Pay Dispute Rocks Atiak Out Growers Cooperative

AMURU –Rebel war abductees allied to Dwog Cen Paco Cooperative Society in the Northern district of Amuru are demanding about Shs 8.68 billion in wages for work done for Atiak sugarcane plantation in the last four years.

The 119 complainants, all former abductees of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, said they formed the cooperative in 2015 with 206 members. In 2016, they were contracted by Atiak Sugarcane Out growers Cooperative Society and National Agricultural Advisory Services, NAADS, to plant sugarcane and supply Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru District.

Santo Omony said NAADs officials and Joyce Laker, the chairperson of Atiak Out Growers’ Cooperative, promised to pay each member of Dwog Cen Paco Cooperative Society Shs 5 million every year for an acre of sugarcane grown.

Omony said his colleagues; 77 women and 42 men, were given 534 acres to plant. The women were given four acres each and men three acres each. He said each woman is demanding Shs 80m and each man Shs 60m for work done in the last four years.

Their work, he said, involved weeding, planting sugarcane, weeding and cutting cane for crushing at the sugar factory.

After four years of working on the sugarcane plantation, the laborers say they have not got a single penny.

Omony said they decided to lay down their tools on January 4, 2021.

“We were supposed to start weeding and also cut some sugarcane from the plantation in January but we decided that we could not continue working without pay,” Omony said.

“I know this money has already accumulated and it can’t be paid at once. But our request is that they should be considerate and give us part payment,” he added.

Concy Aloyo, another member of the group, said they feel discriminated against, given that workers from other districts such as Gulu, Lamwo and Adjumani have been paid.

“We took up this initiative to be self-reliant after losing our land and even family members during the LRA war, and it pains me that our endeavor is not paying us,” Aloyo said.

Aloyo said the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Out growers’ Cooperative, Joyce Laker, promised in January when they refused to work that she would get back to them after a week, but she didn’t. Aloyo said if the five-year contract expires, it will become difficult for them to get paid.

Simon Ojara, another aggrieved member, said the NAADS coordinator for Northern Uganda, said in July last year “that our money was already given to the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Out growers’ but we wonder why they have not paid to date.”

Attempts to get a comment from Joyce Laker were futile. She neither picked nor returned our repeated calls.

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Emyooga: Family Probed For Forgery

HOIMA – Accusations of forgery have roared to the forefront in the creation of three Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (SACCOs) under the Presidential Initiative On Wealth And Job Creation, Emyooga.

Imposters, passing themselves-off as journalists and artists nearly received official certificates for three SACCOs that would have allowed them access Emyooga money.

But suspicious district officials held on to the certificates, pointing to forgery.

Samuel Kisembo Araali, the City Resident Commissioner of Hoima, confiscated three certificates during the official handover to Emyooga beneficiaries on Monday afternoon, April 26 at Hoima Booma Grounds in Hoima City.

The SACCOs whose certificates were withheld include; Hoima West Constituency Journalists Emyooga SACCO, Kigorobya Constituency Journalists Emyooga SACCO and Hoima West Performing Artists Emyooga SACCO.

The seizure of the certificates followed pointed queries about the credentials of the people who turned up to pick the documents on behalf of the three SACCO groups.

Kisembo explained that the SACCOs were formed by none journalists and artists. He said the district will investigate how family members constituted the membership of one SACCO meant for journalists. He said that the culprits will be prosecuted.

He said the Emyooga money was initiated to create jobs and wealth for people. He said anyone who misappropriates the money will be arrested.

“They are three (SACCOs), which we are going to investigate thoroughly because they seem to be belonging to one particular group. One family mobilized themselves and they are all members of the journalists’ SACCO. One is the chairperson, another is the secretary and another is the treasurer. They are not even journalists,” Kisembo said, adding that he withheld the certificates to help in the investigation.

“I am glad that we have been able to detect this before giving them the money. Just imagine if they had already taken the Emyooga money, it would be unfortunate,” he said.

62 out of 72 SACCOs in Hoima district and Hoima City received their certificates. The SACCOs were formed from1,460 Emyooga associations based in the four constituencies of Hoima West Division, Hoima East Division, Kigorobya and Bugahya Counties.

Each constituency has 18 SACCOs and each constituency is supposed to get Shs 560 million out of Shs 2.24 billion allocated to the entire district.

Yosam Tumwebaze, the Resident District Commissioner for Hoima, urged beneficiaries to put the money to proper use.

“This money is for helping you to develop yourselves and move out of poverty, so when you get it, don’t use the money for alcohol, weddings, buying clothes, or marrying second wives,” Tumwebaze said.

Colonel Joram Kagyezi, the coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) in Bunyoro region, promised to monitor the beneficiaries to ensure that money is put to proper use.

“The Emyooga money is a seed; you need to use it wisely so that it moves you to another level. I promise that I will move and reach each group that will share this money. So if there is anybody who has been thinking of misusing the money like the way the youth did with the Youth Livelihood Fund, he or she should not take this money because things will not be good for them,” he warned.

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Peg Emyooga Seed Money To Property

MBARARA –Geoffrey Mutebi, the District Commercial Officer of Mbarara, has suggested that loan applications for Emyooga seed money should be pegged to personal property to guarantee successful recovery of the money.

Mutebi made the proposal recently during a talk show on Radio West which was sponsored by The Uhuru Institute for Social Development.

He said the Presidential Initiative On Job And Wealth Creation, Emyooga, is designed to prop up a saving culture among Ugandans and is different from programs like the Youth Livelihood Fund, National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS) and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), which never really changed people’s livelihoods.

“Research shows that 68% of Ugandans still work for the stomach but the Emyooga seed money is meant to focus on the economy where 18 SACCOS in each constituency will be given capital for development,” Mutebi said.

He said all 353 constituencies in Uganda will get a share of government’s Shs 260 billion start-up capital.

“As Mbarara district we have two constituencies; Kashari South and Kashari North, which got Shs 1.2billion that will be divided among the 36 SACCOs,” he said.

Mbarara City received Shs 1 billion in December 2020, which was divided equally between Mbarara North and Mbarara City South divisions while Rwampara district received Shs 1.4 billion for all the 36 emyooga SACCOs in its two constituencies.

“Each constituency formed 18 SACCOs and each SACCO has a start-up capital of Shs 30million,” Mutebi said.

Enock Kerere, the co-panelist and Chairperson of Kashari South Restaurant Owners Emyooga SACCO, said recovery of the Emyooga seed money may be difficult because members have not put up any collateral to guarantee the loans.

“It’s not a revolving fund, its start-up capital but paid at least after three months so how will one pay back when there is no property attached?” Kerere added.

Alex Kibirige, the Chairperson of Kamukuzi Preforming Artists Association, told theCooperator that Emyooga SACCO leaders may be arrested to force them to settle members’ debts.

“Chances of us getting imprisoned will be high because there is no clause for collateral. We are even likely to see the leadership refusing to issue loans because they do not trust members in their Emyooga groups, meaning the money will not be fully utilized,” Kibirige explained.

“How will I give you money when I don’t know your character much as we are dealing in similar skills? What if you default, who will be handcuffed, automatically it will be the chairperson,” he added

“Members still think the money is for sharing and celebrating the election victory (of NRM) since the program came during election time, so you can’t tell them to pay back,” he said.

Kibirige said the money disbursed is too little compared to the number of SACCOs.

“For instance our group requested for Shs 6 million but we were only given Shs 1 million yet we are 22 members. So how do you share one million amongst all those members?” Kibirige said.

Each cluster of skilled SACCOs in constituencies will be given Shs 30 million to cater for multiple groups.

“Remember we removed almost shs 500,000 for operational costs such as transport, printing the constitution, renting an office. I am even stuck with Shs 500,000 on our account because I don’t know how I can distribute it to all members” he said.

He advised the government to re-invest this money in already existing SACCOs to boost their portfolio instead of starting up new ones.

“Our mother SACCOs are already performing and they are established. They are not struggling like our Emyooga SACCOs, why don’t you empower them on condition that they reduce their interest rate such that more members can join? Because all these Emyooga SACCOs were not given a standard interest rate, some are already charging high interests compared to already existing SACCOs,” he said.

“Some are charging 5%, ours is charging 3% but EBO SACCO is charging 2%, so how will these Emyooga SACCOs compete? Actually those that will survive for a year will be few or none,” he said.

Mutebi said emyooga is here to stay.

“I want to explain to Ugandans that this program is meant to change our living conditions because Ugandans are known for working for a daily meal forgetting the next day, so we want to turn this program into a success,” Mutebi said.

“An average Ugandan will learn how to save, how to work and borrow money to improve his or her household income,” Mutebi explained.

Kerere said the disbursed Shs 260 billion has already created an economic impact in communities.

“This is a lot of money in saturation that will not leave the country the way it is. For instance landlords who had their rooms unoccupied in Bwizibwere have already started celebrating as there are over 18 Emyooga offices are already in existence,” he said.

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Nwoya Farmers Turn To Cashew Nut Growing

NWOYA –Slumping crop prices have shifted farming in the northern district of Nwoya to the high-priced cashew nut.

The district recently received 5,714 cashew nut seedlings from the government’s Operation Wealth Creation program.

Interviewed for this story, Lt. Colonel Alfred Olak, the Operation Wealth Creation Coordinator Nwoya district, told theCooperator that seedlings are given to farmers with prepared gardens.

“We have also prioritized cashew nuts among the enterprises that we give to our people. Cashew nut is a high-value crop that can fetch a lot of money if a farmer takes good care of it. This is not a cheap crop,” Olak said.

Omony Denis, a local farmer in Anaka Town Council, Nwoya district, said he received 120 seedlings, which he has planted and expects to start harvesting in two years.

“I am told one can harvest cashew nuts for several years so I am taking these cashew nut seedlings as my retirement package,” said Omony, who initially planned to plant eucalyptus trees.

He said he was advised to space the planting by 7X7, 8X8, 9X9, or 10X10 meters.

Cana Brian, another farmer in Tochi village, Koch Goma Sub County, said he began eyeing cashew nuts after realizing they are pricey.

He received 280 seedlings, which he planted on five acres.

Cana has been growing jackfruits and mangoes. “I got interested in cashew nuts after seeing how expensively they are sold in supermarkets.”

A 75 grams packet of cashew nuts is sold at Shs 6,000 in most supermarkets in Gulu.

Alfred Kilama, the district agricultural officer, said cashew nut growing is not entirely new in the district because some commercial farmers and a few individuals have already planted the crop.

“Some commercial and individual farmers got the cashew nuts two years ago from the National Agricultural Research Organization-NARO under the National Agricultural Advisory Services-NAADS and have planted cashew nuts on large scale. One commercial farmer has 200 acres of Cashew trees, which have started flowering,” he said.

“We have demonstration farms where farmers who have planted cashew nuts can go and get knowledge on how to take care of the trees. If they take good care of the cashew nuts, then they should be able to flower after two years,” Kilama added.

Asked how big the cashew market is, the agriculture officer said the nuts will be supplied to processing factories in districts like Soroti, Kiryandongo, and Kampala.

The challenge is farmers have to keep pests and diseases at bay and ensure that they give the trees enough manure, Kilama said.

He said plans are underway to organize farmers into cooperative groups.

Kakuru Timonthy, a system administrator at the Operation Wealth Creation secretariat in Kampala, said the cashew nut was introduced as an enterprise in the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) program in 2019.

He said beneficiary districts include; Katakwi, Nwoya, Kapelebyong, Bulambuli, Kaberamaido, Soroti, Bukedea, Kumi, Amuru, Napak, Nakasongola, and Serere.

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Kwania boda operators Protest government tax

A government-pushed proposal to levy an extra tax of Shs 50,000 on motorcycles has touched off a fierce debate and protest among members of Kwania Boda Boda Savings and Credit Cooperative Society (Sacco).

In the new proposal, the government suggests that all owners of motorcycles including Boda Boda operators will be subjected to an annual tax of Shs 50,000 effective July 2021.

The levy, which is currently being scrutinized by the finance committee of Parliament, is among a string of new taxes government intends to introduce to raise at least Shs200b in annual revenue.

However, the over 200 Boda Boda Sacco members, under their umbrella group; Kwania Boda Boda Association (KBBA), have asked the government to back down on the proposal.

Speaking during the annual general meeting on April 15, the Boda operators argued that levying an extra tax on their operations would diminish their earnings.

Jimmy Obaro, a Sacco member, said an extra tax would push them out of business.

“Currently, motorcycle owners pay an annual Public Service Van (PSV) license of Shs 60,000 and Shs50, 000 for motor third party, leave alone the local service tax, if the government goes ahead to levy another tax then many would be left with no option but to quit Boda Boda business, this will affect our Sacco, which entirely depends on the Boda Boda job,” he said in an interview.

Another Boda Boda rider, Robert Abal, who operates at Aduku mayor’s garden, said from about Shs 40,000 to Shs 50,000 he makes weekly, he saves Shs 100,000 monthly. He is worried that the new tax will affect his savings and render him bankrupt.

Walter Opyene, the Kwania Boda Boda Sacco chairperson, said 80 percent of his members got motorcycles on loans and are saddled with the burden of repaying the money. He wants the government to back down on the proposal.

In an exclusive interview with the Cooperator last Wednesday, Bageya Waiswa, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works, said an extra tax on the Boda Boda sector will help the government to ascertain whether a motorcycle meets required standards.

“Regulating the motorcycle or the Boda Boda industry will in the first place, reduce rampant motorcycle thefts, control accidents and all in all raise revenue to improve service delivery,” he said, noting that the government had restarted the process to ensure SGS resumes inspecting motorcycles and motor vehicles.

According to Bageya, the government is seeking to at least raise Shs7b from motorcycle license.

So far 63,878 motorcycles have already been cleared to enter the country during the first and second quarter of the 2022/21 financial year. However, the current trends indicate the figure will grow by the end of this financial year, giving the government an opportunity to increase revenue projections.

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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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