It’s now exactly a year since she was appointed a Senior Presidential Advisor on Busoga in charge of Poverty Alleviation.
Hon. Florence Mutyabule, the former woman MP for Namutumba district is currently viewed by many as the main agent of change in Busoga sub-region.
This region whose population is next to that of Buganda has 11 districts, a city and three municipalities. The main economic activity here is farming and it is estimated that 75% of the region’s land is covered by sugarcane.
To hon. Mutyabule this is dangerous and is bound to cause a lot of pressure on mother’s who are faced with the daily challenge of bringing food on the table and raising children. In places she has visited like in Budondo, women complained that men are deserting families upon seeing that they can’t feed them. They decide to get married to other women who have done something for themselves. She says such statements have been common in most of her community engagements hence the idea for her to conclude that food production is the major cause of domestic instability.
“The president’s call is for people to have money in the pocket and food to eat. If we don’t do this, we shall see mothers resort to illicit trade like sex work. The children will also run away from homes and go on the streets to hunt for what to eat. This is dangerous” she says.
Against this background, Mutyabule has embarked on touring various districts in the region mobilizing women and youth to embrace a double approach to business.
“I want all of us to work for the pocket and for the stomach. This is the only way we shall fight poverty in Busoga and malnutrition” she told women farmers in Buyengo.
These women farmers led by Jennifer Kasubo are involved in piggery, poultry and other enterprises. However, on the farm, it was evident that the women lacked a component of food.
“I want to advise you to keep these pigs but use the droppings to create manure for improving on the soils. You can plant vegetables to work as sauce. Vegetables are good for fighting malnutrition. You should have a kitchen garden as a mother so that you reduce on the pressure of buying sauce and food” she advised.
This same message has been common in communities she has travelled to and many women and youths now view her as an icon of unity against poverty.
“Busoga has consistently been rated as the most poorest region in Uganda. But are we really poor? With all the natural resources we have, the labour we have and hospitality we have as Basoga, why do we remain in this position. Even Karamoja; a semi arid place is better than us? Why? We must check ourselves” she told women leaders Jinja.
Her impact has also been felt in the hard to reach places like in Sigulu islands of Namayingo district. Because of the urge to change lives, she ever risked her life, travelled on the waters and jumped on a boda boda to reach this place.
“My motivation is the urge to have everyone join the money economy. It doesn’t matter who you’re. Women have been strong pillars in fostering stable incomes in their families. This is why my campaign will not leave anyone behind” she told women farmers in Sigulu islands. So risky the area was, that Mutyabule had to abandon her vehicle and resorted to using a boda boda to reach the ground.
Where, she met a local female farmer involved in mango and coffee growing.
Going to Kamuli, Mutyabule has been regular at government farms at Kasolwe and Kiige.
The farm for example that of Kasolwe is setting up a multi-million dormitory section for women to be able to come and learn good farming skills.
“I can’t stop coming here unless I am sure all that was started goes according to the plan. We want our mothers to come and learn from a conducive environment. Farming is now the solution for our Busoga problem of poverty” she says.
Much of her efforts have been put on food production and commercial farming with emphasis on finding an alternative cash crop for Busoga.
With sugarcane taking much of Busoga’s land and forest cover, issues of food production and environment have greatly attracted her attention.
Mutyabule thinks if farmers can embrace an alternative cash crop mainly coffee, this would do miracles for the region. To her, coffee also allows food production as intercropping can be done unlike sugarcane growing.
“This is why I have embarked on a journey to sensitize our people mainly mothers to embrace coffee growing. We can plant beans, vegetables and matooke in coffee unlike in sugarcane” she said as she toured the coffee farm of Mr. George Ngobi at Nsoola village in Namutumba district. The 30-acre farm is managed by Ngobi, his wife and kids. It is however, facing challenges of coffee wilt.
“I want to request those NGOs that promote coffee growing to come to Busoga. Our people need to share knowledge as they try to venture into alternative cash crop away from sugarcane. We should also be mindful of our environment. We shouldn’t lose our green cover. Coffee is the thing for Busoga” she said.
Mutyabule says the main challenge facing Busoga is mindset change. She adds that women need to be empowered with skills to improve on their ability to do farming and also add value to their crops.
She notes with concern that some husband have made it a habit to deny women land to plant food as they use their entire land to grow canes. This practice she said is bound to cause severe famine in Busoga unless massive sensitization is done to guide people.
“That’s why I have launched a campaign to sensitize our women on such issues. I will use the next three months to do this campaign on all media platforms and also reaching out to our women on the ground. Let’s empower women to transform lives in our families” she says as she officiated at the hand over of goats to several women by a Turkish NGO called Iyilik Yolu. She added that Busoga which formerly was famous for growing sweet potatoes and maize is now almost weary of all these staple foods. She said most people have gone into sugarcane growing which unfortunately has no market currently. She wished all women a Happy Women’s Day.