Mr Petero Kiiza has for more than 20 years struggled to transport food to Hoima District central market. The 47-year-old resident of Buseruka Sub-county is a subsistence farmer who has for long braved a bumpy and dusty road as he transports food to Hoima Town for sell. “I now find it easier and faster to access the market which is about 13km away from my home because of the tarmac road,” Mr Kiiza, who uses a bicycle to access the market, said. He is among the several residents who are tapping the opportunities that have come with the tarmacking of the 92km Hoima-Kaiso-Tonya Road.
The road links Hoima, a town clamouring for oil city status, to the Kaiso Tonya areas where Tullow Oil has discovered commercially viable oil deposits. The government contracted Kolin Construction, a Turkish firm, to upgrade the road from gravel to paved standard. But it is not only the road that is changing the lives of the rural communities in Hoima. Communities are accessing electricity from Kabalega Hydropower Dam, which was early this year commissioned by President Museveni.
Kabalega Power Dam
The dam, which is generating 9MW of power, is providing electricity to rural and urban areas of Bunyoro. Bunyoro Affairs state minister Ernest Kiiza has urged people in the region to tap oil-related opportunities. He said the government is taking deliberate steps to improve infrastructure in Bunyoro.
Besides the Kabalega dam, Bunyoro will have a second hydropower project when the construction of Karuma dam takes off. As such, the infrastructural development projects have started attract ing investors to Hoima and Bunyoro in general.
Small scale investors have opened up maize mills, hotels, saloons, supermarkets along the Hoima-Kaiso-Tonya road which also links to the Kabalega dam. There has also been the emergency of roadside markets which provide small scale farmers with opportunities to sell their products to people plying the road.
Kabaale, Bukerenge, Karongo, Kibanjwa, Buhiga and Bulemwa, Nyakabingo villages are getting transformed into townships as they receive more residents and new mushrooming permanent structures.
The Hoima District chairman, Mr George Bagonza, said the Kabalega Hydropower Dam has challenged the people of Hoima to industrialise. “We should now not sell raw agricultural products. Let us process them. With ready market in West Nile, Congo and Southern Sudan,” Mr Bagonza said.
The power has been wired from the dam in Buseruka Sub-county, to Kinubi Power Station in Hoima Town where it has been channelled into the national power grid. Energy minister Irene Muloni said: “As you may have realised, power supply in Hoima has stabilised. The dam has stabilised local demand,” “The excess power that cannot be consumed locally goes to the national grid.”
The power station located in Buseruka, close to the eastern shores of Lake Albert, is located approximately 37Km west of Hoima.
The power distribution line from the dam to Kinuubi substation was funded by the government at a cost of Shs4.5 billion. Ms Muloni said the communities are benefiting from the power under the Rural Electrification Programme.
While commissioning the dam, along the Wambabya River, President Museveni named it after Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro in honour for his efforts in fighting to preserve Africa’s independence during the colonial era.
The President urged the people of Bunyoro to take advantage of the developments being undertaken by the government and private investors. He urged them to increase their productivity and tap the economic benefits of infrastructural developments.
The President also told residents to preserve water catchment areas, utilise the fertile land in the region to grow more food and practice modern farming methods like fish farming.
Construction of Kabalega Hydropower commenced in 2008. The construction was carried out by Hydro Max Ltd and cost $38.8 million (about Shs100 billion). Utility Engineering Services constructed the 44km high voltage transmission line from the dam to Kinuubi Power Substation.
The finished Hoima-Kaiso-Tonya road will have a 7-metre carriage way and 2 metre shoulders in both sides of the road. The road is worth Shs314.7 billion. Kolin Construction, signed the contract for the road with the Ugandan government in August, 2011 and begun site mobilisation in December, 2011. Physical construction work commenced in May last year.
Kolin Construction road project manager, Mr Erdogan Kuyucuoglu, said the installation of asphalt concrete is underway.
“Our target is to complete the road in six months before the contractual completion date,” Mr Kuyucuoglu said. The engineer said they have constructed the tarmac road with a strong thickness which will manage the heavy traffic of oil trucks.
Mr Bagonza said the road will ease transport to oil sites and ease the mobility of agricultural and other products. The road has provided employment opportunities to Ugandans. More than 500 workers are directly employed by Kolin Construction. Mr Kuyucuoglu said the locals working in the project have obtained technological skills from experts.
Buseruka Sub-county chairman Fred Kasangaki, said the infrastructural development projects have resulted into appreciation of property values. Mr Kasangaki said an acre of land that was at about Shs500, 000 before the construction of the road and the dam, now costs more than Shs10 million.
However, not all is rosy despite the coming of the road and electricity projects.
The properties of more than 1,500 people along the road were affected by the road construction. Many have contested the compensations which they have received claiming they are not commensurate with the values of their destroyed properties.
Uganda National Roads Authority officials, however, said consultants have also prepared supplementary valuation report capturing claimants who were omitted in the original valuation.