African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

Uganda: Returned refugees reviving economy

Posted by African Press International on August 29, 2008

Dokolo (Uganda) – Many former refugees, dependent on food handouts for years, are working the land again with some success.
Erisa Ekong, from Atabu village in Dokolo district, suffered as much as anyone in the war against the Lords Resistance Army, LRA.

The rebels killed her husband, stole her cows and goats and all of her food and household goods, yet she feels she must now look to the future. That time has passed and I want to start a new life, she said.

After several years spent living in one of northern Ugandas 200 internal refugee camps near Lira, Ekong returned to her family lands in 2006 and began to cultivate them.

In the fertile soil, she grew a local grain called sim-sim, beans, peanuts, sorghum, millet, cassava and rice. She kept what she needed, and sold the rest of the valuable crops, before using the profits to replenish the livestock she lost long ago.

I purchased 12 goats, two [cows], five pigs and still have in stock adequate food stuffs to sustain me for a year, Ekong told IWPR, as she returned from the fields.

Ekong is just one of the many returnees who have successfully made the transition from a refugee camp life dependent on support humanitarian aid from the United Nations and other international agencies to self sufficiency through farming.

As life slowly returns to normal across northern Uganda after two decades of brutal war that left nearly 100,000 dead and displaced about two million, many villagers have eagerly returned to cultivating the land and raising animals a development that is rapidly rebuilding the regions ravaged economy.

Like many across the region, Ekong exudes a deep sense of optimism about the future. Local people are confident they will be able to shake off the abject poverty that resulted from two decades of war one of the continents longest-running insurgencies.

This confidence persists in spite of the lack of progress with the governments redevelopment plans for the region, which have yielded little.

Many people there are instead taking matters into their own hands.

We don’t want to continue sitting and waiting for the government or [some] humanitarian agency to tell us what to do, since peace has returned, said Nekemia Obia, a resident of Bata trading centre, 20 kilometres east of Lira.

We have enough fertile lands for crop production, said Obia. It’s unfair to keep on demanding aid from the government and international humanitarian agencies.

Out of 500 kilogrammes of sim-sim that he harvested last year, Obia managed to make a profit of about 1,400 US dollars enough for him to withdraw his children from public school and send them to a better, more costly school in Lira.

Our lives have changed totally, he said with pride. We pray that the peace we have should be sustained so that we catch up with other parts of the country in terms of development.

Francis Omaramoi, a local leader in Omoro, said that to rebuild the agricultural economy in the north, there is a need for tools such as hoes, as well as seeds for those who have already settled back in their villages. He added that it is also important that extra help is given to vulnerable groups, such as orphans, parentless families, widows and widowers, as well as the elderly and disabled.

While there is much work to do, many farmers are in the north are enjoying their success. Apart from subsistence farming, agricultural production disappeared across most of northern Uganda during the rebel conflict of 1986 to 2006. Now farmers such as Nelson Opio, who resettled in his home two years ago after living in a refugee camp for many years, are quickly realising the benefits of farming for a profit.

“It’s advantageous to us because the more we produce, the more we shall earn, said Opio with a smile.

* Patrick Okino is an IWPR-trained journalist in Uganda.

API/source.Institute of War and Peace Reporting, by Patrick Okino – August 26, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: