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“Breaking out of the poverty trap in rural Uganda”
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“Breaking out of the poverty trap in rural Uganda”

Munguongeyo Ivan, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kampala, Uganda, spotlights the challenges of Uganda’s working poor, whose daily struggles seldom receive attention from the country’s public policy makers. 

The rural poor in Uganda face many daunting challenges. Many are locked in to a cycle of crises from which even the most gifted policy makers would find it hard to escape. At the heart of the problem is a critical lack of investments especially in education and infrastructure.

The vast majority of Uganda’s rural poor live below the poverty line, subsisting in the rural villages or urban shanty towns which lack even the most basic amenities. Economic isolation is made worse by poor roads and limited market access. In these circumstances, many households find it difficult to meet basic subsistence requirements, much less generating a surplus for the market. This unhappy picture is compounded by a poor investment climate, stagnating economic growth and weak private sector.

But these people are not helpless. What is unreasonable, however, is the inequitable and unrealistic to expectation of policy makers for the poor to buy their way out of poverty.

The villages and urban slums in Uganda are populated by malnourished children and under-employed or unemployed young adults. About 80 per cent of the population is below the age of 35, and the median age is estimated at about 16. According to a 2017 report from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicates that the fertility rate is 5.8. This means that without action, the situation for the working poor is only going to get worse.

Bringing about change will be tough. But lifting people out of poverty means, at a very minimum, raising household living standards above levels of simple subsistence. At this moment, however, Uganda faces yet another devastating food crisis. Upwards of 10 million Ugandans are struggling with hunger caused by prolonged droughts, and an estimated 1.6 million people are generally in serious urgent need of food to survive. Most households in rural Uganda live on only one meal a day, often consisting of fruits and termites as key sources of nutrients.

While challenging, the situation is not hopeless. There is need for collaboration between the public sectors and private sectors in the national interest. Moreover, the potential of drawing on the energy and enthusiasm of the youth has yet to be adequately explored. Uganda’s youths are showing considerable interest in building new entrepreneurial ventures. It is important that the voices of this new generation of young people be brought in to the policy-making process.

The rural poor need an education system which allows them to learn new opportunities. They need an education which teaches them basic accounting, leadership and managements skills. Efforts to break out of economic isolation and poverty need to draw upon this energy to create opportunities for Uganda’s brightest young minds, many of whom have been deprived of formal education during their most formative years. Investments in economic infrastructure and promoting environmental sustainability will be critical. Ending extreme poverty in Uganda is an ambitious, but not impossible objective. We owe the children of Uganda nothing less but changing our attitudes towards the rural poor.

Photo credit: Commonwealth Secretariat via photopin (license)

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About me: I am Munguongeyo Ivan, from Kampala, Uganda. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Development Studies from Makerere University and currently am pursuing Master’s Degree in Rural Development at the same University. My aim is to be a lecturer in the development studies discipline. I also have wide knowledge in serving local communities and specifically working with NGOs to improve on the welfare of the rural poor. I am currently a volunteer with an NGO called Hands of Love Foundation.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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