Gulu City Traders Issue Ultimatum To Umeme

GULU – Gulu Market vendors have issued a two weeks ultimatum to electricity distribution company, Umeme: Stop the power outages or brace for street protests.

Complaints have been piling but the latest power outage that lasted three weeks triggered an outpouring of anger from mainly members of Gulu Main Market Vendors SACCO.

On April 20, at least 400 residents of Gulu City petitioned Umeme to stop the power outages.

The petition was handed over to Gulu Resident City Commissioner, Nsubuga Bwehayo and Doreen Ogenga, the area Umeme manager. Aswa River Region Police Commander, the District Police Commander and the 4th division army barracks commander got copies.

The petitioners are demanding constant and adequate power supply lest they pour onto streets in protests in two weeks.

Patrick Omaya, the Chairman Gulu Main Market Vendors SACCO, said constant power outages, have cost them clients. He said some business can’t do without power, such as salons, milk coolers, and tailors.

“And there are some sections of the market such as the basement that need constant power. We have tried with Gulu city, vendors clear all their bills and Umeme cuts power claiming council has not cleared the bills,” he said.

Joyce Luyom, the vice chairperson of Gulu Main Market SACCO, said power outages are a big nightmare.

“If you go to the basement during day or night you can’t carry out any meaningful transaction. And if a criminal decides to enter that place, they can kill without their victim recognizing them,” Luyom said.

Since 2016, a year after the main market was commissioned, vendors have been complaining about poor lighting during day time. In the same year, vendors called for the installation of solar panels to address the issue of power outages.

The poor lighting in the basement forced vendors with stalls there to move out and display their goods in the market compound.

This has also drawn complaints from other vendors who claim they are being undercut by colleagues selling merchandise in the compound.

Margaret Auma, who sells second hand clothes in the basement, said when there is no power, she gets no more than two clients a day.

“Constant power blackout in the market forces me to carry my goods to the compound twice daily, which is very tiring,” Auma said, adding “that is the only way I can at least get some money.

Susan Adong, a tailor, said when there is no power, she is completely out of business.

“The machine I use to design patterns on my clients’ clothes cannot work without power,” Adong said.

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Anger In Hoima As Leaders Cling On To Emyooga Cash

HOIMA –As district authorities in Hoima continue to hold on to certificates of 62 savings and credit co-operatives (Sacco) denying them access to Emyooga cash for weeks, angry complaints are piling and some savers are demanding refunds.

The complainants are largely members of different Emyooga associations, who formed SACCOs hoping to benefit from the Presidential Initiative On job And Wealth Creation.

Florence Asaba, the Chairperson of Hoima West Women Entrepreneur SACCO, said some members have lost hope of getting the Emyooga cash and are demanding refunds.

Much as the money is already on the SACCO accounts, she said savers cannot access it because they don’t have certificates. She demanded to know why government is delaying to release certificates to members.

“As the chairperson of the SACCO I am finding challenges, people have been saving, others paid for share and subscription fees but what they expected is not materializing, so some members have started demanding for refunds so that they withdraw from the SACCO,” she said.

Interviewed for comment, Andrew Zimbe, the Midwestern Regional Manager for the Microfinance Support Center (MSC), said the SACCO certificates were released to the district leadership headed by Hoima Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Samuel Kisembo.

He said the center released 62 out of 72 certificates to the district leaders.

According to him, Hoima district has 72 SACCOs, which were formed from 1,460 Emyooga associations.

The SACCOs are in four constituencies; Hoima West division, Hoima East division, Kigorobya and Bugahya County. Each constituency has 18 SACCOs.

Each constituency is supposed to get Shs 560 million out of Shs 2.24 billion disbursed to the entire Western district of Hoima to benefit 1,460 Emyooga SACCOs.

“We handed over 62 certificates to the RCC two weeks ago, we are just left with 10 certificates, which we are planning to deliver soon,” Zimbe said by telephone on Friday, April 16.

Interviewed on April 19, Kisembo, the RCC, admitted the district received the certificates.

He said they are holding on to the certificates because there are no guidelines on how the money should be managed.

He said they want to train SACCO leaders, beneficiaries and commercial banks managers in SACCO management.

“We received the certificates from MSC but we want to first prepare ourselves before members start accessing this money and we are doing this to avoid what is happening in other districts like Kikuube where SACCO leaders are embezzling the money.” Kisembo said.

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Emyooga Program Is Not Political –Lira RDC

LIRA –Appearing on 88.0 Voice of Lango FM, Lira Deputy Resident Commissioner rigorously fended off pointed allegations that the Presidential Initiative On Job and Wealth Creation, Emyooga program, was introduced to benefit President Museveni’s re-election.

Speaking on Coop Talks on April 20, a radio-talk show sponsored by The Uhuru Institute for Social Development, James Chemutai, said they have heard malicious rumors, which are false that Emyooga program was a political campaign tool.

The malicious rumor, he said, has been propelled by some local leaders, who did not understand the concept of the new government program.

Chemutai said the Emyooga program was established to empower Ugandans with seed capital to fight unemployment. He urged people to steer away from political propaganda.

“Emyooga program targets Ugandans, especially in the informal sector that come together and form savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) under 18 Clusters,” he said.

Chemutai said the clusters include; boda-boda riders, taxi drivers, restaurants, welders, market vendors, women entrepreneurs, youth leaders, people with disabilities, journalists, performing artists, carpenters, salon operators, tailors, mechanics, produce dealers, veterans, fishermen and elected leaders.

From the time of its launch in August, 2019 by President Yoweri Museveni, Chemutai noted that about 51 SACCOs including, 33 from Erute North and Erute South constituencies, and 18 in Lira City have already received Shs 30 million each.

Several emyooga beneficiaries who called into the talk show, expressed dissatisfaction with the way the program is handled by the responsible government officials. They said some beneficiaries have either failed to get the funds or get less than expected.

Emmanuel Ogwal, a youth chairperson of Dokolo North Carpenters’ Association, which comprises 30 members, said they were given Shs 30 million but were told to first raise Shs 500 million from other sources before withdrawing the cash.

Lillian Owino, an entrepreneur from Alebtong district, said there are too many fees beneficiaries pay before they finally get the money. She said, however that before she got her money, she was asked whether she supported NRM. When she said yes, her papers were processed.

Denis Okonye from Abim district decried the long process and troubles beneficiaries have to endure including walking for several days to the offices to access the money.

Okonye wondered why government does not use the established structures in different sectors including member-associations like Uganda Manufacturers Association.

In response, Lira district Commercial Officer, Josephine Alobo said they have been gathering people’s views on the rescue funds and are compiling a paper to submit to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development for redress.

Alobo said the red-tape is meant to ensure the money is not mismanaged. She however, reminded emyooga beneficiaries to save a lot.

“It’s only a foolish farmer who begins to cook the seed and eat it up, the president has made an initiative to give you the seed and it’s upon you to grow or plant this seed so that you can be able to get many seeds, so that at the end of the day you are socially and economically empowered,” she noted.

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Beneficiaries: Emyooga Cash For SACCOs Too Little

“You find a Sacco with over 500 members in different associations in a constituency getting Shs 30 million, do you expect it to help them out of poverty. I saw some members in my area getting Shs 50,000. How do you move from one step to another with that meager support?” one caller asked.

MASINDI –During an appearance on Kings Radio recently, Moses Kalyegira, the District Commercial Officer of Masindi, said disbursement of emyooga funds in the Western district is almost complete.

Speaking on a talk show program sponsored by The Uhuru Institute for Social Development on April 20, Kalyegira said there are only four savings and credit cooperatives, SACCOs, which haven’t got their money because they have a few issues to resolve.

“We are helping these SACCOs get their money. They have a few challenges but we are helping to resolve them. The money is there on their SACCO accounts. After resolving their issues they will access the money. The other SACCOs have all got their money and they have started using it,” he said.

He also dismissed as false claims that emyooga funds were introduced as bait for votes for President Museveni during the January 14 2021 presidential election. He said the program was introduced before campaigns started.

“This program was introduced to supplement on what people were doing already and also to support other program like the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS), Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP) among others,” Kalyegira added.

He also used the radio appearance to clarify that the program never came to kill the traditional SACCOs as many people claim. He said the program is tailored to organize and support people who are organized in one cluster.

According to Kalyegira, Masindi District received Shs 1.6 billion, channeled through 54 SACCOs. The 54 SACCOs were formed in three constituencies; Masindi Municipality, Bujenje County and Buruli.

The official disbursement of the funds was launched in March 2021 by Rose Kirabira, the Masindi Resident District Commissioner.

Kalyegira however, said SACCO members need to have saved at least 30 percent of the money they are applying for to access emyooga cash from the bank. He said requirement is a big challenge for most SACCOs.

Pamela Nyakato, the chairperson of Bujenje Constituency Leaders Emyooga SACCO, said the program has created jobs, knowledge and skills sharing since people doing similar things meet and share experiences.

Challenges faced

Nyakato also noted that the program is saddled with many challenges and a lot of sensitization is needed.

“Many people thought this program was a thank you (to them) from the president for mobilizing voter support for him. It’s very hard to remove this thinking from the members but we’re trying hard to do the needful and some members have started understanding it,” she noted.

Nyakato also said most members have a poor saving culture. She said many people save in anticipation of getting emyooga money and once they lay their hands on it, they disappear.

“Many SACCOs are also facing a challenge of unskilled leaders. Many people are illiterate and are running these SACCOs. Proper record keeping is a problem. Even accessing the money from the bank is a problem since many are forced to sign several times. You find their signatures varying,” she said.

“For instance, for a member to get money from the Sacco he or she should have saved at least 30% of the money he or she is applying for but few meet this requirement and yet this is the applicants’ security,” she said.

People’s reaction

Most callers however, expressed dissatisfaction with the program. They said the money is too little to move members to another level.

“You find a SACCO with over 500 members in different associations in a constituency getting Shs 30 million, do you expect it to help them out of poverty. I saw some members in my area getting Shs 50,000. How do you move from one step to another with that meager support?” one caller asked.

Another caller was unhappy with the delayed disbursement of the funds. He said they spent a lot on transport following up on their applications.

“We have been putting in a lot of money following up the matter with the bank and other officials but what we are getting as members is very little compared to what we put in. SACCOs with many associations would have been given more money instead of only Shs. 30 million per Sacco,” he said.

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Gulu Market Vendors Locked In Bitter Fight

GULU – The fast sprouting street markets in Gulu city have teed up a fierce battle between vendors in Gulu main market and roadside traders.

Vendors in the main market are looking to tighten their grip on their trade by locking out the fast sprouting street markets that are fiercely eating into their clientele.

Gulu Main Market Vendors’ Cooperative Savings and Credit Society has asked Gulu city council leaders to stop the mushrooming street markets in the city.

Since Gulu became a city last July, there has been a meteoric rise in street vending of clothes, shoes, and foodstuffs on roads and highways.

Market vendors tipped on SACCO formation

Christine Ajo, a vegetable trader in the main market, told theCooperator in an interview recently that she hardly sells anything in the evening because street vendors take over all the streets and roads.

“Evening is one of the peak hours for our sales; it is the time the working class buys things before heading home. But all those clients are taken away by the road-side sellers,” Ajok said.

Pamela Akumu, who sells second-hand clothes in the main market, said street vending and the poor location of her stall have diminished her business in the last eight months.

Akumu said before Gulu municipality became a city, her clients would walk all the way to her stall but now they go for the cheap clothes sold along the road.

Patrick Omaya, the chairperson of the vendors’ SACCO, said street markets have undercut them yet they pay all dues levied by the city council.

“When we go to Kampala, there are some shoes we buy at Shs 10,000 and sell here at Shs 15,000. But when you go to these street markets, you find such shoes being sold at Shs 8,000, so you wonder, where do they buy their stock from? Are those not stolen goods?” Omaya asked.

There are 22 gazetted markets within Gulu city. Omaya appealed to city council leaders to ensure that all street vendors are absorbed in those markets.

“These gazetted markets within the city still have space; they should be well furnished so that the sellers enter them. Some markets have no latrines, others have no dumping space. For instance, Highland Market has a dumping space right in the middle of the market, which is a health hazard because the rubbish takes long to be disposed of,” Omaya said.

Santo Obura, the Vice Secretary of Gulu Market Vendors SACCO, said the city council leadership has failed to handle the matter.

“Street vending is affecting us because clients prefer street shopping, leaving us market vendors with very few clients. We need freedom of biashara in the markets, not on the streets,” Obura said.

Gulu City Mayor, Alfred Okwonga couldn’t be reached for comment.

Gulu Market Vendors SACCO was registered in 2019 and has more than 2,000 members.

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Court Summons Civil Servants Over Forgery

LIRA – Grade One magistrate’s court in Lira has issued summons for three civil servants accused of forging an attendance list of the annual general meeting of Ayago SACCO.

The summons were issued on April 16 after the three skipped court.

The suspects are; Felix Odongo, a businessman, Lillian Alwedo, Richard Oyuku, and Denis Omara, all primary school teachers, and Josephine Alobo, the commercial officer of Lira. They are battling two counts of obtaining money by false pretense and uttering false documents.

However, only two of the accused persons; Josephine Alobo and Lillian Alwedo appeared before Lira Grade One Magistrate Hillary Rwamiranga on April 16.

Three skipped court and they include; Lira businessman Felix Odongo, Richard Oyuku, and Denis Omara, all teachers at Ayago primary school in Lira.

The magistrate remanded Alobo and Alwedo to Lira Central Government Prison until May 1, 2021, and immediately issued summons for the three.

Court heard that the accused, on January 15, 2020, while at Centenary Bank Lira branch, without lawful authority, forged an AGM attendance list of Ayago SACCO members in Lira City West Division.
The prosecution told the court that the accused persons wanted to change signatories to the Sacco’s bank account, but were arrested before they could accomplish their mission.
State Attorney Martin Rukundo also informed the court that investigations were still ongoing.

Ayago SACCO Limited in Lira City East division was established in 2012. It is fully registered with the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives. The Sacco has 2,137 Members, 121 VSLAs, 14 institutions, and a current loan portfolio of over Shs 300m.

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51 SACCOs In Lira Get Emyooga Funds

LIRA –Fifty-one Savings and Credit cooperatives (SACCOs) in the Northern District of Lira have received Shs 30m each under the presidential initiative on job and wealth creation commonly known as Emyooga.

Emyooga was launched in August 2019 by President Museveni to spur a shift from subsistence to market-oriented production.

The government set aside Shs 260 billion to bankroll the programme with each constituency meant to receive Shs 560 million.

James Chemutai, the Deputy Resident District Commissioner of Lira, confirmed the funds have reached the accounts of the beneficiary SACCO groups.

“We have received 51 certificates, 33 are for Erute North and Erute South constituencies, and the remaining 18 for the city. All these Saccos have already received funds on their accounts, that means the president has fulfilled his pledge,” Chemutai told theCooperator in a recent interview.

“When the president launched the Emyooga program, very many people thought it was a campaign tool. They said the president was looking for votes through this Emyooga, which was a total lie. Now that politics is over, many people still thought the money would not come,” he said.

Chemutai applauded the president for honoring his pledge but cautioned beneficiaries to utilize the funds well.

“I take this opportunity to caution the beneficiaries of this money not to eat up this seed because Emyooga is a seed that the president feels should germinate and help the population get out of poverty,” he said.

He said people will be arrested for misusing the money.

The Lira Deputy Commercial Officer Santos Olade said some of the approved Sacco groups have already withdrawn their money from their bank accounts.

Olade said one performing artists SACCO in Erute South had already withdrawn up to Shs 24 million from their account.

“Emyooga guidelines require that when you have deposited Shs1million into the bank account, you end up getting Shs 3 million, so this group had Shs 8 million on their Sacco account so they got Shs 24 million,” he said.

Samuel Odongo, the chairperson of Erute South performing artist SACCO, said they will use the Shs 24 million to buy more equipment and give loans to members.

“We have a lot of experience and talent but we could not showcase it because we were financially unstable but now with the availability of the Emyooga money, we are optimistic we will have a better livelihood,” he said.

On December 11, 2020, the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development wired Shs 1.5 billion to Lira district and each of the approved SACCO groups account received Shs 30 million.

Erute North constituency received Shs 500 million, Erute South got Shs 530 million and then Lira Municipality (now Lira City West) and East Divisions got Shs 560 million, which was instead wired to Lira City West Division leaving East with nothing.

Emyooga cash is largely given to Ugandans in the informal sector organized in Saccos under 18 clusters including; Boda Boda riders, tailors, taxi drivers, restaurants, welders, market vendors, women entrepreneurs, youth leaders, people with disabilities, journalists, performing artists, veterans, fishermen, private teachers, and elected leaders.

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Budget: Kwania Cooperatives Get Shs 89m

KWANIA –The district local council has allocated Shs 89,378,000 million to run cooperatives next financial year. The money will go to the 14 fully registered Saccos in the Northern district, and 917 Village Saving Associations (VSLA).

According to the draft budget presented before the council on April 19 2021 by the Secretary of Finance and Administration Geoffrey Eling Owera, Shs 89m was allocated under Trade, Industry, and Local Economic Development.

The money, according to Eling, will cater for market linkage services, cooperatives mobilization, and outreach services.

About Shs 2.9bn has been allocated to production and marketing, Shs 669m to statutory bodies, finance (Shs 216m), and administration (Shs1.7bn), while Shs 280m went to natural resource, community-based services got Shs172m, water and sanitation (Shs 582m) and Shs 967m was allocated to works and technical services among other sectors.

The draft budget was consequently deferred to the sectoral committee for scrutiny before the final approval in the subsequent council sitting as directed by Local Government Minister Raphael Magyezi.

The district, however, has a shortfall of about Shs 4bn in 2021/2022. In the financial year 2021/2022, the district projected to raise about Shs 24.5b down from Shs 28.6 billion projected last financial year.

Geoffrey Eling Owera, the finance secretary, blamed the shortfall on the Covid-19 pandemic, which disrupted local government revenue. Eling told the council that the district only managed to raise 20 percent in local revenue in the last F/Y interrupted by Covid-19.

Eling said key stakeholders and district leaders have to lobby for more funding to improve service delivery.

“Mr. Speaker, as leaders and stakeholders in the district, it is our full responsibility to mobilize for more funding from donors through lobbying and advocacy, this calls for concerted efforts for the wellbeing of the people of Kwania district,” he added.

Albina Awor, the chief administrative officer of Kwania, blamed the budget shortfall on the change of the Indicative Planning Figure (IPF) and a ban on charcoal burning and transportation, a major source of local revenue.

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Rwampara SACCOs Get Nod To Borrow Emyooga Funds

RWAMPARA – April 14 was a day of celebration and a moment of renewed hope for members of saving groups in the Western district of Rwampara after they got the official nod to borrow Emyooga funds.

The district officially launched the presidential Initiative on Emyoga last Wednesday, which opened the access door for saving groups, SACCOs, to get the government’s poverty alleviation funds.

When most SACCOs in the country received Emyooga funds in November and December last year, Rwampara district was pushed on the sidelines.

In March 2021, Emmy Kateera Turyabagyenyi, the Rwampara Resident District Commissioner, reported to the Minister for Microfinance Haruna Kasoro that SACCOs were barred from accessing Emyooga funds in Post Bank where 36 SACCOs had opened bank accounts.

However, on April 14 residents broke out in joyous celebrations at Nyeihanga playground in Nyeihanga town council where 36 Saccos from both counties of Rwampara district were handed certificates –officially giving them the nod to withdraw Emyooga funds to kick-start their projects that had stalled since August last year.

Amon Mutabarura, the Rwampara district commercial officer (DCO), said the delay allowed proper sensitization of members to put money to good use.

He confirmed that Rwampara received Shs 1.4 billion and all the money is already wired to their bank accounts.

“All the 36 SACCOs have gotten the money, it’s already on their accounts and they have all the freedom to withdraw this money,” Mutabarura said.

“What we have achieved is what started in the month of August when the president asked us to go and teach people how to save money through their SACCOs,” he added

In his remarks, the RDC Turyabagyenyi warned; “We are going to monitor them and in case this money we have dispersed today is misused either by an individual or leaders we shall definitely apprehend them. The clients of the SACCO are group members, not individuals.”

Turyabagyenyi said more parish development funds will be disbursed in July 2021 to benefit every parish, which will be receiving Shs 40million per association.

“This money according to the guidelines is basically to empower the parish associations meaning that those which will have been saving with Emyooga SACCOs will benefit more and longer. As long as the SACCOs keep performing well according to the monitoring report they will qualify to get up to Shs 100 million from the Microfinance Support Centre as the lead agency at 8% per annum which will continue flowing every year,” he said.

Vincent Nuwagaba, the DCO Mbarara, reported that the program has already registered some setbacks since it is not intended to aggregate the already existing cooperatives/SACCO issues.

“Emyooga was a good initiative for the president but you see groups at the parish level forming a SACCO and the SACCO operating at a constituency level within the specific 18 Emyooga associations like mechanics but it’s high time government thought about injecting money in the already existing cooperatives in every financial year to increase on their portfolio” Nuwagaba advised

He also bashed Microfinance Support Centre (MSC) for delaying releasing Emyooga certificates.

“The money came on 23rd December 2020 but the certificates have come in April. Count the time wasted since then,” Nuwagaba said.

Andrew Zimbe, the Micro Finance Support Centre (MFSC) Zonal manager southwestern, warned district technical staff to refrain from taking bribes from Emyooga co-operators.

“Some commercial officers in certain districts are taking bribes to clear SACCOs to access Emyooga funds. Don’t do anything before you consult, leave the RDC and the CAO who is your boss to give you updates,” Zimbe said

“I want to congratulate you for having arrived on this day but no association should access a loan without following the guidelines, which are stipulated in the lending policy. Like where I have been before an association goes to access part of the Shs 30million it should have saved 20% with the SACCO,” Zimbe said.

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Zombo signs EFOTI deal To improve tea yields

WEST NILE –Tea growing in the West Nile district of Zombo has got an accelerating effort that could boost local production.

Zombo Tea Growers’ Cooperative Society and Edwin Tea Foundation Initiative, EFOTI, a company with good expertise in tea farming, have signed a memorandum of understanding that aims largely at promoting tea research, production, productivity, value addition, and tea product diversification in Zombo for five years.

The MoU was signed last Friday, April 9, by the Chairman of the Cooperative, Christopher Unencan, the Secretary, Jungiera Geoffrey, and Aneniwu Patrick, a cooperative tea farmer, and Edwin Beekunda Atukunda, the founder of EFOTI.

Unencan told theCooperator in an interview that, “We signed the MoU to enable us to work in partnership with EFOTI in our district to build the capacity of farmers in terms of training and value addition.”

Tea growing was reintroduced in Zombo in 2013-2014. Unencan said members who planted tea in 2016-2018 are harvesting now.

Unencan said the cooperative, formed in 2016, has over 300 registered members, who have grown over 500 acres of tea.

He said, however, that despite the huge acreage of tea plantations, members are still earning very little from the enterprise because there is no factory in the area to process the harvest and add value to attract high prices.

“The registered members of the cooperative suggested that we come to an agreement with EFOTI because they have been struggling to sell their tea. They are selling their tea locally after a very long and tiring process of pounding the leaves using the mortar and pestle,” Unencan said.

He said farmers believe the MoU will spur the establishment of a tea processing factory.

Although there are about 36 tea processing factories in Uganda, all of them are concentrated in western and southwestern Uganda.

Edwin Atukunda Beekunda, the founder of EFOTI, said an area qualifies to get a factory after planting at least 2000 acres of tea.

He said following the MoU, EFOTI will conduct training in agronomic practices to enable improvements in tea yields and quantity and also promote value addition, processing, branding, packaging, marketing, and export.”

He said they will also, “Build the capacity of tea nursery operators, tea growers, students and other stakeholders for improved tea cultivation, processing, and marketing.”

Tea is one of the leading cash crops in Uganda with a yearly export of 65,000 metric tonnes. A 2020 report by Ugtea shows that Uganda is the second leading tea producer and exporter in Africa and among the top 15 in the world.

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