It’s 5:15am. Rwamanuma, Kazo.

The earth is slowly opening its eyes. There are hungry (not angry) birds who’ve woken up early to catch worms and stuff. They won’t stop singing about it. I’ve woken up to milk. This is my daily routine. I have these rusty gumboots on. It rained the other day, so it’s a mess. But I’m used to this. We’re 4 people in here. We are racing against time. We should be done milking by the first light. A sound of milk as it hits the bottom of a metallic bucket. A calf yawns as it looks for its mother in still darkness. Someone is whistling. There’s always someone whistling at 5:15am. It’s a new day.

Here, milk is our oil. Our gold. Our coal. It’s all we have. It pays our school fees, our rent, our everything. The other day, my dad told me how milk is no longer our oil, our gold, our coal, our everything.

Why?

Because there’s no market for it anymore. Nothing hurts like a herdsman pouring his milk. Our neighbours don’t want milk anymore because they are also pouring it. Everyone is pouring theirs.

I’ve been informed that this is because Kenya shut its doors to Ugandan milk products especially Pearl Dairy products (Lato Milk). The prices have reduced to as low as UGX300 per litre. Pearl Dairy Ltd was forced to close its factory and has been dependent on the products in storage until recently when they re-opened but only at 30% production capacity.

Although numerous discussions have been held between Pearl Dairy Ltd and the government through different ministries and government agencies, no significant progress has been reached with the Kenya government negotiations.

This situation continues to affect the farmers on the daily, and they are unable to pay off loans they had secured from the different financial institutions which is directly affecting the sustainability of their livelihood.

The government of Uganda, much as its priorities are on the fight against the pandemic, should look into this matter.

They are milking our livelihood dry.