By Alex Taremwa
After several moons without me visiting my ancestral homeland, there landed an opportunity that invited me to not only attend but also present a concept paper at a Local Investments Forum that was organized by Mbarara Municipal Council in conjunction with Action aid Uganda.
I was selected because of my continued opinions on how residents of Mbarara now a Municipality can partake in the process that can help transition the biggest town in western Uganda into a much more industrialised and organized City vision 2016.
The thesis of my presentation therefore revolved on majorly 3 elements. These include planning, revenue mobilization and politics which of course comes with corruption, embezzlement and other features which I’ll discuss in my next article but for this particular one, I intend to show how the drought has leveled the income levels of most of the my co-ethnics in the greater Mbarara region.
THE PRICES: The temperature have risen significantly over the last three months orchestrating depression of water levels which has greatly affected the pastoralists, dairy farmers who main source of revenue is milk and livestock. However much the price of milk has increased due to higher demands levels, the supply is below the usual margin due to the drought hence reducing the income levels of those benefiting from the same economic activity.
Apart from merely affecting the water, the drought has deprived the beautiful hills and magnificent valleys of the over green pastures that had played an important role in maintaining the supply of milk in constant quantities. Today when one is driving towards Isingiro, Ibanda or Kiruhura districts, all they can see are staggering herds and golden brown pastures.
To help the herds feed on moist pasture narrated Mr. Rwenguto, one has to start grazing the cattle as early as 4am in the morning when there is still a little due in the grasses. The farmers are as frustrated as the cows themselves due to the helplessness and hopelessness that fill their hearts as the clouds stare down at them too, dry.
As an area of multiple activities, one might think that as much as dairy farmers in Mbarara and the neighbourhood aren’t ripping big, maybe their counterparts the agriculturalists are doing better but the questions remains; Are they?
After we broke off for an hour long lunch break, I didn’t have to pay at a hotel when my home was just a kilometer so I decided to drag my body home. It was on my way that I stumbled into one Rogers aka Rasta of age 22 explaining to his rather showy customer how long has been pushing the two bunches of really nice bananas on his bicycle.
The showy customer; a lady driving a fancy harrier, wanted to purchase the two bunches of bananas the Rogers had pushed for 8 miles at only Ushs8, 000 while the seller had insisted at a price two times higher Ushs16, 000. This was total mockery, I thought as I listened to the bargain attentively.
Rogers explained that as much as the price of bananas has reduced significantly at the hands of the drought that causes the bunches to ripen at a much faster pace, the price he was offered couldn’t afford to at least service his bicycle and get him a glass of water too on his way back.
THE DUST: Previously, the middle and lower class men were immensely in support of a law that would allow them sue their rich counterparts whenever they splashed water, dust on them carelessly as they drive past them.
As the saying goes “What goes around comes back around,” they don’t have to do that now because from the wonder less stoke of inequality has emerged a much rewarding wonderful stroke of luck. All the sharks, the bungalows, kiosks, palaces, mansions have their roofs painted beautifully in one uniform colour “Golden brown” all courtesy of the blowing winds, cyclones and the dusty roads.
That not being enough, the poor now rip considerate amounts from washing constantly the bouncy vehicles that flock into respective washing bays every time and again prompting a smile unto the face of the gods.
According to the mini research I conducted jointly with an air conditioning repairer, most of the air conditioners in offices and homes of those who can afford them are currently jammed with dust hence earning the respective engineers a pinch of joy.
THE FOOD: Whether you like it or not, if you are visiting Mbarara, prepare for a marathon of banana service with the sauce they can find because the famous Eshabwe might cost you a lot higher now. The prices of matooke are low considering their frequent ripening and a higher supply rate but I can’t say the same for Eshabwe unfortunately because the little milk supply means a higher price in its respective products like butter, yogurt and cheese meaning the you’ll use plenty of beans, not ground nuts because the drought has made the land uncultivable for any harvests of the G-nut produce this particular season the same applies to other root crops like cassava and sweet potatoes.
THE TRANSPORT: Christian holidays namely Easter & Christmas also bring along with them unbearable costs of transport. From Kampala for example, the same 4 hour journey for which I paid Ushs10, 000 comes with a 5-time increase meaning that I would’ve to cough a 50,000 note in the festive season.
But worry note, since no one intends to travel under the scotching sun, the fairs are far more affordable that usual so we don’t have to group the buses too. The bus is for the poor because the passengers get to pay less but they’ll to fill it to over capacity to recover the deficit unlike in the classy buses which are spacious but costly. The fares are now leveled.
And lastly is THE TRADE: with the new lingua slang in town “Esente zabuze,” the traders therefore are less expectant for abnormal profits they get from charging exorbitant amounts on their products. They’re now fairer to the customers that even if there’s an increase in the prices of commodities, traders have the most enticing customer care to explain to the customer why that is so. Is it the budget, the production or the transportation that has necessitated the increase on the price? Contrary to before, the rather arrogant traders would stare none sparing at one who mentions a price they find unbecoming of a product as if they were outcasts just because they’re trying to exercise their right to negotiation.