President Yoweri Museveni has declared war on environmental degradation, walking over three kilometers across Mpologoma swamp and bridge along the Mbale-Tirinyi road as the sunset in Eastern Uganda.
Mr Museveni who made on spot visits to Kaliro District, then to Namakoko swamp in Namutumba District and later walked across river Mpologoma on the Iganga-Tirinyi-Mbale road on Friday evening, said the country needs to put on new spectacles to address the issue of drought and starvation that are causing death and destruction.
To highlight the problem, Mr Museveni invited along Ms Rosa Malango, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support efforts by government to reclaim degraded swamps.
“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,” Mr Museveni said, explaining why he had to reach out to the United Nations to partner with government to reclaim degraded environs.
The President, who used anecdotes to highlight the gravity of the problem, said as the country was pushing the development agenda including construction of 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,” he said.
Mr Museveni urged the 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 explained that 60 percent of the rains in Uganda come from China and Indian Ocean winds. He said rain from the oceans is little this season and the cold currents reduced the amount of water, adding that the remaining 40 percent comes from local resources like Lakes; Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, George, Edward and from the wetlands.
“People started invading wetlands and planting rice, maize and making farms like in Kigezi and Ankole. Even the 40 perecnt of our water sources are affected. That stick is hitting us in the face. We need to see properly now,” he said.
Ms 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/Stores),” she said.
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. In Uganda, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, is quoted as saying the ongoing drought in several parts of the country is the largest threat to the projected growth in the economy of five percent.
©Alleastafrica and Daily Monitor