The doctor orders more science in politics
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Kagonyera, Monde. 1998. The doctor orders more science in politics. Spore 75. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Dr Monde Kagonyera was born in south-western Uganda. After completing advanced studies in veterinary science at the Universities of Nairobi and California, Davis, he taught clinical veterinary medicine at Nairobi and Makerere Universities. In 1988...
Dr Monde Kagonyera was born in south-western Uganda. After completing advanced studies in veterinary science at the Universities of Nairobi and California, Davis, he taught clinical veterinary medicine at Nairobi and Makerere Universities. In 1988 he was appointed Minister of Animal Industries and Fisheries for Uganda ? a position he held until 1991. Currently he is a Member of Parliament in Uganda, and chairman of the Appointments Board of Makerere University. With most economies in Africa and other ACP States largely based on agriculture, the question governments and donors have to ask themselves is 'are they doing enough of the right kind of interventions to assist farmers?' At a recent seminar in Swaziland on 'Livestock Development Policies', organised by CTA in collaboration with OAU/IBAR and the Swaziland Ministry of Agriculture (see Spore 72), Dr Kagonyera delighted delegates with his frank perspectives. He spoke with ACP journalist Anita Allen. Dr Kagonyera began by saying that 'Any agricultural policy in Africa must address the needs of the peasant, and must be aimed at a viable food strategy programme leading to self-sufficiency in food production as well as addressing the question of poverty alleviation, since we cannot yet talk about poverty elimination.' Such brevity is remarkable for a politician, but then Kagonyera is an example of the new breed of scientist-turned-politician. He would like to see many more such figures occupying parliamentary benches throughout the continent. Sometimes called an African Renaissance man, he believes that the tide has turned for Africa. One reason for optimism, he says, is that the quality of politicians is improving. 'As you realise at the time of Independence a lot of political leaders had very poor education and experience. Things are different now. If you look at the parliament of Uganda for example, I'm sure 80% of the members have got at least one university degree. So the politics are completely different.' The African renaissance Things may be different, but they are not yet right and Kagonyera reserves some of his most pithy remarks for politicians and their various organisations, recalling the prayer book saying: 'we have left undone those things we ought to have done and we have done those things we ought not to have done'. Kagonyera sets great store in education as a key in the African renaissance, and he would like to see donors throwing everything they have into capacity building. 'I think Africa should be given time to prepare itself to join the rest of the world and the best way to help Africa prepare itself is to emphasise capacity building, whether it is in education, industry, or agriculture.' He is, though, a little wary of aid: 'it tends to give you breathing space not to work hard, and that's not good'. The fact that democracy is coming to Africa only now doesn't bother him and he dismisses a suggestion that it has taken a long time. 'All over the world these things have taken a long time. Look how long it took the Europeans to become democratic. Africa is on the launching pad, there's no question in my mind. I wish I could live long enough to see Africa a better place. We are taking off already ? look how many countries have adopted democratic principles of governance, look how many countries are registering positive economic growth after long decades of negative growth, look at the coming to the stage of South Africa with its economic might ? Africa is going to be a different continent.' In this awakening, Kagonyera says Africa must look to itself first. 'Africa has first to put its own house in order before it can go to the global field, and it is important to go stage by stage. This can only be based on each country doing a good job within its own borders, then in regional groups, then the whole of Africa can look to the world.' Is enough attention being paid to agriculture by governments in Eastern and Southern Africa? Kagonyera thinks not. 'One problem we have is that when farmers make mistakes, instead of finding a remedy, they are punished. That's wrong because those mistakes are not intentional. It's a learning process and we are not allowing that to take place.' Scientists, he believes, have a crucial role to play in ensuring a better tomorrow for Africa's people. 'I would like to see scientists assert themselves more because they can be listened to, that's my view. Certainly in Uganda, we can listen to them because even in parliament we have so many professionals ? at least seven vets and probably more medical doctors and professors.' He dismisses any suggestion that scientists are not noted for their assertiveness, and says that in their labs they have to be assertive. Furthermore, he believes that scientists must become political animals. Plant your people 'It's like playing American football, you must plant your people. Scientists must take the game to the politicians ? if you don't take the initiative ? and this is true of every walk of life ? there are times when if you don't promote a thing, you don't get it. You must draw programmes that are achievable,' he says, and that means focusing on food self-sufficiency with government interventions directed at enabling and empowering the peasant to produce more. 'If you do not understand the problems of the small farmer, then you will not be able to help him ? and how do you know his problems? You must talk to him, so there must be forums with the peasant farmers, where they can come and give their problems and tell their stories. Government archives are full of projects, but none of it gets to the people, so follow-up is the rule.' Which brings him back to his only words of advice to donors: build capacity in the people.
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