Amudat bee farmers appeal for honey processing plant

Bee farmers in Amudat district in Karamoja sub region have appealed to the government and any well-wishers to provide them with a honey processing plant in order to boost their income through value addition.

Paulina Cherop, one of the bee farmers in Loro Sub County in Amudat district, explained that they do not earn much from their honey business because they are forced to sell it unprocessed.

“One kilogram of unprocessed honey is sold at Shs 10,000 and Shs 30,000 for the processed. We are being cheated by buyers who takeour honey cheaply since we don’t have the machine to process it,” she said.

Mathew Lopong another bee farmer from Acoricori village in Amudat Sub County said many people in Amudat are moving away from other types of farming and embracing bee keeping which, he says, is not so labour intensive.

“The venture has been lucrative for me; it doesn’t have much work like weeding in gardens, and is easier than poultry which requires feeding and treating birds. Bees look for their own food and you only provide a water source for them and prevent bush burning,” he said.

Betty Chapal, another farmer, said she started the project with only 10 beehives but now has 300 beehives, 290 of which are colonized and ready for harvesting. She, too, says the inability to process her honey negatively impacts on her profit margin.

“I would have earned Shs 20m from the honey that I will be harvesting next month if it was processed, but now there is no machine, I will get much less,” she said.

Gloria Apio, the Principal Entomologist in Amudat district, said most families in the area have turned to bee keeping due to unreliable rainfall for crop production in the district

She also acknowledges the need for government to set up a processing plant in Amudat so that farmers can process and package their honey.

“Our farmers just sell the honey after harvest to Kenya and we lose the by-products that can be got from honey such as shoe polish, wax, candles, and jelly,” she said.

Other by-products of honey include propolis, royal jelly, medicine, soap and others. Honey is also known to have medicinal value and can help to improve cholesterol levels in the body.

Apio said last season Amudat district produced up to 9,000 kilograms of honey which was sold to Baringo in Kenya.

“This honey was packaged as ‘Baringo honey’ and yet it is from Amudat district in Uganda,” she said, adding that if a processing plant is put in place, Amudat could produce up to 40,000 kilograms of honey in every season.

Masokonyi Waswa the Chief Administrative Officer, Amudat district, said he has directed that more funding under the district’s production budget be allocated to beekeeping.

“Our honey was tested in Europe and declared one of the best honeys in the world,” he boasted.

Meanwhile, Francis Kiyonga the district LC V Chairperson said he has written several appeals to the ministry of agriculture requesting that a honey processing plant be constructed in Amudat, with no success so far.

He said about 2,000 people have ventured into bee keeping after finding it profitable.

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Popular Mbarara market burns down, arson suspected

Several traders who lost their merchandise in the Saturday July 11 conflagration that engulfed Nyamityobora market suspect that the popular market was deliberately torched by motivated individuals, despite the police’s insistence that the cause of the fire is as yet unknown.

Located at Mile Two on Mbarara-Masaka road, the iconic Nyamityobora market- sometimes named Kijungu- is one of the sights that welcome you into Mbarara Town.

Vendors in Nyamityobora Daily Market were left in tears after an abrupt fire gutted the iconic market and destroyed property worth over Shs 500m.

The fierce blaze started in the wee hours of the night and destroyed a lot of property including tonnes of dry and fresh food stuffs, stalls, clothes, shoes and several eateries within Kijungu cell, Nyamityobora division, in the new Mbarara City

Nyamityobora market Chairperson, Wilson Rwamukore, confirmed that a total of 600 registered traders had lost property worth Shs 500m, including the market office.

“It has 600 traders and property worth Shs 500 million had been lost; even my money and books were burnt in the office. I was informed at 4 am, and and by the time I reached here, the entire market had been burnt,” Rwamukore said.

Byansi Muhammad, the area councillor representing Nyamityobora ward regretted that the unfortunate incident happened during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“It is unfortunate our market has got burnt during a bad time of COVID-19 when people were no longer working as their businesses were all locked down,” Muhammad said.

Arson suspected

Several traders who spoke to theCooperator expressed their suspicion that the fire that destroyed their livelihoods was no accident.

Ketty Rukundo, who for the past eight years has operated a hotel in Nyamityobora market, told theCooperator that she learnt about the inferno by phone call early Saturday morning.

“It was around 5:00am when I was called by a colleague saying, ‘You are sleeping and yet the market is burning?’ By the time I reached there, I could not save anything- everything had been burned; I simply broke down,” Rukundo says.

Rukundo believes the fire was planned by some market leaders who had earlier suggested developing a standard Nyamityobora market, while Wilson Rwamukore, the market Chairperson, blamed the tragedy on “enemies of the market”.

“It was torched by some enemies of the market, but we shall wait for the police investigation report,” he said.

Councillor Byansi Muhammad was equally shocked by the timing of the fire outbreak.

“If the fire was from a charcoal stove, the market would have got burnt around 11pm. But now, with this fire of 5 am, we really don’t know,” Muhammad mused.

For his part, Lawrence Birungi, a trader whose posho store was torched in the conflagration, says the fire’s outbreak during curfew time makes it even more suspect.

“We leave the market at 6 pm because of the curfew, so we were are surprised to learn that the fire that destroyed our businesses started between 4-5 am when there are no boda bodas operating. Some of us think this fire was planned.”

The widely held suspicions of arson are fanned by the narrative of the fire’s genesis and progression provided by Brian Semanda, one of the security personnel at the market. According to him, the fire was set from different corners of the market.

“The fire started in the middle of the market, but by the time we got there, another side of the market had also started burning. This means the fire was intentionally set by some unknown people,” Semanda said.

Police response

ASP Samson Kasasira, the Rwizi regional police mouth piece, says the cause of the fire hasn’t been established yet but investigations are still ongoing.

However, many blamed the police for not acting fast enough to stop the fire, despite the market having Nyamityobora police post for a neighbour.

“How can our market get burnt from left, right, to centre, when there is a police station next door? So we blame the government because they didn’t offer any help until we made an alarm to the central police station. And even when they came, the fire van had no water and we had to put out the fire ourselves,” one Saidat Rukundo charged.

But Kasasira says the police had responded in time to save a significant part of the market.

“Today morning fire gutted Nyamityobora market. It is said to have started at 4 am, and our fire rescue team was able to respond and put out the fire, saving half of the market and the neighbouring structures,” he said.

Vendors trying to rescue some of their property in the fire

Nevertheless, he admitted that the police don’t have enough resources to man all the police units in order to cater for such disasters.

Appeal for restitution

One of the affected traders, Ketty Rukundo, appealed to government to support the traders to recover from the fire loss.

“We only recently resumed work, after the lock down, and this has happened. If government could help us to reconstruct our structures and pay our loans so that we can cater for our children, it would be a big help,” she said.

Others like Byansi Muhammad appealed to the president to come to the rescue of the vendors who were already affected by COVID-19.

“This is a double pandemic to the traders’ entire household income. I appeal the office of the disaster and preparedness to come and help them,” Muhammad said.

He adds that some of the traders had loans in different banks and requested that their payment be rescheduled,

“I don’t think these people will be able to clear in time; they should be added some time.”

Mbarara Deputy Town Clerk, Richard Mugisha says as the City Council they will deliberate and consider how best to help the traders.

“It would be premature for me to say what we as a council are going to do for the affected vendors, since this has just happened. We shall have a meeting on Monday with our political leaders, make an assessment of the extent of the damage, then come up with a clear plan on how to help them,” he told theCooperator in an interview, Saturday.

“But we also appeal to the other relevant central government offices especially the disaster management department to see how to come in and help our traders,” he added.

COVID-19 effect

Trader, Lawrence Birungi, says the COVID-19 restrictions on mobility had hampered traders’ ability to reach the market in time to save some of their property after they got news of the fire outbreak.

“Even if we wanted to rescue our property we were not allowed by police to move because of the curfew. Moreover, even bodabodas which are the easiest means of transport were stopped from carrying passengers because of COVID-19,” he lamented.

Some of the vendors looking on as the police extinguishes the fire.

In addition, Mugisha, says the COVID-19 restrictions have dampened business performance of the former Mbarara Municipality.

“Most of those businesses have not been paying our local revenue since they were not working, and up to now they are yet to get to full capacity because of social distancing and the curfew,” Mugisha explained.

He adds that levies on some businesses had to be slashed in response to the slowdown in business.

The Deputy Town Clerk says the market was especially affected because, prior to curfew, some traders used to operate up to midnight while markets like Nyamityobora that were known to operate for up to 24 hours are no longer working.

“COVID-19 affected our revenue levies substantially. As council, we estimated that the impact of COVID-19 on businesses was 80%, and therefore we reduced the payment for those which are still operating by an 80% margin as well.”

Disaster-proofing city structures

Mugisha says the new Mbarara Central region market has been installed with fire extinguishers to cater for such disasters in the future.

“Yes we have the fire mitigation measures already in place for the new central market construction,” he said.

However, he opined that such disastrous challenges sometimes emerge from reckless traders who don’t provide security for their businesses.

“Yes we can mitigate but the fire could have come from a candle or out of carelessness caused by some people within the market.”

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Government sets up fund to protect SACCO members’ savings

Government has established a contingency plan for members that may lose their monies in Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs).

The latest safeguard has been established in form of a special Savings Protection Fund for SACCOs, with the aim of shielding members from unforeseen losses that usually arise out of management deficiencies or embezzlement tendencies in associations.

Established under the recently gazetted Tier 4 Microfinance Institutions and Money Lenders (SACCO) regulations 2020, the fund provides for compensation of members of savings and credit organizations for loss of their savings.

The regulations that were signed by the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, were finally gazetted on July 7, to fully operationalise the Tier 4 Microfinance Institutions and Money Lenders Act, 2016, which established the Uganda Microfinance Regulatory Authority (UMRA) as a licensing and supervisory agency for SACCOs.

According to the regulations, SACCOs are now required to contribute an annual premium of 0.5 percent of their annual savings to the Protection Fund, which will directly be managed by UMRA.

The regulations put in place penalties for SACCOs that fail to comply with the requirements. Under its mandate, the regulatory authority has can suspend licenses of any microfinance institution over noncompliance with the regulations.

The State Minister in Charge of Microfinance, Kyeyune Haruna Kasolo, explains that the fund is somewhat similar to the Deposits Protection Fund that protects deposits by a certain percentage of the monies they hold in the event a commercial bank becomes insolvent.

He says the contingency fund is part of a well thought-out approach to strengthen the microfinance sector in the country and build public trust in SACCOs which have proven their capacity to improve the livelihoods of local populations by offering them affordable credit.

In the recent past, thousands of depositors affiliating to the various SACCOs have suffered losses as result of dishonest managers disappearing with the institutions’ finances.

The minister indicates that the new law mandates the authority to directly supervise the institutions at any time, as a way of preventing such eventualities

The gazetting of the regulations according to UMRA has also outlawed the operations of any SACCOs, Money lenders and other non-deposit taking microfinance institutions without valid operations licenses renewable on an annual basis.

Among other salient aspects, the regulations also demand that SACCOs submit to the authority their monthly returns on capital adequacy and liquidity statements.

UMRA was established by an Act of Parliament in 2016 with the aim of promoting a sound and sustainable non-banking financial institution’s sector, to enhance financial inclusion, financial stability, and financial consumer protection among the lower income population of the country.

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UPDATE: Masindi RDC gives Kinyara, out growers’ association ultimatum to agree on new sugar price

Masindi Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Martin Mugabi, has given Masindi Sugarcane Growers Association Limited (MASGAL) and Kinyara Sugar management one week to sort out their grievances over the sugarcane price for this financial year.

This was during a mediation meeting between the two parties that the RDC called at his office on Tuesday this week to resolve the impasse between the parties.

The meeting came after MASGAL rejected the price of 91,586 shillings for a tonne of sugarcane that Kinyara Sugar announced for this financial year which MASGAL says was reached without consulting them.

On July 1, 2020, Kinyara Sugar Ltd issued a new cane price for the 2020/2021 financial year which would be Shs. 91,586 per ton of sugar cane sold by the out growers. This was a decline from the previous price of Shs 108,200 shillings per tonne in the last Financial Year.

Speaking to the cooperator news a after the closed meeting, RDC Mugabi revealed that during the meeting the parties agreed to continue dialoguing on the matter with the aim of arriving at a mutually agreeable price.

“Another meeting will be held next week during which the two parties are expected to reach a consensus. I however appeal for calm from the farmers as the parties dialogue to ensure peace and prosperity in the area”, said Mugabi.

The chairperson Masindi Sugar cane out Growers Association Limited (MASGAL), Cosmas Byaruhanga, said they are ready to dialogue with Kinyara over the matter.

“The farmers would not have protested the price that Kinyara announced without consulting them if it was on the higher side,” Byaruhanga said.

Here’s our original story on the ongoing feud between Kinyara Sugar Ltd and the Masindi Sugarcane Growers Association Limited (MASGAL) about the cane price.

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Masaka Cooperative Union gears up to resume coffee export

The Masaka Farmers’ Cooperative Union is undertaking comprehensive restructuring aimed at resuscitating its coffee export potential.

Registered in 1951, the union was established to strengthen coffee farming and marketing in the greater Masaka sub region. In the 1980s it suffered immense losses as result of the political unrest that befell the country, losses for which the union is currently awaiting full compensation from the government.

TheCooperator has established that in the first two quarters on this financial year, government disbursed Shs 6.3 bn to Masaka Cooperative Union as part payment of the Shs 17.4 bn owed it.

The cash injection comes as a boon for the Union which is working towards reviving its glory in the coffee export business.

Emmanuel Ssenyonga, the Union’s General Manager says their aim is to resume and sustain the union’s coffee export business before this year ends.

The compensation monies received so far are being utilized to reestablish the Union’s strength and explore their business plans, according to Ssenyonga.

“We had earlier undertaken efforts to revive the unions by remobilizing our primary societies to boost their production capacities. When the government finally released part of the money, it came as complement to the efforts and plans we had started rolling out,” he noted.

In the meantime, the Union has stocked at least 13 tons of processed coffee which, Ssenyonga says, is lays a strong foundation for their coffee exports.

To this end, he adds, the Union has already ordered for modern coffee processing and grading machinery from Germany, to be installed in the union’s new factory structure currently under construction at Kijjabwemi zone at the outskirts of Masaka Municipality.

Lawrence Majwala, the Union’s Secretary says that the hi-tech machinery they acquired will facilitate production of high quality coffee and enable them meet international standards.

“We have so far paid 70 percent of the 1.4 billion shillings for the batch of the machinery which is already being shipped. In addition to this, there is another section of the dryer and a colour-sorter that will also be brought in to have a complete factory here,” Majwala said.

Before its disintegration in the mid 1980s, Masaka Coffee Cooperative Union was among the country’s main coffee exporters, generating substantial incomes that contributed to the union’s expansion and asset growth.

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Karamoja traders welcome the re-opening of the Moroto- Nakapiripirit- Mbale road

Traders from Karamoja have described as a relief, the reopening of Moroto- Mbale- Muyembe road, saying that it will ease access to bigger markets and reduce their cost of doing business.

The route, preferred by traders transporting merchandise from the Sebei sub-region to Karamoja, was closed at the start of May by the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) for maintenance, forcing traders from the districts of Bugisu and Sebei to take a 350km detour from Mbale through Soroti, Katakwi, Napak to Moroto, before connecting to Nakapiripirit and Amudat.

The road’s closure followed flash floods in the area which had washed away the Namaler and Cheptui bridges that link Mbale to Karamoja.

Following the closure, there was a spike in the prices of foodstuffs in Karamoja, with suppliers blaming the long transport routes for the hike in prices. A cross-section of traders told theCooperator that where they would only cover 117kms from Mbale to Karamoja directly, they were now covering 350km on the route through Teso.

Josephine Nangiro, a trader in Moroto town told theCooperator that as a result of the road closure, the cost of transporting an 100kg-bag of maize flour from Mbale to Moroto had increased to Shs. 10,000, from the original Shs. 5,000. As a result, the price of maize flour had increased by up to 23%, from Shs. 3,000 to Shs. 3,700 per kilo. A survey by this publication also found that the price of sugar in Moroto Municipality had increased by 12.5%, from Shs. 4000 per kilogram to Shs. 4,500, while a mere three tomatoes cost between Shs. 2,000 to Shs. 3,000 depending on size, from a previous Shs.1000.

On Wednesday 11th of June, the road was re-opened to the public after inspection by the State minister for works Peter Lokeris Aimat.

Lokeris urged UNRA to maintain close monitoring of built roads to prevent emergency interventions that required the closure of roads that often complicate business and livelihoods for the ordinary people. “You need to do routine monitoring of these marram roads so that where you detect a problem, you repair that part immediately to avoid getting over damaged,” he said.

With the reopening, Nangiro was optimistic that they would now be able to lower food prices. Karamoja gets about 97% of its food from the neighboring districts of Sebei, Bugisu, Teso, Lango and Acholi.

Patrick Wamuno, the chairperson of Bugisu traders Association based in Moroto told thecooperator that he was organizing to call for a meeting of all the Association’s registered traders to see how to lower the prices of food stuffs with the shorter route’s reopening. “We’re expecting the transport costs to decline, so we shall no longer need to increase the prices of food,” he said.

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Atiak Sugar Project plagued by labor shortage

At least 750 casual laborers are still needed by Ayuu Alali Cooperative society to help speed up the planting of sugarcane in Palabek Kal sub county in Lamwo district.

Ayuu Alali embarked on planting sugarcane in March this year, to feed the Atiak Sugar factory in Amuru district, but the planting process has been marred with continued labor shortages and turnover.

In April, Horyal Investment Holding Limited, the lead investor in the Atiak Sugar project in Lamwo district complained that they were losing billions of Shillings, as the seed canes were drying up due to inadequate labor to plant them. The company said it needed 900 workers to plant sugarcane.

Following the investor’s outcry, the Ministry of Agriculture decided to deploy 400 LDUs from Lamwo and kitgum districts to help plant the sugarcane. The development came after leaders in Lamwo turned down a request by Horyal Investment Holding Ltd to import casual laborers from Kamuli district, saying it was risky given the current covid-19 pandemic.

However, Francis Ojwiya, the chairperson of Ayuu Alali Sugarcane cooperative society limited – one of the primary societies partnering with Horyal Investments on the sugar project told theCooperator that the contract of the LDUs expired last week, and they were added only 10 days, which expire on the 15th, June 2020.

“The LDUs are leaving in a few days, and so we have to identify a new labor force of nearly 1000 people to fill their place and finish planting the sugarcane in time,” he said.

Unable to find local substitute labor in time, Ayuu Alali Cooperative on May 24, 2020 got clearance to transport the initially rejected laborers from Kamulu district. In total, at least 200 laborers were ferried unto the sugarcane plantations.

Ojwiya however says the reinforcement is still insufficient for the task at hand. “They (the 200 laborers) are not even half of what we need,” he told theCooperator.

Because of insufficient labor, planting of cane has prolonged on longer than is recommended, and Ayuu Alali Cooperative is worried that it will not produce enough to meet its cane quotas for the sugar factory.

“It is now three months since planting of the sugarcane started, and we have only planted 2700 acres out of the target 8000 acres. And we have only two months to plant the remaining acres before dry season sets in,” Ojwiya says.

He attributes the insufficiency of labor to the corona virus outbreak, noting “Without Corona, we would have recruited labor from anywhere within Uganda, but now we cannot risk ferrying in many people into our communities with the virus’ community spread increasing by the day.”

Even in Lamwo, Ojwiya says they’re taking extra caution in recruitment. “We don’t want to recruit in big numbers because once one of them emerges COVID19 positive, the community spread that would emerge could spiral out of control,” he says, adding that they would wait for about two weeks and if the infections have reduced, they would recruit.

For now, though, the project’s prospects, at least as far as this season is concerned, appear bleak. If the LDUs leave on Monday, there will be only 250 laborers left to plant at least 5000 acres of sugarcane, in just a month.

Geoffrey Nyeko, the LCIII chairperson of Palabek Kal sub county attributes part of the labor problem to the low pay paid out to the laborers. He told theCooperator that at least 200 out of the 400 workers recruited from within the district abandoned work last month, complaining of low pay and tedious work.

Ayuu Alali Sugarcane Cooperative Society Ltd comprises of 3,000 out growers who are each expected to manage at least five hectares of the sugarcane plantation.

The Atiak Sugar factory is a joint investment by Horyal Investment Holdings Ltd owned by businesswoman Amina Hersi and the Government of Uganda, in which the government owns 40% shares through the Uganda Development Corporation.

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Money changers at Elegu Border count losses as Covid19, restrictions bite

Money Changers at Elegu, Uganda’s border with South Sudan in Atiak Sub County, Amuru district are counting losses after majority have been pushed out of the business due to Covid 19.

At the time of the lockdown, there were over 50 money-changers stationed at the border crossing but a recent investigation by theCooperator found that the number has since declined to 10 owing to limited cross-border movement as a result of COVID-19 related restrictions.

Moses Muganwa, one of the money-changers who’s stayed on at the border told theCooperator that where he would make profits of at least Shs. 70,000 a day before the lockdown, he now struggles to make as little as Shs. 20,000.

Muganwa says that during normal times, money changers exchange Uganda Shillings, Kenyan shillings, and South Sudanese Pounds. But, he noted, “At the moment, the business is down, the demand is very low and many of our colleagues are no longer in business and some have even returned to their homes.’’

Joyce Ndagire, Muganwa’s colleague says she only decided against going home for fear of spending even her capital. “I decide to keep here so that I am able to get at least Shs. 10,000, for feeding the children. Had I gone home, I would by now have already eaten even the capital,’’ she said.

LCII Vice Chairperson Elegu town council, Godfrey Muhoozi, said the entire business has been paralyzed due to Covid 19, especially with strict vigilance against cross-border movements. He said that the new Ministry of Health guidelines against allowing entry of truck drivers who test positive for COVID-19 has further exacerbated the problem. “Looking at the numbers of the truck drivers from different countries who have since pulled out, definitely the money changers have no way for survival,” he said.

The LCV Chairperson Amuru district, Michael Lakony told theCooperator that being a border district, money exchange and cross-border trade was one of the biggest revenue sources for the district, and that the district is now trying to adjust to the inevitable revenue shortfalls as a result of the lock down.

On 1st June, President Museveni allowed the resumption of public transport as part of the steps to gradually reopen the economy, but cross-border movements remain suspended except for COVID19-negative truck drivers. Uganda has so far registered 679 cases of Covid19, a significant number of which have been from truck-drivers coming through Elegu border.

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Irish Potato farmers in Bukwo decry ‘death’ of markets due to COVID19

Irish potato farmers in Bukwo District in eastern Uganda are counting losses due to lack of market for their produce following the COVID19-lockdown that has made their traditional markets inaccessible.

The farmers were predominantly selling their produce across the border in Kenya prior to the lockdown, and have since gotten stranded with their harvest due to the restrictions in movement that have complicated trade between them and their traditional buyers. “We have had to watch on helplessly as the Irish(potatoes) rot away in gardens because we have nowhere to sell it,” says Samuel Kisosi, one of the farmers.

Kisosi says he had cultivated four acres of Irish potatoes and expected to reap shs.10million after selling his harvest. “But all that was before corona(virus). Now I don’t know if I will even get anything because the Kenyans are no longer coming, and locally, the markets are also suspended,” he says.

Paulina Cherop, another farmer in Chesower Sub County told theCooperator that those who’re lucky to get any buyers end up selling the Irish potatoes at give-away prices, just to avoid watching their produce rot away. “Initially, we used to sell a kilogram of Irish potatoes at Shs. 1,000. But now, there are no customers, so if you chance to get anyone who wants the potatoes for domestic consumption we sell it at as low as Shs.300 per kilogram,” She said.

Samuel Pogsho the chairperson of the potato farmers in Amanang sub-county appealed to the government to at least put in place some measures that can allow traders from Kenya to cross into the district and buy their produce with minimal social interaction.

“Even though President Museveni in his speech allowed cargo trucks to keep moving between the two countries, the authorities in both Kenya and across the border in Uganda have prevented the buyers from crossing into either country, making the lives of those of us who depend on the cross-border trade difficult,” says Pogsho.

When contacted, Bukwo Resident District Commissioner Chesol Tom acknowledged that his office has been receiving pleas from the farmers about the shutting down of markets, but argued that opening up for cross-border trade would increase the risks of COVID19 community infections.

He however appealed to government to revive and support local level cooperatives to enable farmers to safely store their produce and be able to sell it in the long term.

“We used to have producer cooperatives in every sub county, and this is what they would help with before they collapsed. Government can help support their revival to help farmers avoid making losses in periods like these,” Chesol said.

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Napak farmers reap big from cassava growing

Former cattle rustlers-turned crop farmers in Napak district are reaping big from cassava-growing in Karamoja, theCooperator has learned.

Cassava, a staple food for many communities in the rest of Uganda, was initially not a familiar crop in Karamoja, but was gradually adopted as a food crop as the traditionally pastoralist communities gradually began to lead settled lives.

John Lokut, one of the transformed farmers told theCooperator that many of his peers initially had very little knowledge about the crop, and only took to it after their cattle rustling expeditions were stopped by government.

“For sure we had no idea that cassava was being grown because those days when I was still a cattle(rustler), I could see cassava like it was a wild plant in the bush. I didn’t know that people grow it until one of my friends from Teso taught me on how to plant cassava stems, “he says.

Lokut has since emerged as one of the leading cassava growers in Napak, and recently teamed up with a host of other members to form a cooperative – Amedek cassava growers amongst whom they have jointly saved up shs.10million from selling cassava.

Joseph Mudong, the Chairman of the group told thecooperator that in 2018, he advised each member to grow at least one acre of cassava from which they jointly earned shs.4million. “That is when we saw that it (cassava growing) is profitable, and decided to invest the money in tilling more land,” he says.

He explained that with joint-farming proving profitable, they decided to form a formal group in 2009, which has since grown from 3 to now 20 members.

Grace Nachap, a member of the group and mother of eight told theCooperator that ever since she started Cassava growing two year ago, her family’ standard of living has improved. She said she can now pay fees for her three children in Moroto High School as well as for one waiting to join secondary when schools re-open. “I used to grow sorghum but it has never given me the money that I have got from Cassava growing,” She says.

Andrew Loucho, another member of the group says that market for cassava has also progressively grown and that now customers come to as far as their gardens to buy the cassava before it is even harvested. He said they pack three cassava tubers at shs. 3,000, and on daily basis receive between 10 to 40 customers from Moroto, Napak and Kotido wanting to buy cassava.

“What we are now pushing for is for government to give us at least one tractor. This would help us till much bigger land, and we would be supplying cassava to the whole of Karamoja region,” Loucho says.

Joseph Lomonyang, the district LCV chairperson called upon government to consider setting up irrigation projects in the area, noting that there’s increasingly vast farming potential in the area now that the communities have settled down.

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