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Atiak sugar production stalls over pay dispute



Mr Mohamed Ahmed of Horyal Investment Ltd (left) leads Naads officials led by the director, Dr Samuel Mugasi (centre), on an inspection of sugarcane plantations in Atiak, Amuru District, in August 2019. Net Photo


A longstanding dispute between sugarcane outgrowers and the management of Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru District has delayed the commencement of production.
Installation of the machines at the factory was completed at the end of June. More than 100kms of roads around the sugar plantation and a bridge on Unyama River have also been built to ease movement of produce and workers.

However, this newspaper has established that sugar production could not start at the beginning of the month due to failure by government to compensate two cooperatives for their sugarcane cuttings supplied to the factory.
Naads in 2017 cut down more than 160 acres of sugarcane plantations belonging to Atiak Outgrowers and Gem-pachilo cooperative societies. The government used the sugarcane cuttings to expand the factory plantation. However, to date, the residents have not been paid.

Mr Dan Kidega, the board chairperson for Atiak Sugar Works, said they are struggling to resolve the compensation issue.
“We are continuing to engage Naads to make sure that this payment is effected soon and that such delays don’t reoccur in future. When one of the parties in the business is not comfortable, we as a board also become uncomfortable,” he said last week.
Dr Kidega revealed that they are finalising negotiations with the cooperatives so that sugar production starts at the beginning of next month.

“From next month when we shall start massive production of sugar, we have 3,750 acres of sugarcane that belongs to the cooperative societies. The ready cane will be distributed to the cooperative society members before it is cut,” he added.
Ms Joyce Laker, the chairperson of Atiak Outgrowers Cooperative Society, said they were disappointed that Naads had refused to pay their members.
“Naads told us many times that the initial harvest was theirs and that out-growers owned nothing there. This frustrated the farmers so much after spending a lot of their time working on the crop,” Ms Laker said.

She added that when farmers started protesting, that is when Naads was compelled to conduct verification of the farmers but deliberately delayed the process.
“Atiak Cooperative has extremely vulnerable groups and I have been begging Naads to release the money to support them. We have lost three of our members who were living with HIV/Aids in Pabbo Sub-county because they did not have food during this lockdown,” she said. Government owns 40 per cent stake in the company while the remaining stake belongs to Amina Hersi’s Horyal Investment Ltd.
The government has so far disbursed Shs52b to facilitate sugarcane production for the project and 28,841 acres of sugarcane has been planted to that effect.
In the initial harvest, the out growers shall receive 30 tonnes per acre, with the factory buying each tonne at Shs120,000.

But Mr Akena Ogik, the vice chairperson of Gem-pachilo Cooperative Society, told this newspaper that most of their members are very disgruntled due to delayed compensation.
“We are in a very volatile situation, we are being threatened day and night, members even abuse us and call us thieves but Naads and Horyal Investment Ltd kept quiet on us,” Mr Akena said.

Last Friday, Dr Samuel Mugasi, the Naads executive director, explained that the delayed payment was caused by late submission of membership files by the cooperative members that are to be compensated.
“We needed to know who the beneficiaries are because we cannot give out money without knowing who exactly is getting the money. If we had done it, that could have caused more chaos,” Dr Mugasi said.
Dr Mugasi acknowledged that although the factory was ready to produce sugar, it would only start after verification and subsequent distribution of the ready cane to the beneficiaries.

“We apologise for the delays, it has taken long. We are at 90 per cent now and we have finished verifying members of Atiak out-growers except Gem-pachilo society that we have not received their files yet,” he said.
the partnership
Naads has since 2016 established more than 15,000 acres of sugarcane plantation to feed the factory under a public-private-community partnership between government, the community and Horyal Investment Ltd. Under the partnership, the community under Atiak Outgrowers and Gem-pachilo cooperative societies were to plant cane on the land and weed the plantations. Once the cane was ready, the plantation, apportioned to the out-growers by Naads would be harvested and sold to the factory.

Source: Daily Monitor

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Lack of Agronomists worries grape farmers in Mbarara



Grape farmers in Mbarara are concerned that they are earning less from the crop due to the absence of an agronomist to offer expertise on the processes for growing and harvesting the crop.

There are more than 200 grape farmers in Ibaare, Nyamatojo and Nyakayojo, all in the South Division of Mbarara City, where more than three hills are fully covered with the crop. They are mainly planting Muscat and Karmen, which thrive well in semi-arid areas.

But the farmers said that they are growing the crop without clear information on the ideal varieties of grapes grown in Uganda, and knowledge of soil management, site preparation, planting, pruning, pest and disease control, fertilizer application as well as harvesting.

By nature of their work, agronomists work with farmers to help them grow the best possible crops, based on their extensive knowledge of chemistry, biology, economics, earth science, ecology, and genetics. They usually conduct experiments to develop the best methods for increasing the quality and production of crops and develop methods for protecting crops from weeds, pests, and harsh climates.

Alex Asiimwe, the Chairperson of Mbarara Grape Farmers Cooperative Limited said that without a specialist in the region, many of them are left to gamble with the crop. Often, he says, they struggle to manage the spread of pests in grape plantations.

James Mugabi, a grape farmer said he once lost more than 25 tons of grapes to fungus, which he didn’t know and failed to get the best drug. He narrates that once the crop has been attacked by either a pest or disease, the entire plantation is destroyed.

Allan Namanya, a grapes farmer from Katojo said the absence of an agronomist is costing them a lot since grapes are considered the most lucrative crop at the moment. He says that a kilogram of grapes costs between 2,500 and 3,000 Shillings and a bottle of wine costs 20,000, yet it can even cost much higher than this if they are advised on the right farming practices.

Mbarara city Agricultural Officer, Vincent Mugabi, said that the department also has a shortage of personnel knowledgeable about the relatively new crop for the area. He wants the government to consider taking them for training to acquire knowledge.

Grapes are harvested twice a year, in April/May and November/December seasons. They were introduced in Mbarara at Nyamitanga hill the Catholic seat by missionaries in the 1960s.

Original Source: URA via The Independent

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Farmers in Napak want security forces deployed in gardens



A section of farmers in Napak District is demanding for the deployment of security personnel in gardens to prevent attacks by suspected Karamojong warriors.

This follows a message that was sent to one of the phones belonging to the community member in Nabwal sub county threatening people to stop cultivation or else their cattle will be stolen. Suspected warriors have also been dropping leaflets in the villages warning farmers of possible attacks in case they risk going to cultivate in their gardens.

Robert Koryang, a resident of Lotome trading center, says that they are worried of going to their farm gardens which are far away from their home because of threats from the cattle raiders.

Koryang said the warriors are still hunting for cattle and they see the farming season as an opportunity to target farmers who use oxen for ploughing.

He observed that the persistent insecurity in the region frustrated their efforts to cultivate last year leading to a hunger crisis.

Judith Anyakun, another farmer recalls that early last year a suspected raider chased them out of their farms before making off with four oxen that were used for ploughing.

She suggested that the security forces should be deployed in their settlements nearer to the fields so that they are able to respond to any attack that may occur during farm activities.

John Paul Kodet, the LCV Chairperson for Napak, says that they are taking the threats seriously because the warriors have been issuing warnings to the communities before attacking.

Kodet said they have distributed seeds to the farmers but he is skeptical if communities shall be able to cultivate due to threats from suspected warriors.

He noted that some villages in the sub-counties of Lopei, Lokopo, and Lotome are very distant from the military installations and this puts them at high risk of being attacked.

Kodet appealed to the government to tighten security in the targeted areas such that people will be able to cultivate without fear.

Denis Okori, the Napak Resident District Commissioner said that the security forces already have the intelligence about the planned attacks and measures have been put in place to protect the communities.

Okori said they have designed strategic plans on how the deployment will be conducted and therefore farmers should not get worried because the government is trying everything possible to ensure there is peace.

He also confirmed receipt of the phone used for sending threats and it has been taken to the Internal Security Organization for tracking.

Okori urged the communities not to worry but instead clear the gardens for farming in order to fight hunger in the families as security does its part to protect them.

Last year, the residents of Napak district suspended the use of oxen for ploughing over fears of being attacked by suspected warriors. The cattle were only kept from the confined kraals and only released during the day for grazing, and returned in the evening when the army took responsibility for keeping them.

Original Source: URN via The Independent

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Mbarara struggling to contain Rift Valley Fever, no livestock quarantine yet



The government is reluctant at imposing the livestock quarantine on Mbarara despite registering five confirmed cases of death among humans resulting from Rift Valley Fever, the Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Turyabagyenyi Kateera has revealed.

According to Kateera , when they informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries about the outbreak, they deployed a team on the ground to manage the situation. Mbarara District Veterinary Officer, Andrew Bakashaba, says that registered fifty cows infected by Rift Valley Fever in Rwanyamahembe Sub County on different farms.

He, however, says that they are currently managing the situation through sensitization. Bakashaba has warned residents against eating meat from animals that have died on their own, noting that Rift Valley Fever is only transmitted from animals to humans through infected meat.

He has also asked people to always watch out for meat that has a veterinary medical stamp as proof that it’s been tested and found to be clean. Turyabagyenyi said that they have directed extension workers to hold engagement and sensitization meetings with farmers and livestock traders on how to do self-preservation on their farms and the movement of animals.

PHOTO: The Jenner Institute

He said they asked the Ministry of Agriculture to hold on imposing a quarantine as they monitor the situation on the ground noting that if the situation goes out of hand they would be left without any choice but to announce the quarantine.

He says they have deployed veterinary doctors at all known slaughter slabs and asked them to double-check the meat before and after it is delivered to butchers.  Dr. Richard Atuhairwe, the in-charge of Bwizibwera Health Centre IV, says that the disease was detected among 30 people, and results from Uganda Virus Research Institute returned positive.  He says that five of the thirty have since died.

Rift Valley Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever that is most commonly seen in domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats and can also cause illness in people. It is caused by the Rift Valley Virus. Meanwhile, a Quarantine has been imposed on Byembogo Village in Nyabisirira Town Council after a case of foot and mouth disease was confirmed on one farm.

Turyabagyenyi says a farm belonging to one Mr. Mungonya with over 1500 cattle had been stopped from sending out cattle and animal products like milk from the farm. He says that they have also temporarily closed the Kyeshema livestock market that is shared between Kiruhura and Mbarara districts noting that Kiruhura had last week closed its side.

He says they are now moving to vaccinate all animals in the village as they monitor the situation.

Original Source: URN via  The independent

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