the district office. The District Natural resources officer should have been a member of NFA, there is a lot of political interference while implementing policies with orders from above”, The District Senior Entomologist Onyango Oluoch decried.
The District Forestry Officer Ssengendo Micheal says the major issue is governance.
“When you look back, the forests were intact and management was proper. All regulations were being followed. With the new changes in the policy of 2001 when they brought in NFA, that is where we all lost it because there was confusion and no coordination because of the bad governance.
The first thing we need to do is to revert back the old system. We need to have staff at every level. We need the forest guards, forest rangers but all these were reduced by two per district which is really over whelming when it gets to implementation of our forest management”.
Nsamba Benon, a Political leader says, districts had powers to safeguard forests but more damage has been done when powers were shifted from local government to central government.
“Ever since NEMA took over, there is a very big damage on our forests as compared to long ago. It is our mandate to protect the environment. The business of centralizing powers has done more harm than good to our country.
It is possible to bring all stakeholders to board to protect the environment but it cannot be possible if people are seeing non-residents cutting away indigenous trees planting and owning eucalyptus trees. The biggest issue here is policy. It should be reversed and our Forest Officer takes charge”.
Opinion leader, Frank Kawooya says the laws are weak and segregatively applied to a few.
“These laws are weak. Those who are supposed to manage forests cut the forests and replace them with eucalyptus. Now we see that forests have begun being shared. Am touched, in the past forestry students at Makerere would not be awarded degrees without coming to study in Lwamata forest . Today no child ever comes to study because forests are no more.”
The District Environmental Police Commandant says those mandated to guard the forest are the ones that cut the trees. He is opposed to the idea of replacing natural forests by eucalyptus and says enforcement is also problem.
“In 1924 we had an inventory for counting trees in Masaka. We counted trees about 2000. There is a forest called Buzilango but, of recent when went there, I found that there are people living there. It was no longer a forest for government. Forest guards are the ones who cut trees and sell to bakeries and schools. Eucalyptus is not good because they drain water at a high speed and, were introduced by industrialists who wanted to build industries.
But we of enforcement have a problem. You go and see a person with a car carrying timber and there is no legal document showing. When you stop the car, you will hear the person referring you to talk to another person. Sometimes there is collaboration with NFA and timber dealers connected from above. I suggest the powers should be brought back, decentralize forest reserves so that districts own, oversee and manage the forests. We need to sensitisize masses to look beyond financial gains but the future generation because in 50 years, we may not have any natural forest”.
A representative from the NGO forum called for sensitisation of the people on district and national forests.
“Different roles must be emphasized. Demarcations for individual, district and national forests must be emphasized. After sensitization they will know the species to plant”.
The District Farmers’ Chairperson Stella Nantamba says farmers are in weather crisis.
“Farmers rely on land. Soil is infertile, weather patterns have changed and many have resorted to forests and wetlands. Information given to farmers is distorted and weather changes are adverse Intervention requires adoption of agroforestry for environmental conservation and food security”.
But for teacher Emmanuel, charity begins at home and community. Sensitization form the community level will help children internalize the importance of forests.
“There is need for mindset change of those mandated to protect the environment so that children learn from them. Privatization of forests should be discouraged to save forests”, he said.
Statistics week: Using data to improve agriculture
School of Statistics & Planning rewards staff
The School of Statistics and Planning yesterday rewarded and recognized the contribution of some of its staff members. This was during a conference organized to make the world statistics week.
Those recognized for their contributions included, Dr. Abraham Owino Yeyo, Dr. Chris Ndatira Mukiza, Mrs. Agnes Ssekiboobo and Mr. Godfrey Nabong.
The school was joined by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics in organizing the conference under the theme “Strengthening data systems by modernizing the production and use of agricultural statistics: informing policies with a view to improving resilience in agriculture, nutrition, and food security in Africa”.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, who represented the Vice Chancellor, said it is important to use agriculture statistics to inform better planning that can cause transformation in the entire agriculture production chain.
He advised that the school should we endevour to align the academic programs to the UN 2030 SDGs to ensure that we optimally contribute to the achievements of the SDGs alongside other National Development frameworks such as the National Development Plan III, Parish Development Model, Vision 2040, and African charter 2063.
“What separates good decisions from the bad ones is the fact that the good ones are informed by right data and evidence,” Prof. Buyinza emphasized.
He called on the students to be innovative so that they can contribute to the transformation of the country. Prof. Buyinza appreciated UBOS for partnering with Makerere University.
The Dean School of Statistics, Dr. James Wokadala said the marking of the Statistics week reminds statisticians of their responsibilities to facilitate the production of relevant statistics to inform decision making, develop methodologies, and generate new knowledge and nurture the Statistics Cadres globally.
Mr. Godfrey Nabongo, the Deputy Director of UBOS called on universities to improve the way they teach statistics by teaching students how to integrate data and use UBOS data to create new innovations in statistics. He urged the decision makers to develop a statistic mentality which demands that decisions are made based on scientific evidence or numbers. He called on participants to have a student mentality by maintaining curiosity, being innovative and quick to learn. Mr. Nabongo said UBOS was moving towards strengthening collection of administrative data rather than census.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Abraham Owino called on UBOS to provide data about markets and products in order to help farmers and consumers. He said it was also important for the country to carry out annual surveys. He said the SDG of ending hunger by 2030 is a far cry because of the increasing food security. He therefore called on UBOS to provide data that can help us make decisions geared towards changing for the better. He said people need to know how much food is needed for a country to qualify as a food secure community. “We need a paradigm shift to start discovering problems together and how to move ahead,” Dr. Owino said.
Economists Offer Policy Recommendations to Curb Youth Unemployment in Uganda
Economists from the Makerere University’s School Economics have provided policy options to help mitigate youth unemployment in Uganda.
A team of researchers led by Prof. Edward Bbaale as Principal Investigator assisted by Dr. Susan Kavuma, Peter Babyenda, Brenda Kiconco, Anitah Kyamugaba , Hennery Sebukeera and Nakigudde Claire under took a research project titled, ‘ “Empirical Review of Youth Employment Policies in Uganda”with technical and financial support from partnership for economic policy Nairobi Kenya funded by Mastercard Foundation.
The study looked at insights from different people on how youth unemployment and under employment can be solved. The research project intended to review the youth employment policies, legislations, interventions and programs with the aim of identifying the best practices for promoting youth employability, productivity, and opportunities among the youth.
The researchers worked closely with the different Institutional framework concerned with youth affairs including in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Education and Sports, National Planning Authority, Federation of Uganda Employers, National Organization of Trade Unions and parliament among others
The study findings were presented during the dissemination workshop held on 9th November 2022 at Protea Hotel in Kampala to members of the academia, representatives from government ministries, departments and agencies, the Private sector, civil society organizations, representatives of the youth from different divisions of Kampala and other districts and key collaborators.
The dissemination workshop was intended to validate the findings of the study through contributions, corrections,and an evaluation of the opportunities, challenges, chances, the gaps, costs of and thorough practical policy options with the aim of enriching the report and the policy recommendations in particular to government.
Representing the Principal, College of Business and Management Sciences, the Dean School of Economics and also PI Prof. Edward Bbaale noted that youth unemployment and under employment is one of the policy issues that warrant due attention.
He observed that Uganda is one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world with 54% of the population below 18 years of age and yet the population is growing very fast at 3.4 %.
Bbaale added that Uganda is also faced with a serious problem of high school dropout rate. Data from the Ministry of Education indicates that on average one million pupils that enroll in primary one, only 600 thousand sit the primary leaving examination and this number reduces to 300 thousand at the Uganda Certificate of education and reduces further to 100 thousand to those that go for the advanced certificate.
“The question is where these young men do and women go and who is the messiah. Is TVET, the different skilling programmes the messiah for Uganda? and more broadly even those that graduate at higher level, the question is that whether the problem is at the demand level to the extent that the economy is so much contracted and that there is no space for people to come and take employment meaning that the economy is growing without creating jobs”. Bbaale questioned.
Aware that the services sector is driving growth in Uganda and the agricultural sector is well behind services and industry as far as GDP is concerned, Bbaale noted that this means that there has been sectorial shift in GDP composition- at one time it was agriculture ahead of industry and services but now we have services ahead of the two.
“Whereas we have had the sectorial shifts in the GDP composition, there are no sectoral shifts in employment and majority of our people still depend on agriculture and there is a smaller cake despite its holding 60% of our people coming with questions of low productivity and poverty.
And so given that, if majority of Ugandans are not employed in the services sector which is leading the GDP composition, can we say our economy is having a jobless profile? We are growing without jobs and then on the other hand, can we say it is the supply side and skills mismatch? Do those people that graduate every year in universities and other institutions match the available opportunities?.Prof. Bbaale questioned.
Prof. Bbaale also stressed that the issue of youth unemployment and under employment is topical and has gone on for sometime but not leading the same in finding a lasting solutions for the youth unemployment problem.
He congratulated the research team for successfully implementing the study and partners – the Mastercard Foundation through the partnership for economic policy in Nairobi for sponsoring the different activities of the project as well as the stakeholders from MDAs, Private sector, CSOs and development partners for contributing wonderful ideas.
Unemployment associated with Labor market information system, curriculum design and population growth
The Assistant Commissioner in charge of Youth Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Kyateka Mondo thanked the PI and team for putting the research together saying, they are looking forward to receiving what the university thinks is the solution to unemployment question in Uganda.
In addition to addressing the issue of labour market information system, the commissioner observed that it is prudent for training institutions to interface with employers while designing the curriculum but also address the issue of population growth.
“The problem in Africa is that we train today what was needed for yesterday. Are the training institutions in touch with the people who employ? Do you have a time where we interface with the Mukwanos and UMAs of this world and all the people who need the work force?
Second,… we are likely not to break even until we address the issue of population growth. As long as we are producing as if there is no tomorrow. As long as we believe in Genesis that go out there and multiply and fill the world.How are you going to prepare and skill them to get quality education. And the man who tells you to go and fill the world produced only one son –Jesus Christ.”, Mondo stated adding that:
“.. until the population question is addressed and until the training institutions sit together with who is going to employ their products, , there will be nothing new that we are going to hear. The skills given at training institutions do not match the labour markets. So until we move away from the book of lamentations to the book of acts and we act.
Fix the issue of so many children, fix the issue of poverty among our people, fix the issue of a functional and prudent labour market information system. We need action today to bring hope to so many young people in this country but we also have to do mindset deconstruction”. Mondo asserted.
Mondo further observed that over 45 universities are churning out young people every year, operating under a jobless economic growth in that, the economy is not producing the jobs that are badly needed. He added that if unemployment question is fixed, many other problems like poverty, drug abuse early pregnancies, theft, suicide would have been fixed.
Formal employment and trends in youth unemployment in Uganda
Presenting the study findings Peter Babyenda noted that formal employment share of government jobs declined from 6.8% in 2012/13 to 6.5% in 2016/17 while total formal private employment declined from 200,000 jobs in 2012/13 to 141,000 in 2016/17. In 2016/17, only 13,000 (9%) youth had a formal private job.
On trends in youth employment, Babyenda reported a fluctuating Labour Force Participation Rate – 57% (2016/17), 66% (2017/18), 62% (2018/19), and an increasing youth unemployment rate – 13% (2016/17), 18% (2017/18), 17% (2018/19)
Babyenda presented worrying statistics on Youth neither in Employment nor in Education or Training (NEETs) estimated at 39%. This is worrying – where are they? He said there are twice young ladies in NEET as men largely found in in Greater Kampala, Northern Uganda and Western region which is a big threat to Uganda’s social cohesion and political stability.
NEETS according to Babyenda are largely attributed to low educational attainment (including among their parents), living in deprived neighborhoods, low socio-economic status and other barriers to participation like pregnancy or disability.
“The 2018/19 Annual Labour Force Survey report reveals that almost half of the youths (46%) are not qualified for the existing jobs because they do not have required skills.Low wages for youth as the median wage of public sector employees is estimated at UGX 510,000 ($134), while in Private Sector it is estimated at UGX150,000 ($39).
Existing employment policies seem universal and do not segregate persons in formal and informal sectors in their coverage. More so, there is limited evidence to show the expansion of social protection coverage in the informal sector as required by the National Social Protection Policies. It also remain unclear whether the existing youth employment programs are achieving their targets” Mr. Babyenda reported.
Key findings from the evaluation of the different Youth Empowerment Programs (YEP)
The study indicated that although access to youth employment funds had a positive effect on youth business expansion, there was no significant evidence of the fund’s effect on job creation.
Major stakeholders in YEP were not fully fulfilling their mandates; while on the policy front, the findings show that the youth funds have a long-term impact on its intended goals.
Promoting youth entrepreneurship according to this study should be approached holistically (not just through credit) and should target productive sectors with high employment creation potential.
The need for a strong institutional framework including M&E and accountability frameworks and the removal of barriers to youth self-employment were also proposed.
The study disclosed a number of challenges faced by the youth involved in Youth Employment programmes and they included ; Misuse of YEP funds, limited follow-ups of beneficiaries due to inadequate monitoring and supervisory capacity, Political Interference, High default rates (failure repay loans/resolving funds) and Poor group formation dynamics
Beneficiaries according to this research, reported delayed release of funds to youth groups or beneficiaries by the ministry of finance and implementing agencies – MoGLSD, local governments, Corruption, Inadequate information on existence of youth, Education miss-match affecting youth employability AND Limited preparation of beneficiaries
The study notes that common youth challenges in Uganda include: Unemployment, underemployment and undignified work.
The study further notes that Uganda has initiated a number of Youth Employment programs over time such as the youth livelihood fund, presidential youth initiatives, youth skilling programs and free vocational education among others.
Many Youth (39%) still either not in School or employment and more among females (50.5%) and the need for specific Policy change to ensure that the youth obtain right skills for existing employment opportunities in the country.
The study recommends that government prioritise policies that create jobs and address youth unemployment/under-employment and strengthen the YEP’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (MERL) system.
The study proposes the development of a clear resource mobilization strategy during the YEP design phase and expansion of YEPs into new locations with updated priority areas.
The policy initiatives should be SMART and should reinforce labour market participation, especially regarding discouraged workers and women.
Other policy recommendations include benchmarking with other countries that have succeeded; Reduce of political interferences in the bureaucratic process of the YEP implementation; Increase budget allocation to YEP and also improve the adequacy and effectiveness of the technical support unit of these programs.
In addition, the study advocates for holistic youth employment policy initiatives as opposed to piecemeal, ad-hoc, under-funded and poorly implemented programs. The programs should be rooted within a wider framework that places structural transformation of the country such as NDP III, Vision 2040, among others.
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