20 August 2008

Uganda: TSO Trades Labour for Cows, Seeds

Kampala — A newly-constructed 48km road in Ngariam and a market in Omodoi sub-county, Katakwi district are some of the benefits the residents have got from the new vouchers-for-work project.

Under this initiative, participating communities identify and repair infrastructure that was destroyed during the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency. In addition, roads, markets, water sources and cattle dips are constructed. Supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the project is valued at sh60m.

"Vouchers-for-work is a sustainable approach that enables the local community to prioritise the infrastructure needs of their community. They participate in rehabilitation by providing labour," said Percy Misika, the FAO country representative.

Misika and Musa Ecweru, the disaster preparedness state minister, recently visited the district to distribute relief items including cassava cuttings, sweet potato vines, hoes and pangas to communities returning from Internally Displaced Persons' (IDP) camps.

He said after they have worked, community members are given vouchers which are redeemed for seeds, agricultural tools or livestock. Each community member receives a voucher equivalent to the number of days worked. The work normally takes three to four hours per day.

Misika said the Norwegian government had provided funds to improve agricultural productivity and income security of the displaced and returning communities in northern Uganda. The $2.9m (about sh4.7b) project, which started last year, has benefited over 30,000 households in Teso, Acholi, and Lango sub-regions. The vouchers-for-work scheme is one component of the project.

The implementing partners mobilise the communities, sensitise them, supervise the work, and ensure that the beneficiaries receive their vouchers.

So far, Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund, the implementing partner, has identified 752 projects including 204 roads, 24 woodlot, four cattle crushes, eight markets and 18 springs that are being rehabilitated, Misika said.

"In the beginning it was reasonable to distribute free seeds and tools to IDPs. However, as people began to return home, it was imperative that sustainable approaches were adopted to ensure that the local communities participate in their own development," he said.

Misika explained that FAO works with local distributors to provide the necessary inputs for the project.

The Katakwi district chairperson, Robert Ekongot appreciated FAO's efforts to develop the district.

"Many of the roads had turned bushy and overgrown. They were a prime source of insecurity. After the works we are confident that movement will be facilitated," he said.

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