For several decades now, Ugandan intellectuals have been critical of foreign aid, arguing that it has a negative effect on the development of the country.
This of course is not unique to Uganda and every African country has theorists who are bitterly opposed to foreign aid, which they blame for stunting economies and postponing their takeoff.
But the era of “presumptuous foreigners thinking for us” is fast coming to an end in Uganda, from what is happening these days.
Our people have started discovering ways of putting aid items to different uses of their choice.
One case in point are those mosquito nets that are being distributed all over the countryside in grand ceremonies where our dignitaries heap praises on the donors who are donating them.
While disgruntled intellectuals have been saying that the free nets encourage national laziness and their use is less sustainable than mobilising people to maintain clean surroundings without stagnant water that encourages mosquito breeding, the people have gone ahead and creatively put the nets to different uses.
Starting with the fishermen; the nets have drastically reduced their expenditure on fishing gear as they find the free mosquito nets efficacious in catching all sizes of fish. Only a fish that is smaller than a mosquito escapes through these nets, but such a small fish has no market anywhere anyway.
The nets have also been promoting holy matrimony. Many peasants who could not afford formal weddings have started taking marital vows because the prohibitive cost of bridal gowns has been taken care of by the free mosquito nets…
Some guy the other day also put the mosquito net to a violent use by strangling his wife with it.
I guess when free legal services become available and people learn of divorce as a civilised way of separating when a marriage becomes unhappy, this particular use will not become widespread.
In the agricultural sector, mosquito nets have become quite popular in protecting plants from pests, birds and the elements. This is a very positive application of the nets as plant nurseries have indeed become nicer with use of the freely available mosquito nets.
Poor people’s homes have also become more pleasant during the day because of the free window curtain liners that are made out of the mosquito nets. You can now be sure the stuffy tropical heat of the tropics is no longer the typical condition to find in a peasant’s house.
Besides all these applications, some people even use the free mosquito for fighting malaria by using them for covering their beds.
That way, we get to spend less on malaria treatment, and the healthy peasants can go and attend to their crops with nurseries well protected by free nets.
The fishermen also get to spend less of the money earned from using the free nets on treating malaria.
Actually, many of the kids being born in the new marriages taking place because of the free mosquito wedding gowns will be protected from malaria in the next round of distribution of free nets kindly donated by the donors. So those disgruntled elements who criticise aid should shut up.
Joachim Buwembo is a social and political commentator based in Kampala. E-mail: [email protected].