The pace of poverty reduction in Uganda had started to slow even before the COVID-19 pandemic. It worsened during the pandemic, with the Uganda Poverty Status Report 2021 indicating that poverty increased to 20.3% in 2020 from 18.7% a year before.
The COVID-19 shock and the reversal in poverty reduction come at a time when Uganda has launched a new initiative, the Parish Development Model (PDM), to boost Ugandans’ incomes. The initiative comes on the heels of a depressing situation. The National Household Survey (UNHS, 2019/20[i]) indicates that Uganda’s monetary poverty level – that is the proportion of the population earning below US$1.04 per day – has deteriorated in the last decade.
Previous initiatives such as the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), Entandikwa, Bonna Bagagawale, Zoning, Four-acre, Youth Livelihood, Women Fund, and Operation Wealth Creation have jointly yielded dismal results. One may ask, if all these have not transformed the country, why should they have faith in the PDM?
The PDM is a bottom-up approach, and its implementation involves empowering communities to identify their development needs, plan and implement interventions to address them and mobilize resources to support the process.
One of the key elements of the parish model is that parish leaders drive the implementation although the capacities of these parish leaders to manage budget issues have not been assessed.
The model aims to accelerate rural transformation and development at the grassroots level. Its success will depend on the community’s commitment and the support of the government. The model emphasizes the importance of building partnerships and networks among community members, organizations, and external stakeholders, including government agencies and non-government organizations.
The PDM seeks to uplift 39% (3.5 million) of Ugandan households from the subsistence sector to the money economy. Notably, of the 3.5 million households in the subsistence economy, about 62% (2.2 million) are engaged in subsistence agricultural activities, whereas 38% (1.3 million) are actively engaged in non-agricultural activities (UNHS 2019/20).
The parish Development model is expected to provide small funds for ordinary Ugandans to boost their enterprises and incomes.
The PDM aims to empower communities at the parish level to identify and prioritize their development needs and plan as well as implement interventions to address them. This approach is based on the principles of participatory development, which emphasizes the active involvement of communities in the development process. By involving communities in the development process, the PDM seeks to address the root causes of poverty, including lack of access to basic services such as health, education, and water.
The PDM aims to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth by supporting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and value chains in rural areas. This is important because SMEs are a key driver of economic growth and job creation in many developing countries. By supporting the development of SMEs, the PDM can help to create opportunities for income generation and poverty reduction. The PDM also aims to improve access to basic services such as health care, education, and clean water. This could lead to improved health outcomes, increased educational attainment, and enhanced productivity, reducing poverty.
However, the successful implementation of the PDM in Uganda will depend on several factors, including the fact that adequate resources must be found to fund the initiative. Already, there are weaknesses in this – parishes had been promised to receive Shs 100 million apiece in the 2022/23 financial year. Less money was sent.
Accountability structures are also weak. This is evidenced by the fact that district leaders have been reported to use received money for personal endeavors (Some have been arrested by the Statehouse Anti-Corruption Unit and ordered to refund). There must be a strong focus on capacity building, particularly in project and budget management, to ensure effective implementation and sustainability.
The potential of the PDM to accelerate poverty reduction in Uganda, especially in rural areas, is significant. Its success, however, will depend on several factors, including adequate resources, community participation, and capacity building.