By Henry Mukasa
Farmers in Northern Uganda who were two years ago reliant on handouts from relief agencies will now, after a bumpy harvest, supply grains to their former benefactors.
At the height of the LRA rebellion, residents in the North were crammed in Internally Displaced People's (IDP) camps and feeding off supplies from humanitarian agencies until the end of war in 2006 and resettlement programme which followed thereafter.
Yesterday the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it will buy 154 metric tons of maize grown by small-scale farmers in Acholi sub-region, which was the epicentre of the war, and had many people rely on WFP food assistance.Acholi region is composed of the districts of; Gulu, Pader, Kitgum, Nwoya, Amuru and Agago.
"This is a welcome reversal of events. WFP is happy to help the Acholi people graduate from dependency to becoming productive again, and to reaping quality grain," Sory Ouane, the WFP Country Director remarked.
According to a statement issued by the United Nations agency traders will supply the 154 tons of grain through WFP's 6,000 metric-ton-capacity licensed warehouse near Gulu town. The food will be used in WFP's operations in Karamoja, Ouane said.
With communities back in their homes,, WFP has, moving from emergency assistance to initiatives that help address the underlying causes of hunger and poverty in the region,such as setting up modern grain warehouses, in which farmer groups can process and store their grain under the WFP's agriculture and market support programme.
In October 2007, President Museveni launched a $600-million aid package for roads, education and small-scale industry dubbed Northern Uganda Peace, Recovery & Development Plan (PRDP) to rehabilitate the region.
Museveni said the reconstruction plan aimed to help the north catch up with the more prosperous south and move away from subsistence farming to a cash economy.
The district chairmen of the districts Tuesday confirmed that the region had recorded high yields but could not state the tonnage produced.
"We have produced a lot of maize, beans and ground nuts. We are not independent as far as food production is concerned," Peter Wad Odok W'eceng, the Pader boss stated. "Our threat now is heavy rains."
Luka Nyeko, the Kitgum district chairman said his people registered a relatively high yield of grain while Patrick Okello Oryem, the Nwoya LCV chief, said maize, ground nuts and beans were produced in large quantities. "Every family now gets two meals per day," he commented.
Northern Uganda was wrecked by 20-years of a bloody rebellion by the LRA. Led by Joseph Kony, the rebels killed at will, torching houses, looting food, abducting residents and carried out numerous massacres.
Aid agencies and civil society groups say that over 100,000 were killed between 1986 and 2007 while 96,000 were abducted between 1988 and 2006. During the period when the war ensued about 1,700,000 IDP lived in camps 1986 to 2007.