UNBS develops 110 new standards for food and agricultural sector

In a move aimed at promoting the quality, safety and competitiveness of agricultural commodities on the Ugandan market, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has developed over 110 new standards for products in the food and agricultural sector.

The Executive Director of UNBS, Eng. Dr. Ben Manyindo, made the revelation while presenting the 2019/20 UNBS annual performance report at Uganda Media Centre recently, saying:

“Standards and conformity assessments improve efficiency of production, facilitate international trade and contribute towards Uganda’s economic development, food security and the livelihood of the people.”

Manyindo urged those involved in the trade of food and agricultural produce to familiarise themselves with the standards in order to avoid falling afoul of the law.

“UNBS will have the standards enforced with no body having any excuse for pleading ignorance,” he warned.

The Standards boss revealed that the Bureau developed 505 standards last financial year, of which 110 are in the food and agricultural sector, bringing the total number of standards in use in the country today to 3948.

In other areas, 125 standards were developed for engineering, 148 in chemicals and consumer products and 122 for management and services. Manyindo stated that the newly developed standards will support key sectors and catalyse Uganda’s economic growth.

To boost comprehension and implementation of the standards, the bureau has moved on to simplify select food and agricultural standards into easy-to-use guidelines, translated into widely spoken local languages, a move that has benefitted over 600 farmers in the country so far.

The UNBS report also noted an 11% improvement in its market surveillance and inspection performance from 6,648 done the previous year to 7,345 inspections conducted last financial year, covering 56% of the entire country.

The surveillance effort unearthed some areas of concern with regard to sub-standard goods and non-compliance with standards requirements.

“The prevalence of sub-standards goods on the market is still a challenge especially from the informal business, thus calling for more efforts in consumer vigilance, market information sharing, partnership at local governments and consumer awareness,” Manyindo commented.

From import inspection and surveillance in 2019/20, Manyindo said that UNBS intercepted and destroyed a total of 232 metric tonnes of sub-standard goods, worth over Shs 2.5bn. Although the Executive Director said UNBS is moving to tighten inspection at border points and decentralize services to different districts, he notes that there is a staff gap as they currently have over 1,400 workers out of an expected 6,000.

Manyindo also says that out of a total of Shs 68.9bn approved, government released only Shs 59.7bn as budget for financial year 2019/2020 out of which the bureau generated and remitted Non Tax Revenue of Shs 38.2bn to the consolidated fund.

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Local non-profit mentors farmers into entrepreneurs

In a bid to break the cycle of poverty, thousands of farmers in Gulu, Nwoya, and Kitgum district have embraced entrepreneurship, engaging in income generating activities like retailing silver fish, vegetables and other produce.

This after they were mentored by Village Enterprise, a non-profit organization through its Saving With A Purpose(SWAP) scheme that teaches members to first identify their need and then save for it for a particular period.

Participants in the scheme say the practice of targeted saving it encourages has been a life-changer. Last Tuesday, the group members shared their savings after nine months of saving.

Milly Achola, a 50-year old resident of Kiceke village in Paicho Sub county, Gulu district says that she has belonged to saving groups before, but her experience with SWAP has been different.

“I did not know much about business. I would just save for schools fees and had no money to buy even just household utensils, but now I can proudly host my friends and relatives,” the mother of five said, showing off the household items she had bought through the scheme.

Okot Patrick Obbo, the L.C I General Secretary Kiceke village said the SWAP scheme has reduced gender based violence in the area by involving the entire family.

“In other saving groups, locals sneak to save money; sometimes women will even steal farm produce to sell off in order to get money to save weekly but usually ends in fights between couples. With SWAP, both partners and their children are involved, so it’s a collective effort which discourages secrecy,” he said.

Farmers to entrepreneurs

Village enterprise’s Saving With A Purpose (SWAP) scheme was launched in 2016 in Nwoya district to help individuals and businesses set and achieve specific targets. The non-profit which also operates in Gulu and Nwoya recently extended operations to Kiryandongo and Masindi.

They mostly deal with farmers, retailers, produce dealers and skilled business people like tailors and restaurant operators.

Agnes Aryemo, a business mentor at Village Enterprise, says each group consisting of three members is given a grant of Shs 520,000 to start an enterprise of their choice.

“Being in a group encourages sustainability of the project and safety of the grant. If one person decides to leave the group, the remaining two members can continue,” she said.

“Much as many of the members are farmers, the program encourages them to engage in income generating activities so that they can have a good cash flow,” Aryemo added.

Aryemo trains the group members on skills like writing business plans and record keeping, among others to ensure that the businesses are sustainable and profit making.

“I have seen families transformed. There are families which did not have even cups with which to drink water when the project started.

It’s common for saving groups to spend all their money on clothes, food and unnecessary things because they don’t save with a purpose,” she pointed out.

According to Zita Akwero, the Northern Regional Manager Village Enterprise, a total of 4,075 farmers in Gulu, Nwoya and Kitgum have since 2016 benefited from the project.

In Kiceke village, Paicho Sub County, Gulu district, 30 women-mostly farmers under Rubangatwero Bolicup saving group told Mega FM, a local radio station, that they have been able to acquire household assets after engaging in commercial farming and other income generating activities like retailing vegetables.

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Thugs hit Mbarara cooperative, kill two guards

Police in Mbarara is investigating circumstances under which two security guards were killed on Sunday after unknown assailants attacked a local cooperative.

According to Rwizi Region Police spokesperson, ASP Samson Kasasira, the deceased were guarding Nyakayojo People’s SACCO located in Karama 1 cell Rwakishakizi ward Nyakayojo Division Mbarara City.

The incident happened over the weekend (Sunday) when the as-yet-unidentified assailants attacked Nyakayojo SACCO with the suspected aim of robbing its property.

“Today 11th October at about 0700hrs we received information from Nyakayojo Police Post that two security guards guarding at Nyakayojo People’s SACCO were found dead,” Kasasira said.

The spokesperson said a team of investigators including the Rwizi Regional Scene of Crime Officer (SOCO), canine and homicide investigators rushed to the scene to begin inquiries into the incident.

The deceased were identified as Herbert Tugume aged 22 a resident of Kitabo cell in Kashongi Sub County, Kiruhura district, and 22-year old Igga Budalla from Buteraniro Nyeihanga Rwampara district, both attached to Securiwise Security Company Ltd.

According to the police, two guards were stuck with blunt objects that led to their death on spot. Kasasira further disclosed that a rifle with three rounds and a baton were recovered at the scene.

He said the assailants first destroyed the CCTV camera at the cooperative before breaking into the co-op’s premises to steal a 32-inch LG television, an HP laptop, Network router and a TECNO Pop 2 mobile phone.

However, the SACCO money was not taken after the assailants attempted but apparently failed to break into the safe.

“Cash in the strong room was found intact because the safe was too strong for the thieves to break into,” said one of the SACCO’s employees.

Nyakayojo people’s SACCO is one of the leading financial cooperatives in Mbarara, with a total turnover of more than Shs 2 bn.

Attempts by theCooperator to reach the SACCO’s Manager for comment on the incident were unfruitful as he repeatedly turned down our calls.

The bodies of the deceased were taken to Mbarara Regional Referral hospital for post-mortem.

Kasasira says no arrests have been made so far, but investigations are ongoing.

He advised financial institutions to employ competently trained security personnel to guarantee the safety of their members’ savings.

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