BUNYORO - KITARA KINGDOM -Development challenges

Poverty is the chief reason for lack of development in the Kingdom. Over 92% of the entire population are poor with earnings less than half of the national average. Of the 256,458 households, 97% of them are rural, 12% live in Huts, 38% stay in dwelling units constructed more than thirty years ago; 22% live in semi-permanent and only 6% live in permanent houses. Food insecurity, inability to meet basic needs, sale of the few assets owned, intermittent borrowing sometimes without repaying, extensive alcoholism, inability to pay tax, malnutrition, early marriages, school dropouts have always been the signs and effects of poverty in the region.

Illiteracy levels are very high. 47% of the entire population is illiterate. This has caused a low productivity of labour supply in the region. Most of the people’s activities are neither achievement oriented nor enterprising. They offer unskilled and cheap labour and are remunerated cheaply and thus have a low investment capacity. What is earned in a day is usually consumed and sometimes more is consumed than what has been earned leading to poverty. Illiteracy is higher among women (56%) compared to men (36%). The gap between male and female school enrolment is wide and increases at higher education levels. Currently, 42% of the primary school children, 35% of the secondary school students, 4% of the tertiary students and 1% of the technical school students are females. Lower literacy levels among women thus restrict them from accessing relevant information for their development.

As regards to gender as a whole, women in the Kingdom are very vulnerable and women headed households are the poorest. The girl child has been particularly vulnerable due to defilement, traditional bias and traditional workload that reduces her time for concentration on formal education. 28% of the women in the Kingdom are poor or young or disabled or too old to work. 32% classify themselves as purely housewives and only 0.05% are employed in senior positions in the region. The majority (77%) of the working women are unpaid family workers yet their workload exceeds that of men by several hours a day.

There is high dependency ratio in the Kingdom. Currently the ratio is 1:6 per active person. The dependency ratio has been made worse by the increasing number of refugees in the Kingdom. Most of the refugees are not engaged in lucrative activities. Their incomes are low and they live in very poor conditions. 

Land availability and use is limited. Of the total area only 11,212.17 (60%) is land area. Wetlands, water bodies, rocks, hilly areas, forests, national park and wildlife reserves form the other 40%. Only 27% of the available land is used in the annual plantation of crops. Gross cropping land available is about 0.6 hectares per inhabitant. The locally available technology and high dependency ratio affect the optimal utilisation of land. Land holding is common in the region where by the central government, parastatals and absentee landlords have leased the land leaving most of it idle. This is most evident in Kibaale and Masindi districts.

There is low agriculture/ livestock production. The estimated average crop production per household is about 4 tones per annum. However, if appropriate and advanced methods of production were employed, the Kingdom would be in position to export the surplus on top of being self-sufficient. Due to the use of obsolete methods of production, negative attitudes towards agriculture and unskilled subsistence farmers, agriculture has not been a lucrative business in the Kingdom. Cattle and other domestic animals keeping is inappropriate.

Another challenge of the Kingdom is in the field of housing and transportation. Road network through out the Kingdom is not in good condition. Maintenance and opening up of more roads is necessary in order to enable the increasing population to access social services such as education, health centres and markets. Housing facilities are also inadequate in the Kingdom. Many houses especially in urban centres can be seen ill planned and constructed. Homesteads are widely scattered and housing is constructed using mud or wattle within grass thatched roofing.

The Kingdom has got a variety of minerals and natural resources though their status is not yet well established, as there has been no full scale geological study undertaken to determine their exact potential. However, the recent study conducted by Heritage Gas and Oil Company in the Western rift valley indicates the possibility of having crude oil deposits in the region. Other mineral potentials known to be existing include iron ore and salt; rocks and precious stones are also abundant especially in Kibaale District.

In an effort to improve on the productivity and household income, various social economic activities have greatly affected the state of natural resources and environment. Lack of soil conservation practices has led to soil erosion and land degradation, over grazing, charcoal burning, Lumbering, Clearance of trees for agricultural production and bush fires have all aggravated the problem.

The HIV/AIDS scourge is yet another challenge that requires skills for intervention. A communication gap between the parents and adolescents at all levels has continued to exist. Modernisation has led to the breakdown of the traditional set up, which used to impart some knowledge and values to the young generation. This has resulted into inaccurate information being passed onto adolescents causing a high AIDS prevalence among them (29.5%).

In order to avert the aforementioned anomalies, the King and all the leaders of Bunyoro have come together and joined efforts to establish a University in the region. Throughout its programmes, it will be geared towards increasing the productive capacity of the people and developing knowledge, skills and values that will be used to foster development and a state of general welfare.