How SACCOs came to dominate Uganda’s Cooperative Movement

As you travel across Uganda, you will not miss a signage with the word “Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs)”. Even businesses that lend money and have nothing to do with formal cooperatives have somehow baptised themselves with the same name. This is testimony that SACCOs are widely accepted because they offer much-needed financial services.

The industry performance of SACCOs is another positive indicator that they are doing rather better than their other counterparts in terms of liquidity. Nonetheless most of them have wanting capitalisation positions to which the industry ought to pay attention.

Some of the most conspicuous financial cooperatives include Wazalendo, YSAVE, URA, Makerere University Staff, Prisons, Exodus, St. Francis Investment, Nebbi and Kitgum SACCOs amongst others. It is estimated that the top 10 SACCOS cumulatively have an asset base of over Shs 300 bn.

Inception and collapse

The proliferation of SACCOS started during the 1970s economic crisis when banks were no longer happy to lend because of the high risks associated with borrowers. At this time, public servants and persons in white collar jobs, some of whom had not received salary over a period of time had to find alternative sources of credit.

It is then that the Savings and Credit Societies came in handy as most public servants came together to save and borrow. This is how Uganda Savings and Credit Cooperative Union was born in1972. The idea was to find an entity that would organise and build the capacity of the primary financial cooperatives.

As the cooperatives were recovering from the political and economic challenges of the 20th Century, the stigma of mismanagement and embezzlement of agriculture cooperative’s assets was highly entrenched and people lost confidence in the movement. The pain of the loss that the cooperative population had undergone was too much that many people wanted nothing to do with anything called “cooperative”.

“Moreover with liberalisation, cooperatives could not stand to compete because government had spoon-fed and denied them the opportunity to run on real business principles,” says Dr. Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa, the Chairperson of the Microfinance Support Centre (MSC), a microfinance services agency owned by the Government of Uganda.

Resurrection and evolution

Nevertheless, the need for cooperatives still remained a fact among most Ugandans; the conditions of the day couldn’t keep people away from working together.

Indeed in the 1990s, Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA) saw the need to save the cooperative movement and came up with the idea of village banks. After UCA visited Asian countries including Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia where they learnt about the Village Saving and Loan Association model, they came and replicated it here in Uganda.

“The baptism “Village Banks” was adopted because UCA did not want to mention cooperatives since that word had been condemned,” says Ivan Asiimwe, the General Secretary of the Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA).

Eventually, the “Village Banks” threatened the commercial banks and then war was declared against them, with their detractors saying they were not banks. Immediately, UCA and partners changed their name to SACCOs.

Govt support for SACCOS

In addition to UCA’s efforts, in 2005, the Government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) came up with the “Plan to Enhance Rural Financial Services”. The Plan’s stated aim was to develop financial infrastructure designed to reach the population in all sub-counties through the strengthening of apex institutions and existing SACCOs, as well as the creation of new SACCOs in more than 20 districts where they did not exist.

According to public circulars published in newspapers at the time, the program would be implemented through Micro Finance Support Centre Limited (MSCL), MOP, SUFFICE and UNDP’s Support to Village Savings and Credit Institutions project.

Lydia Nanono a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Limited (UCSCU), whose 4 regional and 11 sub-regional offices support SACCO operations across the country, says SACCOs, cater for the special needs of their members like buying land which they pay in instalments without collateral.

Nanono adds that SACCOs are increasing in numbers because of the trust they engender, their flexibility and easy accessibility, unlike banks which are absent in some areas. She admits that UCSCU has been aided by government and development partners in performing its support role to cooperatives.

She singled out the Rural Financial Services Programme (RFSP), a 7-year project which benefited about 730 SACCOs by providing operational incentives like computers, salaries and rent as one of the major projects that boosted SACCOs.

She also reveals that the Project for Financial Inclusion in Rural Areas (PROFIRA), a project partly funded by a USD 30m loan from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is supporting some 500 SACCOs countrywide with training and technical support on managing credit, financial literacy, savings, mobilization and business development.

Another government initiative to boost SACCO growth has been the extension of affordable credit through the Microfinance Support Centre (MSC) in which cooperatives comprise three-quarters of its client portfolio.

Belinda Atim MSC’s Public Relations and Communications Officer says that SACCOs are readily available within the rural settings and meet the institution’s criteria of group lending.

She adds that MSC lends at between 9% to 17% per annum. She boasts of a total disbursement of Shs 250bn and 200 model SACCOs which have proven to be effective in the management of their finances and hence helped the organisation to reach its mandate as far as coverage across the country is concerned.

SACCOS being coddled?

However, the direct and free support to SACCOs continues to elicit mixed reactions. Kisamba Mugerwa is concerned that although government has good intentions in offering financial and other support to cooperatives, the cooperatives are being run on wrong principles partly because of this assistance.

“Once you start along these lines, people do not associate because of the felt need but because of the expectations from the government,” Kisamba Mugerwa argues.

He admits, though, that despite starting out on shaky ground, some SACCOs had made the most of available opportunities, adopted cooperative principles and are successful.

Defending government’s strategy to finance SACCOs, the State Minister for Cooperatives, Frederick Gume, says government is not giving cooperatives money for keeps but for them to improve on their capacity to lend such that “if they are now crawling, they will soon be able to run”.

“If everyone works within cooperatives, the country’s economic status can improve,” Gume affirms.

However, some industry players think that the reduction on dependency would be achieved if small SACCOs merged. They associate the proliferation of small SACCOs lacking the capacity to borrow or lend wholesale with the motive of receiving free money from politicians and development partners.

“They [small SACCOs] should not be getting loans. If these SACCOs with small numbers merge and numbers increase to encourage members to save, they would not need to borrow,” Nanono says.

Challenges and future of SACCOs

SACCOs, like other types of cooperatives, grapple with their own challenges including fraud, loans, low savings, competition and dependency. According to Atim, leadership remains the main issue stifling cooperative growth.

“It means we are unable to loan to some of them and that becomes a challenge for us because we would love to lend to as many as we can,” Atim says.

But also, some founder members are challenging the democratic principle on which cooperatives are built.

According to Atim, the support and interest cooperatives are receiving from government and development partners is one strong impetus to their growth. She advised though, that this support will only translate into gains if the SACCOs deal with their leadership challenges and embrace technology and innovation.

This article was originally published in Issue 4 of theCooperator magazine.

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Amuru Sugar plantation recruits 400 labourers for urgent sugarcane harvest after fire

At least 400 casual laborers have been urgently recruited and deployed to harvest the sugarcane that survived a wildfire at Amuru Sugar Plantation recently.

Amuru Sugar plantation was gutted by fire on December 27, 2020, leaving 6000 out of 8000 acres of sugarcane destroyed.

Following the tragedy, the proprietors of Atiak Sugar Plantation resolved to recruit 1,000 casual laborers to cut down the remaining 2000 acres of sugarcane so that they are processed into sugar, to avert more losses from similar incidences. The plantation has suffered five fire outbreaks since 2018, leaving the sugar factory with losses worth billions of shillings.

Santa Joyce Laker, the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Plantation Outgrowers Cooperative Society, told theCooperator that so far 400 casual laborers, out of 1000 needed, have been recruited from Amuru, Gulu, and Adjumani districts, and have already started cutting the remaining sugarcane.

“They started working on Saturday and they are coming in shifts. We cannot wait till they are 1000 people to start work,” Laker said.

Laker said the company lost 75 percent of the sugarcane in the plantation to the fire, translating to an Shs 12bn loss.

“An acre of sugarcane yields Shs 2m. So, if you multiply 2m by 6000 you get the picture of the loss,” she said.

Dan Kidega, the Board Chairman of Atiak Sugar plantation, said the company will soon start sensitizing the community on the benefits of the plantation and also recruit vigilantes to control looming fire outbreaks.

In January 2020, the Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson gave seven strategic recommendations to avert rampant fire outbreaks in the sugar plantation. They include recruiting a community liaison officer, profiling all workers, building a watchtower, outlawing charcoal burning around the plantation, installing fire breakers, and urgent resolution of workers’ grievances relating to wages. However, most of these suggestions are yet to be implemented.

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Co-operators appeal for legal framework to promote water for production

Members of Miromi Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Agali Sub County, Lira district, have appealed to the government to come up with a strong legal framework to facilitate farmers’ access to water for agricultural production.

A study report produced by the Uganda Farmers’ Common Voice platform indicates that although Uganda is endowed with water resources, most farmers in the country rely on rain-fed agriculture, mainly due to limited access to irrigation-based water sources.

The study, which was conducted by Prof. Moses Tenywa of Makerere University, blames the limited access to water for production on an inadequate legal framework for the sector.

Nixson Ogwang, the Chairman, Miromi Farmers’ Cooperative Society, seconded this finding, saying that the government needs to come up with a policy on the water for production.

“This would encourage the participation of the private sector in solving some of the challenges hindering small scale farmers to access water for production in the country,” he argued.

Irrigation to boost production

Established in 2016, Miromi Farmers’ Cooperative Society cooperative deals in onion and tomato production in the dry season. Members believe an irrigation system would enable them to produce food all year round and increase sales.

Ogwang appealed for the government’s support in acquiring the requisite technology through the Microfinance Support Centre.

“The current technologies on the markets are very expensive to ordinary farmers like us, but through Private-Public Partnership, the government can subsidize the costs and attract the private sector to avail the technologies to farmers at cheaper prices,” he observed.

Donald Denis Opio, the Chairperson of Can-Onoto-Waa Youth Farmers’ group, which is also under the same Cooperative, says they earn about Shs 20m per acre of tomatoes sold during the dry season.

“Part of the money got from the project is shared among the individual youths who are engaged in tomato farming,” he revealed.

The group has great ambitions. According to Ellen Akello, also a farmer, they are now targeting producing tomato and onion on a large scale for export.

“An irrigation system would help us achieve this aim, create employment for ourselves through farming and boost household income,” she said.

In an interview with thecooperator, Erute South MP, Jonathan Odur, commended the members of the cooperative for engaging in farming during this dry season and pledged to follow up with the government about their appeal.

“As leaders we shall ensure that money is available in the subsequent financial years to support farmers to access water for production. Without fighting for the farmers, Uganda will be food insecure since rain-fed agriculture cannot sustain food production in the country,” he said.

Uganda has enormous fresh water endowments covering about 15% of its total area. However, only 2% of the water is utilized for production with 1% used in irrigation compared to the 70% of water used for irrigation worldwide.

Experts say that low utilization of water for production has contributed to a decline in agricultural productivity, mostly for small holder farmers who dominate the agricultural sector in Uganda and mainly depend on rain-fed agriculture.

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Lango Cooperative Union in battle to recover lost assets

The leadership of Lango Cooperative Union is struggling to repossess its prime assets that were lost to private individuals.

Formed in 1952 to promote cotton growing in the greater Lango sub-region, it collapsed in the 1980s due to fluctuation of cotton prices and defaulting on loans taken from microfinance institutions by the Union’s then Board of directors

The government, a few years ago, offered to compensate the Union for the losses, and records at the Ministry of Finance indicate that at the beginning of this financial year, the government paid out Shs 2 bn under Lango War Claimants, out of a total debt of Shs 17 bn it owes the union.

However, Maxwell Akora, the Lango Cooperative Union Vice Chairperson, who doubles as Maruzi County MP, says that while the Union needs to recover all its assets in order to expand its projects, some people occupying the properties are reluctant to return them to the Union.

“We have secured our land assets located in Angayiki Village in Chawente Sub County, Kwania. The land, measuring about 1,165 hectares, is equivalent to 9 square kilometers. It had been previously claimed by the Microfinance Support Centre for sale to recover a debt of Shs 1.46 billion,” he said, adding:

“We have now found means of settling that debt and so we have secured the land. We are waiting to take possession from the court bailiff who has been evicting people from the land,” he said.

Some of the Union’s properties still in private hands include three separate pieces of land and one big plot under rehabilitation, an Administration block, and stores at plot 16, Station road in Lira City, among others.

Akora says while some of these assets were sold off by commercial banks that had attached them as after the Union failed to pay back loans, some were taken over by unscrupulous people occupying them as encroachers.

According to Akora, the Union is in the process of reassembling its maize and soya bean processing plants and factories, which would require it to own sufficient land, preferably in locations they formerly occupied.

Agnes Abote, a member of Akia Primary Society is happy with the move to repossess the Union’s assets and hopes it can help settle the rampant cases of land conflicts involving different primary societies.

“The Union’s leadership should be transparent and accountable. The Union’s record ended on a twist, but now that it has started recovering its assets, I believe this will benefit the primary societies as well as the farmers at the grassroots,” Abote said in an interview.

Tom Odoc, a farmer and resident of Acaba Sub County in Oyam district, advised the Union leadership to sell or lease out its land to investors as a potential source of revenue.

“The Angayiki land had been redundant for too long,” he argued. “The Union’s leadership should auction the land to an investor in order to get the money that may be divided to the different primary societies, facilitate the Union’s activities, or be loaned out to farmers.”

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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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L. Albert floods submerge Shs 1bn modern fish market in Panyimur

Authorities in Panyimur Sub County, Pakwach district have been left scratching their heads after the only modern fish market and the leading source of revenue in the sub county was recently submerged by flooding water from Lake Albert.

Panyimur market is located in Sigla village West of Lake Albert, near where the White Nile kisses the lake on its way to South Sudan.

Unable to use the now-flooded market, many fish mongers have resorted to selling their fish from their homesteads, a practice that authorities say has affected revenue collection for the sub county.

“Panyimur market contributes over Shs 200m to the sub county’s revenue. Since the facility is greatly affected by the rising water level from Lake Albert, the sub county’s activities will greatly be affected drastically,” said the area LC III Chairman, Shabban Ofoi.

Panyimur’s Shs 1.4 bn modern fish market is the biggest in the entire West Nile region, and was constructed with the support of the Iceland embassy to enable quality assurance for fish handling at Sigla landing site and promote hygiene of fish at the stalls.

Ofoi says the fish market was built in phases starting 2013. It was completed last year and commission early this year. However, he says the market is yet to realize its full potential since it was first affected by the COVID-19-related directives that hampered trade for several months this year, and now by persistent floods that have submerged it.

The LC III Chairman is worried that the mitigation measures being put in place, such as building retaining walls to prevent water from entering the newly constructed fish market, may not be sufficient to resolve the flooding.

He also cited other government projects that have been affected by the floods, such as the Shs 1.3bn modern landing site at Dei as well as water projects worth about Shs 600m, also in Dei.

Human settlements have not been spared by the flooding either.

“Many human settlements and human activities at the landing side and as far as 100 meters from the buffer zones of Lake Albert have been destroyed,” Ofoi said.

Panyimur Market Chairman, Jeol Okorboth Mvor says the floods have killed off their businesses and put their livelihoods at stake.

“Our customers have no access to our business points due to the floods which have blocked the way to our shops.”

Okorboth adds that many businessmen at the landing sites are facing difficulty servicing their loans because their businesses have been affected by the floods.

“Since we don’t have business at the moment, financial institutions must visit the place and assess their clients’ situation to avoid doubts in paying back their loans,” Okorboth said.

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Delayed Masindi Port -Kitgum road works hamper business

Several businesses along the Masindi Port -Rwekunye, Apac-Lira-Kitgum road have been crippled by the deteriorated state, made worse by ongoing torrential rains and the heavy trucks that habitually use it.

Government contracted Turkish Gulsan Insaat Sanayi Turizm Nakliyat Ve Tecaret from Turkey and Sadeem Al General Trading from Kuwait to undertake the road works valued at Shs 750 billion.

The project has been split into two parts, with the Kuwaiti firm contracted to build the 90.9km Rwenkunyu-Apac stretch for Shs 337.5bn, while the Turkish firm will upgrade the 100.1km Apac-Lira-Puranga section for about Shs 416.3bn.

The road works are being undertaken with support from the Islamic Development bank.

A month after President Yoweri Museveni flagged off the tarmacking of Masindi-Pader to Acholibur Highway, motorists are having a hard time using the road given its current state.

When theCooperator toured the road, many passengers were seen struggling to access the road, sections of which had been submerged by water.

Due to the poor state of the road, road users, especially those seeking to access Apac town from Aduku Township, have been forced to use the longer route from Teboke-Chegere up to Kole Town Council to connect to Apac, Kole, Lira and Kampala city.

Simon Amanya, a Mbale-based businessman, says he is counting losses after his truck slipped off the road and fell into a swamp between Aduku and Apac. He also lost 200 sacks of maize worth over Shs 30m in the same accident.

“I have incurred a great loss due to the poor status of this road. My truck fell into water and most of my maize grains got wet. The vehicle got spoiled and as of now I don’t know how I will go to Mbale and how I will recover the losses. Government needs to do something about this road,” he said.

Jimmy Obura, a Tipper driver who operates on the Aduku to Lira road, says he has lost many customers as most now opt for alternative routes Lira city given the road’s poor status

“This road has forced many vehicles off this road due to frequent breakdown of vehicles.”

Lillian Adongo, residents of Alira parish in Aduku Sub County says that due to the bad road they can neither access medical services at Aduku Health Center IV nor transport their farm produce to Lira.

“The Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) should rehabilitate this road as we await the planned tarmacking.”

However, Mark Ssali, the UNRA Spokesperson says the Authority is unable to rehabilitate the said road since the project has already been awarded to contractors for tarmacking. Ssali said that they can only come in when the situation goes out of hand.

“Yes, we are aware of the status of Masindi Port- Rwekunye, Apac-Lira-Kitgum Road, but according to the contract agreement form, we are not allowed to do repair of roads already awarded to contractors; we can only come in when the situation goes out of hand,” Ssali said.

“We are yet to send our team on the ground to access the magnitude of the situation and see what to do,” he said in a telephone interview.

Eng. Harriet Ogam, the UNRA Station Engineer in charge of Lango was unreachable for comment.

Bazil Okello Onac, the Kwania District LC V Chairman, observed that the poor condition of the said road is not only holding back local economic growth but also hampering regional trade. He asked the government to expedite the process of tarmacking the said road.

While flagging off the project recently, President Museveni noted that the road project once completed would increase connectivity in the region, facilitate trade and help exploit the agricultural opportunities in the area.

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