Mbarara Central Market completion extended again

Traders in Mbarara district will again have to wait longer before they can occupy the highly anticipated Mbarara Central Market, after its completion date was extended to January 2021.

This is the third such extension of the project after the contractor, Roko Construction Company, failed to deliver on the original February 2020 due date.

The Shs 21bn project is being implemented by ROKO Construction Company under the Markets and Agriculture Trade Improvement Project (MATIP) that aims to improve agricultural trade.

Mbarara City Principal Commercial Officer, James Agaba, blamed the delay on the COVID-19 pandemic which paralyzed site works and hampered purchase of materials.

“ROKO had placed an order for some materials from China but when COVID-19 hit harder some factories had to close. Even the team that was supposed to inspect the materials before shipment from China could not proceed since the airports were closed at the time,” he added

He revealed that following the easing of lockdown, the inspection had been done and shipping of the materials commenced.

Extension

In light of this, Agaba said the contractor has been given till end of January 2021 to complete works or else trigger a fine of 0.5% of the total project cost per extra day in liquidated damages.

“According to the terms of contract, Roko is supposed to lose 100 million per day beyond 31st of January 2021, a charge they are supposed to pay to the central government for not finishing the market in the agreed time” Agaba vowed

However, Eng. Willie Swanepoel, the Contract Operations Manager Roko Construction Company suggested that the delays were caused by the central government that has been slow in releasing project’s money.

“I could not risk employing so many workers when there is no money to pay them; neither would you make orders for the materials when you are not sure of what to pay after deliveries, so even government is to blame,” said Swanepoel.

The Principal Commercial Officer, however, insists that government is ready to pay the contractor once the project is completed, adding that government has been extra careful to avoid situations that would lead to litigation or extra fines.

“Government is well aware of the consequences of breaching the contract. For instance if the contractor is frustrated by government, the contractor is supposed to charge government as well, as embedded in the contract agreement,” Agaba said.

Traders impatient

Donozio Kibanda, Secretary for Publicity Mbarara Central Market Vendors Association said that the continuous delays in completing the market are a nightmare for the traders who were temporarily relocated to the municipality’s Independence Park grounds to allow construction works to commence.

The City Principal Commercial Officer appealed to the central market vendors, now based at Independence Park to remain patient, saying the market should be done in a couple of months.

“The market is in its final stages- at 90% completion, according to a previous report. We are only left with a few things which we should be able to finish up in the remaining time, and then can traders occupy their market,” says Agaba.

Some of the remaining construction works at the facility include installation of water tanks, roofing and tiling.

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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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Cooperators urged to embrace responsibility

Cooperators have been urged to take back control of their cooperatives by taking up membership roles and responsibilities in order to enhance the resilience and success of their organizations.

During the recent launch of Sino Uganda Trader’s Cooperative Society at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala, Denis Tukahikaho, the Technical Advisor for development of Cooperatives to The Uhuru Institute for Social Development underscored that member participation would define the success or failure of any cooperative.

Tukahikaho said that when individuals belong to two or more Cooperatives, their ability to patronize and grow either cooperative is undermined.

“One of the challenges we (the Cooperative movement) face is where you find one person belongs to five or six Cooperatives. Each Cooperative has its demands. You have to attend meetings, save, buy shares and so on.. In the end, you are split all over,” Tukahikaho said.

He called on Cooperators to focus on the long-term.

“For a Cooperative to be successful, you have to look at the next generation. Your needs might not be met tomorrow or the other day, but it can be met after two years or three. So, if you drop out today because your needs have not been met, you are doing a disservice to yourself,” Tukahikaho argued.

The cooperative developer also noted that many people form or join Cooperatives with the agenda of getting money from government, something he says has affected prospective Cooperatives because of lack of sustainability and membership input.

Sino Uganda Cooperative Society was launched with 52 members, having been registered and granted a probationary certificate by the Commissioner for Cooperatives in February this year. The bulk of the Cooperative’s membership comprises of city traders under the Kampala Arcaders and Traders Association (KATA).

Last year KATA, who together with Kampala She-traders Association (KASTA) were organizers for the launch of Sino Uganda, launched Kampala Arcaders and Traders Cooperative Savings and Credit Society (KATCSCS) at JBK hotel in Kampala. However, the Cooperative failed to set off with operations.

Ssekulima Amir Ssebowa, the Chairperson of Sino Uganda Cooperative Society said part of the problem in the past arose from the fact that members did not understand what they were engaging in (cooperatives).

“With the leadership training we have received, we are now ready to steer Sino Uganda Cooperative Society to success,” Ssekulima said.

Ssekulima said Sino Uganda aims to help local traders liaise with trade partners in China and other countries and facilitate ease in trade.

For Wilberforce Waliggo, the KCCA Commercial Officer for the Central Division, members ought to be clear what they expect to benefit from joining a cooperative.

“Someone will join a Cooperative for personal objectives, which if not met, the member will move on to another SACCO. The challenge is lack of sensitization. Before a member is admitted, he should be educated on how that SACCO operates, Waliggo said.

Waliggo argues that belonging to many cooperatives and frequent member exoduses have led to the collapse of many cooperatives.

“A number of Cooperatives have failed because of this challenge, members leaving and jumping onto other SACCOs! In the end, the society they are leaving may not survive because they will have pulled out whatever they injected in. Many cooperatives have died at infancy because of this challenge, which also affects the cooperative movement as it creates mistrust in the public.” Waliggo said.

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Bishop Stuart University, Cooperatives to collaborate on internship placement

Bishop Stuart University has put in place collaborations with more than 50 cooperatives where their students can go for hands-on internship practice and skills training.

The revelation was made last week by Ass. Prof. Gershom Atukunda, the university’s Dean for the Faculty of Business Economics.

“We signed MoUs with over 50 cooperatives around Ankole so that our students do their internship on their farms and it’s farmers who will evaluate them,” Atukunda explained.

The move is part of the institution’s shift from the four-wall classroom model to the field-classroom model that aims to train hands-on graduates for the African market.

“The farmers will be the professors to enable us produce quality skilled graduates in the fields of agriculture and cooperatives,” he said, adding that students must satisfy the farmers’ needs as they also help the students to reach where they want to be.

Embracing online learning

Meanwhile, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to haunt institutions, the university has adopted e-learning technology to enable students continue their studies online.

According to Prof Mauda Kamatenesi, the Vice Chancellor, Bishop Stuart University, the institution recently received official approval from the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to conduct an online teaching system.

“It is now a new era of information which is going to be characterized by digital information. With my science background I don’t see COVID-19 ending soon and the world cannot stop because of COVID-19,” Kamatenesi said.

The e-system, dubbed ODEL (Open distance e-learning) platform, will facilitate learning for continuing students in 89 programs.

Some of the courses to be taught online include; B.A. of Cooperatives’ Management and Development, PhD in Agriculture and Community Innovation, Master of Agriculture and Rural Innovation, Bachelor of Agriculture and Community Management, MSc. in Climate Change And Food Security among others.

The online program will start on November 2, 2020 and each student is required to own a smart phone, laptop or tablet in order to access the classes.

The Vice Chancellor urged lecturers and students to take up online studies.

“We shall be conducting trainings and running meetings online, so if you do not embrace it, you will be left behind,” she cautioned.

“I have already directed all my staff to upload all their material online and develop modules in the system. Any university that is not ready to endorse the fourth industrial revolution is likely not to survive,” the VC said, citing banks which leveraged a robust digital/ e-banking system to continue running during the pandemic.

Kamatenesi says students will first undergo training on how to use the technology, then receive handouts to ensure a smooth transition into e-learning.

“The ultimate goal is to migrate to blended learning” the Vice Chancellor said

Addressing cost concerns related to adopting the new technology, Prof. Kamatenesi suggested that the cost of acquiring new gadgets would be offset by savings on school uniform and other items like books and pens.

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Farmers in Northern Uganda to embark on growing Rosemary

Hundreds of farmers in Acoli and Lango sub regions have received training on Rosemary growing from Special Anointing Oil, SAO-Uganda, an NGO that promotes growth of the popular herb around the country.

Rosemary is a perennial evergreen herb with blue flowers and minty, piney aroma. Native to the Mediterranean, it is now naturalised in East Africa.

In August this year, SAO-Uganda started training farmers interested in growing Rosemary in Lango sub-region.

Peter Otim, a farmer in Atuku town Council in Kwania district, is among the farmers who received training in growing the medicinal plant.

Otim told theCooperator that about at least 26 farmers in his area underwent the training, and more are showing interest in joining.

“I took interest in the plant because I learned about its numerous medicinal benefits. Secondly, the plant is drought-, pest- and disease-resistant,” he said.

Otim, who confessed that he first heard about Rosemary during the training, plans to dedicate two acres of land to growing the herb because he is convinced that he will get good returns from the venture.

“Besides, the company that trained us will buy the harvest, so I won’t have to worry about marketing it,” he added.

Pascal Osire, the Northern Uganda Regional Coordinator SAO-Uganda observes that the company trained farmers in all districts in Lango and Acoli sub-regions, except Amolatar, Dokolo and Amuru districts. The company expects to recruit 36 farmers per district after the training.

“Planting of the crop will start next season. Right now, we are training farmers and preparing their mindset. Next month we will be able to know how many people per village are willing to do the Rosemary growing,” Osire said.

“We want to recruit community investors who will be in charge of our projects in each district, then ambassadors at the parish level, for effective communication, reporting and quick response when a farmer needs assistance,” he added.

The agreement

Osire said the company is drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed by the farmers on acquisition of seedlings and marketing.

Under the proposed MoU, the company would supply farmers with seedlings on credit, which would then be paid for by the farmers in two instalments.

Osire said a farmer requires 6,000 seedlings of Rosemary to cover an acre of garden, which will be sold to them at Shs 1000 each. Other dealers in Rosemary seedlings, he says, sell each seedling at Shs 5,000.

“This implies that if a farmer wants to plant an acre, they will need Shs 6m. But we are giving the seedlings on credit because most of our farmers can’t raise Shs 6m at once,” he said.

“This will motivate the farmers take care of the crop well, knowing that they have a debt to pay,” Osire said.

Harvesting and marketing

Osire said the first harvest of Rosemary is done after 6-7 months, with a minimum yield of 1500 kilograms per acre, which is then sold at Shs 5000 per kilogram.

“That means a farmer will get Shs 7.5 million in the first harvest, and the same amount after subsequent harvests that will be done after every four months, for five years,” Osire said.

“However, when one does value addition, by for instance drying the Rosemary, they get between Shs 11-12m per harvest,” he said.

Osire noted farmers’ concerns over marketability of the product, but assured them that under the proposed MoU to be signed with the farmers, SAO-Uganda would commit to buying all the their Rosemary harvests.

Why Rosemary?

According to Osire, the company chose the Rosemary project after researching on and learning of its numerous health benefits.

“We found that it [Rosemary] heals many diseases. So, we want farmers to grow it and we make herbal medicine out of them. We can make 40 products out of Rosemary,” he said.

In addition to being used to treat headaches, poor circulation, depression, muscle cramps, to detoxify and boost the immune system, Rosemary is also used in the kitchen for food seasoning.

Osire said the company recently installed a machine for processing Rosemary oil in Kyengera.

“When we start using that machine, we will need about 10 tonnes of Rosemary every day,” he said.

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Kasese traders vow to reward president for market

Traders in the Western Uganda district of Kasese have vowed to reward President Museveni handsomely for a new market currently under construction in Kasese town.

Construction of Kasese Central market is being carried out by the government of Uganda with funding from the African Development Bank [ADB] under the Markets and Agricultural Improvement Program project (MATIP) currently in its last phase in the country. The market is scheduled for completion in February next year.

”We are thankful to the president for this market, and come February when he comes to hand it over, we shall have a big gift awaiting him,” Wilson B. Wahemba, the Chairperson of Kasese Central Market Traders and Vendors Association told theCooperator. He, however, declined to specify the nature of gift the vendors have in store for the president.

Nevertheless, Mr. Wahemba says the market is too small to accommodate all the traders interested in occupying it.

“While we appreciate the work so far done, this market remains too small to handle the number of traders were already have,” he said.

He noted that the number of vendors has grown from 800 to 1200 ever since construction of the market started in 2017, yet the available stalls and lockups stand at 846.

According to the Mayor, Kasese Municipality, Mr. Godfrey Kabbyanga, clear guidelines for governing the new market need to be put in place early enough to ensure a smooth transition once it is completed.

“We have always had problems transitioning from makeshift to modern markets. This time a proper procedure should be followed,” the mayor said.

Mr. Kabbyanga also pointed out major shortcomings of the new market, including the fact that it has no provision for restaurants, banks, clinics and other facilities.

However, Eng. Gabriel Fataki, who is overseeing construction works, says that all the missing amenities will be catered for using the project’s contingency fund.

“This market will contain everything including banks, restaurants, places of worship and so on,” Eng. Fataki stated.

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Swedish Energy Agency Terminates Carbon Credits Agreement with Green Resources

The Swedish Energy Agency (SEA) is terminating its agreement to purchase carbon credits from the Norwegian forestry company, Green Resources—finally recognizing the devastating impact the company’s plantation has had on local communities in Kachung, Uganda.

Citing the ongoing legal dispute over land and the inability for farmers to graze their cattle within the forest, the SEA’s decision comes after five years of research and advocacy by the Oakland Institute, documenting forced evictions from the land locals depended on for agriculture, grazing, and forest produce.

The Institute’s first report in November 2014, The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda, exposed the devastating impact of the Green Resources pine plantation. But it was only after the Institute’s third report, released in August 2019, along with the actual eviction notices served to the local farmers, that the SEA announced its suspension of payments, and eventually termination of the agreement in March 2020.

“Despite solid evidence and documentation, Green Resources and its financiers, including the SEA, callously, not only turned a blind eye to the victims of their ‘green’ fraud, but also dismissed our findings,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “If they had paid heed to the concerns raised in 2014—which should have been obvious to the SEA if due diligence had been done from the get go—Green Resources could not have gotten away with causing hunger, displacement, and distress amongst the population of 17 villages for this long,” Mittal continued.

On March 10, 2020, Development Today reported that the SEA terminated the agreement because of concerns over the ongoing land dispute and the unresolved issue of cattle grazing not allowed in the plantation. The SEA claims the work done by the Oakland Institute did not impact its decision, however, their findings are in line with its past research and advocacy. Hans Lemm, CEO of Green Resources, however, blamed SEA’s decision on the Oakland Institute.

“Land grabbing from Ugandan villagers to set up non-native pine plantations is a false climate solution, designed to allow polluters in Northern countries to continue with business as usual. This is the cautionary tale that Mr. Lemm should learn from, instead of placing blame elsewhere,” was Mittal’s response to the CEO.

Despite ample hard evidence, public investment funds of Norway and Finland—Norfund and Finnfund—are the primary shareholders of Green Resources since 2018. They have financed the company over US$62.5 million (NOK 600 million) . The question is now how long Norfund and Finnfund—supposed investment vehicles for developing countries—will remain complicit in its wrongdoing.

The SEA’s decision is another step towards justice for local communities. The Oakland Institute renews its call for Green Resources and its financial backers to be held responsible. The protracted misery inflicted on Kachung’s communities can only be rightfully addressed with the immediate end of this devastating project, so that they can reclaim their land and livelihoods. (SOURCE : OAKLAND INSTITUTE )

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Do not charge for registering SACCOs, minister warns.

The Minister of State for Microfinance, Haruna Kasolo Kyeyune has cautioned district officials against charging community members for registering Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs).

Minister Kyeyune issued the warning on Friday March 13, 2020, at Hotel Leslona, Moroto while launching the Presidential Initiative on Wealth and Job creation (EMYOOGA) in Karamoja region. Under the initiative, government will provide funds for cooperators in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to boost their incomes.

The warning followed complaints by several local community members that some district officials demand money from members before registering their SACCOs, a service that the minister says ought to be free of charge.

READ ALSO:Cooperatives to hit 20,000 by December – Kitandwe.

“This is a serious offence, and whoever is found charging members of the public for registration of their SACCO will be dealt with,” Kyeyune said.

He also advised the leaders of Karamoja region against politicizing the Presidential Initiative saying that would affect the core objective of the program which is to lift Ugandans out of poverty.

“This initiative is for everyone, regardless of where you belong; it is non-discriminative,” he said.

The regional launch was attended by district LCV chairpersons, Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), District Commercial Officers (DCOs), Political leaders, District Internal Security Officer (DISO) and representatives from the business community in Karamoja region.

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