Wednesday February 24 2016

Regulate commercial sugarcane growers

By Jimmy Taliwula

Sugarcane growing has spread to the other parts of the country in a way that is unexplainable. This is evident to mostly the eastern part of the country.

The government has been in support of this with it’s reason being increased sugar production in the country. But the challenge is that, whether sugar is in full production or not, the prices remain high. And what is even more disturbing is that the labourers that work in these sugar factories are underpaid. And worse still, the workers’ lives are at a risk due to lack of protective gear.

Food production has also greatly reduced in the eastern region due to the change from food crop growing to sugarcane growing hence the region is most likely to be threatened by famine. Research has it that where sugar cane has been grown, that land becomes dormant, it loses fertility. So the few people that have realised this and wanted to change from sugarcane growing to other crop growing, have found it very difficult.

In early 2014, I traversed places like Jinja, Mayuge, Kigulu and Kaliro districts and I was saddened. It’s quite unbelievable that these districts were once food baskets, in fact as we talk now, the former plantations of maize, bananas, cassava, potatoes, etc are now sugarcane plantations.

The outgrowers have on several occasions complained about the little money that sugarcane companies give to them in exchange of their sugarcane plantations.

It’s in these very places where you hear of people who can’t afford basic necessities like healthcare (suffer from jiggers infestation), shelter ( still stay in grass thatched houses), etc.
When it comes to the dry season, the situation here worsens due to the too much dust that is raised by the trucks that collect sugar cane. This also puts the lives of the residents at a risk in terms of health. And most of these trucks are in dangerous mechanical conditions and yet they are overloaded hence putting the lives of other road users in danger.

I think our government should come up and intervene in this by regulating this sector. Much as we need increase sugar production, we can’t ignore the fact that food crop growing is also important in this country, what we need to do is to strike a balance.
Jimmy Taliwula,