Globalization & the Rural Poor.

Introduction The positive and negative impacts of globalization have affected all the corners of the world including the rural areas in Uganda. Since 1986, the socio-economic improvements in the lives of the rural poor in Uganda are attributed to globalization. Some economists argue that the socio-economic improvement is a result of the good governance of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government, which has been in power since 1986, while others reason that it has been brought by the external forces of globalization. “Globalization may be thought of initially as the widening, deepening, and speeding up of worldwide connectedness in all aspects of contemporary life, from culture to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual.” (Held, et al. 1999:2). Therefore, worldwide connectedness in all aspects of life has brought socio-economic improvement in the lives of the rural poor in Uganda.  In this research paper I will discuss how globalization has improved the socio economic wellbeing of the rural poor in Uganda since 1986.

Accessibility to global tools such as the internet, technology, media, and telephones have opened opportunities for the rural poor to access information, markets, better health services, education and to be exposed to new cultures and traditions.  The UNDP Report 2014 supports the trend of socio-economic improvement among the rural poor in Uganda since 1986.  This is in agreement with Chanda, who noted that, “Globalization has created an integrated world; as a result of integration, many poor people have been lifted from poverty”. Although he also noted that globalization has left nearly a third of the world’s population by the wayside, this has not been the case for the rural poor in Uganda. (Chanda 2007:16).  However, there are indications that the traditional values and belief systems of the rural poor communities in Uganda have been watered down by globalization. This is in agreement with Duru-Ford who opines that “global entertainment companies shape understanding and dreams of ordinary citizens wherever they live. (Duru Ford 2002)

Easterly explains that even the poorest countries can grow and develop on their own. The searcher among the poor can find a way toward higher living standards; they do not have to wait for the West to save them (Easterly 2006:40). What Easterly meant is the rural poor can  use global tools like internet, media, technology, communication and transport to facilitate socio -economic improvement in developing countries like Uganda.

However, socio-economic progress in Uganda has been brought by several factors which include globalization, improvement in national security, improved health services, technological advances, the work of the Church and changes in cultural and social standards, and I will expand on each of these in coming sections.

Globalization and economic growth in rural Uganda According to the UNDP report, three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas, where subsistence farmers suffer the highest prevalence of poverty. They are caught in intractable cycles of low productivity, seasonal unemployment and low wages and are particularly vulnerable to changing weather patterns (UNDP Report 2014. 11).  Most Ugandans live in rural areas, with the majority earning their living through subsistence farming. In the 1980’s to late 1990’s object poverty was rampant among the rural poor in Uganda. People in rural areas lacked many necessities of life; there were few schools, health centers and roads, and it was very hard to communicate with the outside world. (encyclopedia.com). since 1986, the socio-economic improvement in the lives of the rural poor in Uganda has improved as a result of globalization.

According to Uganda’s 25 years of Nation Building Progress Report of Jan 2011, in 1986, the NRM government took power following more than a decade of war and upheaval and a short period of military rule.  The NRM has registered phenomenal progress in the national economy, with a tenfold growth to approximately US$ 10 billion and it continues to grow at an average rate of 6.3% per annum. The proportion of the people living in poverty according to Uganda’s Progress Report Jan 2011 has shrunk from 56% to the current 23%, inflation has been controlled to an average of 5.7%, and primary school enrolment has climbed from 2.23 million students to 8.3. University enrolment has grown from 6,579 in 1986 to now more than 100,000 students, and tax collection has grown 185 times from USh27.2 billion in 1987 to Ush 5,034 billion (Uganda’s 25 Years of Nation Building Progress Report Jan 2011).

According to a Daily Monitor article about the Global 2014 Human Development Report, Uganda’s income growth has been rising due to investment in poverty alleviation. The number of people living in poverty has fallen, according to the report, from 56.4% in 1992/93 to 19.7% in 2012/13 (Daily Monitor, Newspaper, August 1st   2014). The reduction of the number of people living in poverty can be partially attributed to global tools that have empowered the rural poor to demand change in their socio-economic circumstances, such as safe water, better educations, better health services and better housing.  This is in line with Pope John Paul II who said, “Thus the true success of globalization will be measured by the extent that it enables every person to enjoy the basic goods of food and housing, of education and employment, of peace and social progress, of economic development and justice” (Pontifical Academy May, 2003).

Uganda’s economic growth is as a result of globalization because Uganda’s rural poor use global tools such as internet, telephone, transport to find market for their farming products. Globalization also has made it to be easy for cross boarder trading. The rural poor in Uganda are engaged in trade with neighboring countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo and Sudan. The Background to the Budget  report 2014/15 Fiscal Year 2014:16-19 described that globalization has enabled traders in Uganda to export more goods and services in many countries, thus getting more income to the rural farmers which affect the socio economic position of the rural poor. The report further opines that globalization has also made the rural poor to be exposed to the world outside Uganda which has resulted in better farming methods and good business practices.  The NRM Government has partnered well with other countries & international organizations to improve the standards of the rural poor in Uganda. (Ministry of Healthy, Poverty Status Report 2012)

Globalization and national security in rural Uganda. The NRM government has ensured that the security of people and their property is guaranteed. It can be posited that an increase in national security has been a major contributor to Uganda’s socio-economic development since 1986.  Uganda is now in a period of relative peace after decades of civil war. Because Ugandan citizens now have peace, they are confident to work and invest in rural areas, unlike in the 1970s when the security of the country was in turmoil.  Sachs supports the ideas that when a country’s security, and that of its neighbors, is assured, economic development happens. For a country to develop economically, it must be at peace with its neighbors, and the neighbors should also be at peace within themselves (Sachs 2005:104). In Uganda, the NRM government has provided security to its citizens, which has stimulated socio-economic improvement in the lives of the rural poor. However, it should be noted that the NRM government has acquired support from the USA, Great Britain, and of late, China, to ensure the physical and economic security of its people. (Background to the Budget 2014/15 Fiscal Year 2014). These countries have invested heavily in infrastructure and services in Uganda, and if, for example, the USA does not help ensure Uganda is peaceful, the resulting instability will also affect the Americans or the British in one way or another. Thus, we see globalization forces at play to guarantee security, and socio-economic growth in Uganda.

Globalization and health service delivery in rural Uganda. Since 1986 Uganda’s health services systems services have been extended to the rural areas of Uganda, where the majority of the country’s poor live. Global organizations such as World Bank and World Health Organization have been funding the Ugandan government to improve the health services offered to the rural poor, and the government of Uganda has subsequently built health centers in every sub county. The Ugandan Government has committed to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015, three of which relate to the improvement of health standards and services. (Ministry of Healthy, Poverty Status Report 2012)

Bradford explains that the development of the Millennium Development Goals has roots in the World Summit for Children in 1990 where specific goals were set for applicable countries, relating to the improvement of circumstances for children under the age of five. Participants agreed to goals to reduce maternal and infant and under-5 child mortality, provide universal access to education up to primary level, reduce adult illiteracy, reduce severe and moderate malnutrition, and increase access to safe water and sanitary services. (Bradford 2002:4),

It can be therefore argued that the means by which poverty has been addressed in Uganda is not the brain child of the NRM government, but instead, driven by a global decision agreed by world leaders. Socio-economic improvement among the rural poor is largely the result of a global commitment to end poverty. (Background to the Budget 2014/15 Fiscal Year 2014:7).  However, there is no question that since 1986 the health status of the rural poor has improved, largely because the NRM government together with development partners such United States of America, Canada, and Britain, are committed to achieving their Millennium Development Goals. Sachs writes that, “The end of extreme poverty is at hand – within this generation there is a strong commitment to see Millennium Development Goals achieved, as they represent a crucial mid-station on the path to ending extreme poverty by the year 2025.” (Sachs, 2005:25).

The health centers have ensured that the Ugandan rural poor can access health services more easily, with a subsequent great improvement in their lives. According to the Sunday Vision Newspaper of June, 23rd 2013, the life expectancy of the average Ugandan has increased from 54.8 years in 2010 to 59 years in 2014, the infant mortality rate has reduced from 66.8 in 1000 in 2010 to 57 live birth per 1000 in 2013.  Although these figures are still below international standards, there is a steady improvement in the general health status of the rural poor in Uganda.  The ministry of healthy poverty status report 2012 outlines that, Global organizations such as the World Health Organization, Advanced Family Planning, CARE, USAID, World Vision and many other international organizations have combined resources to improve the health conditions of Ugandans, including the poor in the rural areas. Diseases and illnesses like polio, tuberculosis, diarrhea, dysentery, river blindness, malaria and malnutrition have been reduced in the rural areas where these diseases used to be rampant. The numbers of people killed by these diseases has also been reduced. The rural poor in Uganda generally are improving because of intervention from many international organizations and the government of Uganda. (Ministry of Healthy, Poverty Status Report 2012)

The ministry’s report further explains that reproductive health services have been extended to the rural poor, where access to family planning methods has reduced the number of children produced by women in this demographic. The current average family among the rural poor includes seven children, compared to the past when an average family would have twelve children or more. Although seven children are still considered a very big family by western standards, there are signs that sooner rather than later, the trend may change.  Improvement in health standards and increasing exposure to western social and cultural structures is resulting in rural poor families developing a culture of having fewer children. As a result, when these families have fewer children, they can more easily afford to feed, clothe, and educate all the children in the family. (Ministry of Healthy, Poverty Status Report 2012)

However, there are also members of Ugandan society who argue that this is a negative thing brought about by globalization, that in fact, high population growth is a good thing for socio-economic development. They urge that large population increases market share and provides opportunities for investments and increases market demand for products.

According to Sen Amartya, economic development can be measured by increase in life expectancy, as an indicator for health and literacy, and for knowledge and education, and GDP as a measure of standard of living (Myers Bryant L. 2011: 29). Based on Sen’s measure of development, it is evidenced that since 1986 the Ugandan rural poor’s socio-economic wellbeing has increased dramatically.

Technological effects in rural Uganda. The rural poor in Uganda are experiencing the fruits of technology in different forms.  Technological improvement in communication has made cell phones accessible to many rural areas, as international and regional companies such as MTN, Airtel, Warid, Mango and K2 have invested in Uganda’s telecommunication sector.  As such, there are few rural areas in Uganda where there no cell phone network. (Uganda’s and 25 years of Nation Building Jan 1986 – Jan 2011: 24)

The benefits of mobile telephone communication to the poor are enormous.  As an example, the rural poor are able to obtain first-hand information regarding the market prices of different commodities, because if a rural poor former wants to sell his produce he /she will first call a relative in a town to check on the current price. Before such mobile communications were available, traders were able to take advantage of the rural poor’s ignorance of market trends and buy their agricultural produce at a low cost, before selling on at a higher price.

The increase in mobile telecommunications across the country has provided employment to the rural poor, especially youth who may not otherwise have had a chance of gainful employment outside of subsistence farming.  It is a fairly simple exercise for individuals to establish themselves as agents or vendors for the major telecommunications companies, selling SIM cards and airtime, and making a small amount of commission for each sale.

Mobile Money.  Jenny C. Aker, et al explains that the mobile telephone is now also commonly used as means of transferring funds from rural areas to urban areas and vice versa. The mobile money business has stimulated the growth of rural business, as the rural poor use mobile money as a means of transacting business deals. This has become another quick and easy form of banking, which is typically more affordable and efficient than the commercial banks, and the number of mobile money subscribers is growing steadily, year on year.   (Jenny C. Aker et al 2010: 220-223)

Buying and selling of agricultural commodities in the rural areas in Uganda has become much easier than previously. This is in agreement with Jenny C. Aker et al who opines that mobile for communication increases economic growth. (Jenny C. Aker et al 2010: 223) For example, a town-dweller wanting to buy agricultural products from the a rural area can make a phone call to the farmer, send payment via mobile money, and then the farmer sends the commodities to the businessman man in the city. The costs of doing business thus become considerably reduced, and the rate of saving increases, which can be reinvested to create more wealth.   Advancement is not only obvious in the telecommunications sector, but also extends to access to the media.

According to Uganda’s communications commission after the Government of Uganda liberalized the media, several radio and television stations joined the market, with the result that in every major town in Uganda there is at least one radio station. The radio waves extend to the rural villages, and most rural poor have radio sets in their homesteads. The popularity of radios and radio transmitters has empowered the rural poor with relevant information that cover different aspects of life. Radio programs run daily on different topics including health, business, agriculture, democracy, religious issues, world current affairs, music and entertainment among others.  The number of print media offerings has also increased, and so the rural poor are equipped with more information to make sound decisions, than at any time in the past. (Uganda Communications Commission). This is in support of the UNDP report statement that “There are opportunities today that can make the transformation not only plausible but very affordable. We live in an era where rapid technological change, especially empowered by the information revolution, is deepening the integration of the world economy, changing the structure of jobs, offering new economic opportunities for all countries, facilitating green growth and enabling many low-income countries to leapfrog through economic transformation” (UNDP Report 2014: 11). Indeed, this transformation is being seen in the lives of the rural poor in Uganda.

The rural poor in Uganda now even have access to television and video sets, since globalization has make it possible for Uganda to trade with China, who make more affordable television, radio and video sets affordable to the rural poor in Uganda. The images on the television and other media have stimulated the desire for the rural poor to seek a better life and to strive to be like others living a better life in different parts of the world. The media is slowly but steadily influencing the mindset of the rural poor for a positive change. Duru-Ford states that “global entertainment companies shape understanding and dreams of ordinary citizens wherever they live” and indeed is what is happening in Uganda. (Duru Ford 2002)

However the accessibility to the media has also had a negative impact on the lives of the rural poor especially the youth who are introduced to a new culture, and are being influenced to emulate world stars, especially those in the film industry.  This has led many young people to question the traditions and values in their own communities, and why they are practiced. The effects of new technology on the rural poor have certainly seen socio-economic improvement in the lives of the rural poor. This is in agreement with what Sachs writes: “You will see that all parts of the world have the chance to join an age of unprecedented prosperity building on global science, technology, and markets. But you will also see that certain parts of the world are caught in a downward spiral of impoverishment, hunger, and disease. It is no good to lecture the dying that they should have done better with their lot in life. Rather, it is our task to help them onto the ladder of development, at least to gain a foothold on the bottom rung, from which they can then proceed to climb on their own.” (Sachs, 2005:18) The uses of technology and access to information have empowered the rural poor to start climbing the ladder of development since 1986.

The globalized Church and rural Uganda. The globalized Church has also played an important role in improving the socio-economic status of the rural poor. Since the introduction of Christianity to Uganda, the Christian church hasn’t limited their work to urban centers and cities, but have successfully penetrated the rural areas where the majority of the poor live. The Church, in its efforts to spread the gospel to the whole world, has a holistic approach to effectively bring total salvation to the whole man (Matt 28:18-20). Paternoster argued that, “For the gospel is the root of which both evangelism and social responsibility are the fruits. As good news of love in Christ, the gospel demands both to be preached and be lived.” (Paternoster, 1996: 185)

Yates states that “While Christian Missionary Boards and agencies have existed for a long time, modern Para-Church; humanitarian and mission networks/organizations have mushroomed in the past years. Reliable statistics are hard to find, but the cursory glance reveals that the potential impact of these organization is immense”. (Josh Yates 2005).

When western missionaries first came to Uganda, they built schools and hospitals, and of recent times have developed microfinance services, agriculture, water and sanitation and many other social projects that improve the socio-economic wellbeing of the poor.

As a local example, in my immediate area, the Diocese of Kigezi has done commendable work to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of the rural poor in Uganda especially those in Kabale District, by developing a project to provide safe water to the parishioners. The Diocese has seen immense benefits from this program, in that children no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water, so their school attendance is regular and their school performance has subsequently greatly improved. In addition, water-borne and sanitation-related diseases have reduced among the poor people served by the program, with a tremendous health impact especially on the lives of women, babies and their mothers, and the girl child. (Kigezi Diocese, Water Project). Similar projects are carried out in many parts of the Uganda, established and administered through various Church-based organizations.  The Diocese of Kigezi has developed a very successful intervention program because they have networked with other international organizations and Churches around the globe. There is a distinct possibility that without globalization, the Diocese would not have achieved much.

On the website of the province of the Church of Uganda they describe that the social services arm of the Church of Uganda, since its establishment, has focused its work on the fight against poverty, disease, illiteracy, injustice, and marginalization of the poor in society.  “The Church implements a “bottom up” community development strategy to empower families at household level through their community organizations so that they take charge of their own development agenda to improve the quality of their life irrespective of their faith, sex, tribe or ethnicity. The aim of the program is to make local communities and Church of Uganda institutions self-reliant in their day to day requirements.  Its emphasis is on building their capacities to enable them to identify, prioritize their challenges/needs and act to reduce poverty, hunger, and promote good health among the people of God. (Kigezi Diocese, Water Project).

The Church of Uganda has brought about dramatic improvement in the socio economic wellbeing of the rural poor in Uganda by mobilizing resources from international organizations as well as local funders to carry out development projects this has been possible because of globalization of the Christian Church.

Globalization and cultural influence on the rural poor in Uganda. The rural poor in Uganda have traditions and belief systems which hinder development. According to Harrison the culture of a society contributes to the socio-economic wellbeing of its people; for example, in a society where hard work is valued and saving is valued, there is a chance for that society to develop economically.  Harrison mentions certain qualities that a community should possess in order for humankind to develop.  He explains that when the culture of a community encourages fair treatment of each individual person, reward incentives, has an educational system which help its citizens to think critically and solve problems, that rewards talents and gives its people an opportunity to develop their talents, and political and cultural institutions which promote continuity, society will develop.  (Harrison 1985: 59)

Modernization creates pressure for people to change the way they think and do business.  The rural poor in Uganda have started to change their traditional way of life to be more modern in order to cope with the pace of global life.  In Uganda, the rural poor who used to live a pastoral life have changed due to modernization.  The subsistence farmers in the rural areas in Uganda have started to modernize their farming techniques. In fact, the Government of Uganda has developed a program to modernize agriculture and because of this, the rural poor subsistence farmers have adapted to the new culture and their worldview has started to change. “Modernization theorists … have argued that the world is changing in ways that erode traditional values” (Harrison 1985:81) The rural poor have abandoned traditional ways of cultivating and are moving to modern farming techniques which has proved to be much more fruitful than the traditional methods. The Banyankole in Uganda who used to be pastoralist have changed to became modern farmers by using new scientific knowledge for cattle grazing like zero grazing and keeping the cattle in a ranch. The cultural belief emphasized on quantity other than quality of the cows’ one owns has changed.

Conclusion. The evident socio-economic improvement in the lives of the rural poor in Uganda has been brought about by a number of factors. Globalization has played a significant role in improving the lives of the poor people in Uganda, by thinning down national borders, easing the movement of the people and property, opening up markets, providing opportunities for education, better health services and the use of technology, and giving more exposure to new ideas and information.  The NRM Government has provided security for people and their property, and transport and communications within the country, to nations outside the borders have dramatically improved. All of these have triggered transformational change and empowered the rural poor to improve their socio-economic position. However, there is also evidence that the culture of the rural poor is being degraded and social values that hold the community together are being destroyed.

The positive and the negatives impacts of globalization on the rural poor in Uganda are felt in every aspect of life in Uganda. However it should be noted that, the socio economic improvement in the the lives of the rural poor in Uganda since 1986 is largely a result of globalization.

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