By Collins Hinamundi
The government of Uganda is betting on a new parish development model to help spur agricultural growth and transformation in the country. Under the program, each parish will be responsible for developing and implementing its own agricultural development plan.
The parish development model is just one of the many initiatives that the Ugandan government is undertaking to transform the country’s agriculture sector. Other initiatives include the development of an agricultural insurance program and the establishment of an agricultural research institute.
Dennis Ssozi Galabuzi has had an interesting political career. He started out by helping the ruling party, National Resistance Movement (NRM), to drop a popular but renegade Vice president in a constituency where he had become as entrenched as a baobab tree. This was a big achievement for him and his party. However, a decade later, he lost the same seat in a Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine driven wave that has now come to be called the red wave. Despite these ups and downs, Galabuzi has remained a political force to be reckoned with in Uganda.
This was supposed to be the end for him. He had lost everything in the fire, and he was sure that there was no coming back from it. But like a phoenix, he has risen out of his burnt ashes, this time as a point man in President Yoweri Museveni’s 490 Billion shillings or 136 million dollar plan to transform household incomes in the country’s smallest unit of governance and production. He is determined to make a difference this time around, and he knows that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.
The Parish Development Model program is an extension of the approach to development that is laid out in Uganda’s Third National Development Plan. The objective of the program is to use parish level administration and operations as a way to deliver services and promote economic development at the local level. There are over 10,594 parishes in Uganda, making this a potentially far-reaching initiative.
Under the initiative, each parish is supposed to get about 4000 USD dollars in the current financial year to start the implementation of the programme and according to the plan, the parishes will each receive 100 million Shillings or 27000 US dollars with effect from the next financial year.
Speaking during the launch, President Museveni said that the Parish Development Model is centred on eradicating poverty through agriculture, even though he acknowledges that this is not the only way out of poverty. He is optimistic that since the chain of bureaucracy has been broken by taking money closer to the communities, the government will see better results.
In 2016, Uganda’s former Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi proposed the Advanced Sub-county Model, which would focus on turning the sub-county into a unit of production. The parish development model takes this idea further by focusing on the smallest unit, and giving purpose to the much-maligned job of a parish chief. The parish chief’s role would be to be the technocrat of the parish, responsible for its development. This model has the potential to transform Uganda’s economy and bring much-needed development to its rural areas.
What is new?
In order to promote wealth creation and employment generation at the parish level, the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development has created the Parish Model. This strategy will organise and deliver public and private sector interventions at the parish level, with the goal of lifting households out of the subsistence economy.
The Parish Model has been met with some scepticism from experts and local government leaders. However, then Minister of Finance David Bahati insists that the proof will be in the pudding. He argues that by lifting households out of poverty, the government will increase tax revenue, improve quality of life, and achieve its ultimate goal.
“The question of whether or not the PDM structure will be any different from the Parish Development Plans and Parish Development Committee structures that were once famous in early to mid-2000 is a pressing one for Local Government actors. This was also raised on the floor of parliament as the Minister of Finance presented a budget for the parish development model”.
On April 13 2021, Patrick Isiagi, the MP for Kachumbala County in the eastern district of Bukedea, spoke about the Parish Model Fund. He said that the Finance Minister and his staff must show the research they have done, give data on how many households there are in a parish, and explain how the money will benefit households and the interventions. Isiagi noted that this is important information that must be shared in order for MPs to make informed decisions.
A recent research paper from the Advocates Coalition on Development and the Environment has suggested that the top-down approach often taken by governments in economic transformation programmes has been the bane of these programmes, and has often caused their demise. The paper notes that citizens have severally noted that they were not consulted in these programmes, and were not given a chance to engage in them. ACODE argues that this lack of consultation and engagement has been a major contributing factor to the failure of many of these programmes.
The other fear about the Parish Development Model was that it would become politicised. The state tried to calm these fears, but when the national secretariat for the parish development Model was introduced, the critics’ fears were confirmed. The leadership of the secretariat was in the hands of Ssozi Dennis Ssozi Galabuzi, a former minister who had lost his MP seat, deputised by Jovrine Kaliisa also a former MP. Experts would have preferred a Development Economist, but instead, this secretariat would be supported by technocrats and directors from the different implementing agencies of government.
Government economists have warned that politicising the parish development projects will expose them to the same problems and challenges that choked the other programmes. The Makerere based Economic Policy Research centre noted that this could result in a loss of public confidence and funding for the projects.
During a recent speech in Eastern Uganda, President Museveni spoke about the government’s plans for socio-economic transformation in the coming years. He described how the government had already laid the foundation for this transformation by securing the country, building roads and infrastructure, and providing public services such as healthcare and education.
Museveni went on to say that the government’s focus in the next few years will be on creating wealth, jobs, and incomes for all Ugandans. He emphasised that this will be a priority for his administration in the upcoming 2021-2026 term.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that the Parish Chief will be the coordinator of all Government efforts at each of the 10,594 parishes in Kenya. Each Parish, he added, will have a cooperative society through which Government support will be channelled. The Parish Chiefs will report to the Sub-County Chiefs.
This move is seen as an effort to improve coordination and delivery of government services at the grassroots level. It is hoped that this will lead to better service delivery and improved living conditions for Kenyans.
There are still questions, however, on the infrastructure which the Parish development model will run. In his Advanced Subcounty Model, Amama Mbabazi who has since returned to the fold and has recently been seen hobnobbing with president Museveni, had proposed a complete one-stop centre at every sub-county, but in its case, the parish development model looks like a quick injection of a lot of cash into the smallest unit of government. The Parish development model will have to be run on an infrastructure which can support its activities and deliver its services effectively. There is a need for a well-functioning infrastructure in order to make the Parish development model work well.
Where is the infrastructure?
The Parish Development Model is premised on the idea that investment in physical and social infrastructure at the parish level is key to achieving transformation. However, according to researcher Mark Otile, this investment must be deliberate and strategic in order to be effective.
Otile advises that the government invest in infrastructure that will improve post-harvest handling, as this is one of the factors that increases the cost of production. He also suggests that investment in roads, water and sanitation, rural electrification, and market infrastructure is critical to the success of the PDM.
The infrastructure investments that are made must be aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the PDM in order to maximise impact and ensure the success of the model.
A road user satisfaction survey conducted by Uganda Road fund in 2019 revealed that local governments had the lowest overall service provision rating in 2019 compared to Kampala City Council Authority and Uganda National Roads Authority.
Moses Kakembo, head of roads at the Ministry of Works and Transport, says the low ranking is because most of the roads are not in good condition.
“The Uganda Road fund survey revealed that in 2019, local governments had the lowest overall service provision rating compared to Kampala City Council Authority and Uganda National Roads Authority. This is because most of the roads are not in good condition,” said Kakembo.
Time for inclusive growth
The Parish development model has found surprising support from Academic circles. Development economists believe that, for the first time, the government has struck the right chords in its effort to foster rural transformation.
“The local government, particularly the parish, is nearer to the people and therefore capable of enforcing such regulations and achieving the set objectives,” Professor Augustus Nuwagaba says.
The Parish Development model is a proposed solution to the challenges that Uganda is projected to face in the future. According to Professor Nuwagaba, a development economist, the model has the potential to be a success if it receives the necessary support. However, he cautions that the model will need to be closely monitored and evaluated in order to ensure its success.
In a speech given at an economic conference in Kampala, Mr. Galabuzi Uganda must shift its focus from growth for a few to inclusion for all if it is to improve the lives of its citizens. He argues that the country’s current economic model is not sustainable, as it excludes the majority of the population from the benefits of growth. Without a change in course, he says, Uganda will continue to see rising levels of inequality and poverty. Mr. Galabuzi’s proposal is to instead focus on creating economic opportunities for all, including those in rural areas and informal settlements. Doing so, he believes, will lead to a more sustainable and prosperous economy that can benefit all Ugandans.
Written by Collins Hinamundi and Edited by Ericson Mangoli