Benefits of retaining Mabira forest can outlast gains from oil exploration
Posted Friday, January 18 2013 at 15:58
In all President Museveni’s speeches about oil, he has clearly stated that the anticipated oil revenue shall not be squandered on fat salaries and allowances. Instead, it will be utilised on development of infrastructure and promotion of agriculture and its related industries.
One such industry directly linked to agriculture is sugar manufacture which has readily available markets in East and Central Africa .
In my view hastening to sell Mabira forest to an investor is to surrender a vital area of investment and deprive Ugandan nationals of this prospective area they would have ventured into on their own, given the wealth of their experience and exposure in working with investors.
To a superficial observer, Mabira forest is a big chunk of idle land but its value is beyond imagination considering the dividends to be minted thereof for generations in comparison with Kakira and Lugazi Sugar works.
Those seeking its sale should consider its worth as an investment that will outlast oil.
Besides this, the task of sugar cane growing is not complicated and has often thrived on out-growers schemes, implying that Ugandans just need facilitation to do the job.
If government can afford road construction and maintenance equipment for its local administrations, it can afford tractors and irrigation equipment for sugar cane growing.
Such equipment should be supplied to districts with large swaths of uncultivated land to provide raw materials for industrial establishments in sugar manufacture.
This would be an opportunity to raise household incomes in these far off rural areas. It is high time government prepared for and launched partnership investments instead of relying solely on investors who prefer specific locations for their own advantage.
Not to forget, the sugar industry involves many risks and needs the good will and blessing of the people of Uganda .
In future saboteurs and arsonists could set ablaze large acreage of sugar cane in the guise of avenging the once beautiful Mabira forests that were destroyed . Such criminals could easily win sympathy and support.
Who will compensate the investor when he incurs such heavy losses? Who will pay for the costs of fencing, fire fighting and shoot to kill guards to curb such casualties? Let oil sales begin and let Mabira survive.