Pakwach: Rising L. Albert waters destroy local businesses

Business owners in Panyimur Town Council, Pakwach district, are in tears over the rising levels of Lake Albert that have submerged several business premises in the area, leading to loss of income estimated in the millions of shillings.

Genaro Muswa Maditwun, who owns one of the top hotels in Panyimur Town Council, Pakwach district, says he started his hotel business in 1998 in Panyimur, then one of the busiest landing sites in West Nile.

However, he says his business has been decimated by waters from L. Albert which have cut off access to his hotel and submerged a significant portion of it.

“I am making a loss of Shs 1.2m in monthly income, before factoring in the repair costs once the waters recede,” Muswa said.

Several businesses and infrastructure along the buffer zones of lakes and rivers in Panyimur Town Council, Pakwach district, have been submerged or destroyed following increased rains that started last year, resulting in the rising water level of L. Albert.

All income generating activities at the landing sites, both government-funded and privately owned, have come to a standstill as a result of the ongoing disaster.

“I am currently suffering from diabetics and [high blood] pressure, in addition to servicing a loan. I can no longer look for capital to start a new business,” a despondent Muswa says.

Paul Kinobe, the Chairman of Panyimur’s business community says majority of the business premises in the area have been submerged by water, making them impossible for customers to access.

“Accommodation facilities like hotels, bars and lodges have been the most affected,” he said.

Kinobe called upon the government to assess the situation of business owners affected by the flooding and come to their rescue.

“Our local business operators are in a panic about how to pay back loans they had borrowed, since their businesses are greatly affected by the rising water level and the lowered incomes as a result,” Kinobe said.

Cholera fears

Meanwhile, Panyimur Sub County, LC III Chairman, Shaban Ofoi expressed concern that the area, known in the past as an epicenter for Cholera in the region, might be headed for another attack of the epidemic since most of the latrines have collapsed or been submerged by the rising water levels.

“Our latrines and clean water sources at the landing sites are submerged with water. The few facilities left are being overwhelmed by the population. We could face another Cholera epidemic if close attention is not paid to helping the local community,” Ofoi said.

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400 farmers in Kwania receive heifers under restocking program

More than 400 farmers from six sub-counties in Kwania district have received heifers worth Shs 576m under the restocking program.

In 2014, the government earmarked Shs 20 bn to restore livelihoods and alleviate poverty in West Nile, Acholi, Lango and the Teso-sub regions through restocking under the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) following the two-decades-long rebellion by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The heifers will benefit widows, widowers, the elderly, persons with disabilities, orphans and the Ex-combatants from the Sub Counties of Aduku, Inomo, Chawente, Nambieso, Abongomola and Aduku Town Council.

Bazil Okello Onac, the Kwania District LCV Chairperson asked the beneficiaries to adhere to the restocking guidelines issued by the government and use the animals to alleviate poverty at the grassroots.

“They should keep these animals for at least four years, according to the government guidelines, and let them multiply in order to eradicate poverty. We want to hear success stories on what the restocking program has done for them,” he said.

In a similar vein, Salim Komakech, the Kwania Resident District Commissioner cautioned the beneficiaries against selling off the animals, but rather urged them to use them to improve their income.

“The president’s vision is to empower households that are not yet in the money-making economy. Beneficiaries should not sell off these animals, but instead use them for production. We as security shall ensure that these guidelines are indeed followed,” he said in an interview.

Bonny Okello, a resident of Ikwera cell in Aduku Town Council and beneficiary of the program, thanked the government for the donation, saying the animals will go a long way to improve on his livelihood.

Another beneficiary, a widow and resident of Anginyi Village in Aduku Sub County, Shopia Odul, says this is the first time she has personally benefitted from the government.

“I am going to look after the animal well and once it multiplies, I will use the income to pay for my four children school and provide us a better life,” she pledged.

Dr Charles Opeto, the Kwania District Veterinary Officer said that Aduku Town Council was slated to receive 26 herds of cattle, Aduku 65, Nambieso 130, Inomo 95, while Abongomola and Chawente would each get 82.

The restocking program has faced a host of challenges since its inception, including inadequate supervision and alleged ghost beneficiaries.

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UCDA cracks down on immature coffee trade

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has declared war against traders engaged in buying immature coffee from farmers.

UCDA’s regional extension officer for Rwenzori region, Emmanuel Tumwizere, said picking immature coffee berries affects the quality of coffee in the country.

“Coffee is continuously losing quality because of some farmers harvesting immature coffee which ends up rotting. Others use poor post harvest handling methods like drying it on the bare ground, which also negatively impacts on its quality,” he said.

Even consumers are put at risk by immature coffee, which Tumwizere says can become “hazardous”.

“When farmers pick immature coffee, they first keep it in sacks and hence it ends up molding. This develops a toxic acid which is hazardous to consumers because it causes cancer,” he said.

He further noted that such poor harvesting practices threaten to undermine the progress that has been made in promoting coffee farming in the region.

“People in the Rwenzori region have responded positively to planting more coffee but there are some farmers who are not adhering to good harvesting standards by harvesting immature coffee,” he said.

Traders involved in buying immature coffee tend to lure farmers into selling to them by offering more money for it than they would pay at harvest time when mature coffee floods the market.

According to locals, traders buy a basin of immature coffee at Shs 10,000, which Tumwizere said is more than what they would get for coffee that is ready for harvest.

In response, UCDA has intensified efforts to curb the vice by threatening to arrest farmers involved in the trade.

“We shall start arresting any farmer that we find harvesting immature coffee because it affects the quality of coffee on the market which not only affects the farmer but also the country’s exports” he said.

Taking action

On Wednesday this week, Tumwizere impounded 26 sacks of immature coffee and arrested two workers accused of engaging in the illicit trade at a coffee store in Kiburara village, Hakibale Sub County, in Kabarole district.

The operation, which was conducted by Tumwizere and an official from the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), followed a tip off from locals that some traders were buying immature coffee within their village. The traders were apprehended and handed over to the police, and their coffee impounded.

In 2017, during an operation OWC officials impounded more than 500kgs of green coffee berries from traders in Mitandi Kyamukube town council, now part of Bunyangabu district and arrested one of the traders.

Richard Waako, the in-charge, defence, in Kiburara village where the culprits were netted, said the two individuals had been arrested twice before over the same practice (dealing in immature coffee), but they have persisted in the illicit trade.

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