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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Ministry of Agriculture to construct post-harvest handling facilities in 57 Districts

Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries(MAAIF) has started on constructing storage facilities and rehabilitation of road chokes in farmer communities across the country.

The development was revealed by the State Minister for Animal Husbandry Bright Rwamirama while commissioning the first cluster of construction works for community post-harvest handling and rehabilitative works on farm access road choke points at Ruhaama area cooperative enterprise in Ntungamo district.

The 57-district Agriculture Cluster Development Project(ACDP) is being funded by the World Bank to the tune of $150 million. Rwamirama says that when the 57 pilot districts are done, the project will be extended to cover the rest of the country.

He told theCooperator that government is moving away from giving free inputs to farmers because it has proved unsustainable in the long run, and that focusing on post-harvest handling and market-enabling infrastructure will address critical challenges like storage, low level of value addition and poor access to markets due to bad road networks.

“We recognise that a competitive, profitable and sustainable agricultural sector can be achieved through various strategies, and the ACDP is one of them because it focuses on creating a link between the producer and the market,” he says.

The post-handling facilities are particularly targeting 5 of the traditional crops grown in most of Uganda, ie Beans, Cassava, Coffee, Maize and Rice, and Rwamirama hopes the facilities can motivate their increased production.

Min Rwamirama Commissioning the construction of a storage facility in Masha Sub County Isingiro District district on Friday.Photo by Joshua Nahamya.

He says the ACDP is particularly targeting organised farmer groups and cooperatives which aggregate farmer produce and carry out common marketing. In Western Uganda, project implementation has started in Isingiro and Ntungamo districts. In Ntungamo, the project is supporting four farmer cooperatives to the tune of shs. 940 Million.

The beneficiaries are; Kitembe Farmers Group, Ruhaama Area Cooperative Enterprise, Nyakyera Rukoni Area Co-operative Ltd and Kashate Gamba Nokora Group.

In Isingiro, 9 cooperatives have been identified and supported to the tune of shs.1.6billion. One of the storage facility in Masha sub county, Isingiro district is projected to store about 200 metric tonnes of produce, while the one in Ruhama sub county in Ntungamo is expected to store up to 300 metric tons.

Rwamirama urged farmers embrace farmer groups and cooperatives to be able to benefit from such government projects. “There are many more projects to come,” he said, adding, “By April, 2020, my ministry had signed grant agreements with 118 Farmer organizations from 24 of the 57 pilot districts and funds have been disbursed to most of these organizations.”

He urged the identified cooperatives to put the funds to good use, warning, “We(MAAIF) shall not tolerate any abuse of these funds by either the grant beneficiaries or the contractors of the works.”

Regarding transport infrastructure, the Minister noted that rehabilitation works on Road Chokes would soon begin in the districts of Isingiro, Amuru, Iganga, Nebbi, and Ntungamo. “Contracts worth shs.14.5 billion have been signed with respective contractors,” he said.

“I again caution you (contractors) to do quality work. Our technical teams from the ministry and the district should ensure that there is value for money in the works executed,” Rwamirama added.

Kababo Byabagyenyi, the Chairperson Rukuuba Farmers’ Cooperative Society thanked MAAIF for supporting Isingiro farmers with a post-harvest handling facility, noting that, “This facility will actually become a bulking centre, a storage facility and a marketing centre where the sorting, grading, cleaning and bagging will be best done.”

He assured MAAIF officials that his cooperative had already mobilized 20 farmer groups who will be trained in good agronomic practices for particularly beans, to be able to take advantage of the market across the border in in Tanzania.

Gertrude Nakacwa another farmer in Isingiro also welcomed the storage facility, noting that farmers would now be able to hold out for good prices for their produce, which would mean improved incomes. She however appealed to MAAIF to also think about pest-control interventions, noting that in addition to persistent droughts, pests were now one of the gravest threats to farming in Isingiro district.

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Masindi taxi drivers welcome re-opening of public transport, call for extension of curfew.

Masindi taxi drivers under their umbrella organization Masindi Taxi Drivers and Operators Association (MATDOA) have welcomed the decision to reopen public transport, saying that they’re ready to resume work while observing in-place guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19.

On June 1st, President Museveni lifted the ban on public transport that had in place for 75 days, as part of the steps to gradually reopen the economy that had been significantly grounded by a raft of measures designed to stop the spread of corona virus.

Speaking to the nation for the 15th time since the start of the pandemic at State House Nakasero, Museveni noted that henceforth taxis and buses would be allowed to resume operations, provided they carried only 50% passenger capacity to observe social-distancing guidelines. He however maintained the ban in 40 districts bordering the neighboring countries.

In an interview with theCooperator shortly after the presidential address, Musatafa Barungi, the MATDOA chairperson welcomed the new directives, saying it was a relief to many of the association’s members. “We have been living in a terrible situation because most of us have not been working at all. Our taxis are our livelihoods,” he said.

Barungi added that they were ready to implement the necessary guidelines to limit the risks of spreading the virus as much as possible. “Before a passenger enters our vehicle, they must wash hands, sanitize and also have masks. As much as we want to work, we know that we must take the necessary caution to stay safe,” he explained.

He however appealed to government to revise curfew hours, from the present 7:00pm – 6:00am to between 10:00am and 5:00am, owing to the traffic jam that would be inevitable when all the taxis and buses return to the roads. He also expressed worry about the still low numbers of travelling passengers, since many other sectors of the economy remain grounded. “We are expecting to send between 7 to 10 taxis in Kampala a day instead of the 20 taxis we have been sending. We normally transport students, lecturers and business people but now they are not moving,” noted Barungi.

Asked about how they were reacting to the cap on passenger numbers, Birungi said they had no option but to increase transport fares. “The fare from Masindi to Kampala has been increased from shs.15000 to shs.25000, Masindi- Kigumba has been increased from shs.6000 to shs. 10,000 shillings, while from Masindi to Bweyale, it has increased from shs.12000 to shs.15000.

MATDOA has a total of 250 members who in addition to associating for work, also run a joint Savings and Credit Cooperative. Nicolas Musinguzi, the SACCO’s vice chairperson too welcomed the move to reopen public transport, noting that members had almost exhausted all their savings in the SACCO.

“Before we went into lockdown, we had savings of up to shs.21million, but as we speak, they have declined by 98%. This is because most of what we save is earned from our daily operations and we have not been working. But we are optimistic that with the re-opening of public transport we are going to resume saving”, he said.

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Gulu Arch-Diocese roots for commercialization of cassava production in Acholi sub-region

A total of 10,000 commercial cassava farmers in Acoli sub-region are receiving cassava stems from the Operation Wealth Creation program to support commercialization of cassava growing and production in the sub-region.

In March this year, President Museveni launched the project dubbed Acholibur Parish Project (APP) in Acholibur sub county, Pader district and asked farmers to grow cassava as a strategic crop.

The project was initiated by Gulu Arch diocese, and according to the reigning Bishop John Baptist Odama, aims to commercialize cassava growing and increase financial and food security in Acholi Sub region.

In 2017, the pilot project was kicked off in Pader district, with 40,000 bags of cassava stems worth 2 billion shillings given to 6900 households.

Now, Brig. Francis Acoka Ongom, the OWC coordinator for Acholi sub-region told theCooperator that at least 75,000 bags of Narocas-1 cassava cuttings worth shs.3 billion will be distributed to select commercial cassava growers in the districts of Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya, Omoro, Pader, Agago, Kitgum and Lamwo districts by the end of this month, as part of the full implementation of the project in the entirety of Acholi sub-region.

According to Ongom, each of the selected 10,000 farmers will be expected to plant two acres of cassava, totaling to 937.5 acres of cassava.

The project chairperson Fr. Matthew Lagoro Okun says registration of potential beneficiaries is still ongoing.

“In the past cassava stems were just taken to sub counties and dumped there without registering the names of those who wanted them. This led to reports of many bags of stems drying up, leading to loss of millions of shillings. We don’t want that to happen again,” Fr. Okun said.

Why Cassava?

Asked why cassava of all crops, Ongom argued that Cassava was found to be a “strategic” crop, both for its durability, and for its nutrients. “The granary of cassava is underground, so even if the whole garden is set afire, the tubers cannot be affected. It is also a whole meal. Even if you boil it without salt and eat it without sauce, you will get full,” he said.

He also added that Cassava starch was highly sought-after in the paper and textile industries because of its binding properties, and that mass production of the crop could help reduce cost of importation of products made using cassava, such as ethanol, which is used during surgeries in hospitals.

“Uganda annually imports ethanol-based spirits from Thailand worth 500 million US dollars. So, if we are producing cassava from here, we can start producing ethanol from here and reduce such import costs,” he said.

“No part of a cassava plant is waste. The peelings are used as animal feed or manure. The leaves are eaten and the stems are replanted. It is such a wonderful crop. It is a silver bullet for financial and food insecurity in the region,” he added.

Insufficient Market?

Although the crop has been welcomed as an alternative to Cotton and Tobacco – the traditional cash crops grown in the area, farmers remain worried about the readiness of the crop’s market. Last year, the 6900 farmers who piloted the APP project in Pader district claimed that they struggled to find market for their harvest.

Ongom says the market issue is not something they didn’t anticipate. “We have already partnered with Bukona Agro Processors Limited in Nwoya district, to buy the cassava from the farmers when harvested,” he told theCooperator, adding “The processing plant uses cassava worth 15 acres daily in their industries, which is about 200 metric tonnes. If they increase their capacity, all these acres of cassava being planted in Acholi sub-region won’t even be enough for their industry.”

Currently, Bukona Agro Processors Limited is producing hand sanitizers out of cassava, which are being used in Gulu and the neighboring districts as one of the measures against COVID-19.

Apart from Bukona, Ongom says that tons of cassava are also bought by middle men and taken to Soroti, Kotido and Lango sub-region, all the way to Kampala.

As a way of ensuring reasonable farm-gate prices, Ongom says they’re discouraging farmers from selling to middlemen individually, and to instead form cooperatives. “Cooperatives will help them(farmers) to store together and market as a group, where they will have strong bargaining power,” he said.

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Over 100 acres of crops dry up in Kasese after flooding

Farmers in Kyondo cell, Nyamwamba division, in Kasese municipality, are crying foul as their crops start to dry up due to flooding of River Nyamwamba close to a month ago.

More than 20 banana and maize farmers have called for government intervention to rescue their crops which started drying up a week after devastating floods submerged their gardens in Kasese town.

God Friday, a farmer, told theCooperator that his banana plantation which was healthy before the floods started drying up a week after the incident. To date, he has lost six acres of plantation.

According to Friday, this has set him back significantly since he has been harvesting 50 bunches of matooke fortnightly, from which he earns Shs 1m on average.

“As you can see, my plantation is drying up; it was submerged in the flood, and the silt deposits are five feet deep, hence making it difficult to clean,” Friday said.

On top of selling matooke, Friday says that he has been distilling waragi, a local gin.

“I have been earning Shs 640,000 every two months from my waragi sales, which is no longer possible,” he said, adding that he had also lost paw paw trees , sugarcane, and cassava all of which had dried up.

“I do not know how I am going to feed my family,” Friday said.

Zainabu Kemigisa, 55, a resident of Kyondo cell of Scheme ward, reported that all her tomatoes and ground nuts have started drying up as a result of River Nyamwamba’s river flooding that hit the district on May 7 and 10 respectively.

“All my gardens that were not submerged and destroyed by the water have started drying up. I was expecting Shs 5m from my tomatoes that had started flowering, and about Shs 3m from the ground nuts, but all that is gone now. I have nowhere to start from,” Kemigisa said.

She appealed to the authorities for help in combating the phenomenon that has mystified the affected farmers.


Explaining the phenomenon, Johnson Sabuni , the Senior Agricultural Officer, Kasese district, confirmed that the crops are drying up due to water logging and sand deposits in the affected gardens, resulting in suffocation.

“While water is necessary for plant growth, it becomes bad when in excess. It suffocates the roots of the plants, depriving them of air. Many more crops are going to dry up as a result of the flooding,” Sabuni said.

He added that in crops like bananas, coffee and maize, you expect a close to 100% death rate, while for yams and sugarcane, there is some degree of survival .

He appealed to farmers to wait before planting afresh, warning them to avoid farming in river beds which are more prone to flooding.

However, Sabuni ruled out allegations of toxins from heavy metals like copper and zinc from Kilembe copper mines as a possible cause of the drying, saying the impact of such toxins would have been immediate while, in the instant case, the withering of the crops took some time to manifest, pointing to suffocation.

Leaders unresponsive

Meanwhile, the affected farmers have accused leaders of neglecting them during this time of crisis.

Kemigisa, a mother of six, noted that she is stuck economically and will be unable to feed her children, unless the government comes to her rescue.

“Even when we lost our food crops and bricks, not a single leader apart from the LC I Chairperson has ever visited us to give us food for our families . We are struggling and yet we heard that other people are getting relief,” she said.

God Friday tries to dig around his banana plantations as he looks for ways of saving his drying up gardens following the flooding after the sand deposits in five feet deep. by Enid Ninsiima

Samuel Ngakaya, another farmer whose crops are drying up as a result of the floods also affirmed that they hadn’t received any support from area leadership after losing their crops. .

Emmanuel Katuramu , the area chairperson agrees that his area has been neglected in terms of receiving relief items .

“We [residents] have lost over 100 acres of food crops , bricks and houses. A total of 627 were affected by the recent floods. We have cried to the municipality for help, but nothing has been done for us,” Katuramu said.

However, Kasese district Resident District Commissioner (RDC) said that all individuals affected by floods would receive food and non-food relief items. He appealed to those who had not yet been reached to be patient as “the government is doing all it takes to help them out of their problem.”

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