We need more value from oil projects - Buliisa leaders

A number of project affected persons have been trained and supported with equipment, among which include skills to repair motorcycles, tailoring and catering. Photo | Paul Murungi

What you need to know:

According to Norah Bigirwa Nyendwoha, the Buliisa District Woman MP, whereas oil and gas is a fresh chapter in the economic history of Uganda, it should be used to change the lives of host communities.   

Oil tends to bring a lot of issues – many negative - for communities affected by associated projects. 

However, leaders in the oil rich Albertine region don’t have space for issues. In fact, they want oil companies to ensure that they deliver lasting value to communities within the Albertine region. 

Bigirwa Nyendwoha, is the Buliisa District Woman MP Norah and she passionately believes that the oil and gas is a new dawn in the western district and a fresh chapter in the economic history of Uganda. 

Buliisa is part of the Albertine region and Nyendwoha says the district should benefit from the country’s turnaround through inclusive and grassroots growth. 

At the handover of startup kits to 104 project affected persons by Total Energies in Kirama village, Ngwedu Sub-county in Buliisa, Nyendwoha said: “I want to pray that you bring all communities on board. As a leader, I represent a full district in the oil region, and don’t only benefit one sub-county because we are all project affected persons.”

Oil projects have been anxiously received in different parts of Uganda. However, they have also come with some fears. 

Therefore, Nyendwoha says, there is need to address the issue of national content more equitably if communities are going to fully benefit. 

For instance, she says, oil projects should source much of its employees from within project areas with an allowance to bring in specilised resources in the event they don’t exist in the region. 

For this, he argues, casual labourers and mid-level managers must come from within the Albertine Graben. 

Away from Nyendwoha, Fred Lukumu, the Buliisa District chairperson, says oil companies and the government must be deliberate on uplifting project affected communities by supporting skilling programmes, among which include construction of a skilling centre for oil communities within the district. 

In his view, Lukumu says, the Kirama Vocational Institute, which is Buliisa’s pioneer skilling centre, should be reawakened after stalling for years due to lack of resources.

“Buliisa has no single vocational school,” he says and notes: “We have not operationalised the one we have because of financial and logistical challenges. We made our submission to the TotalEnergies and it remains our top priority.” 

The vocational institute, he says, would, in addition to saving costs incurred on skilling students from other districts, be a source of employment.   

TotalEnergies, which has several oil projects including the Industrial Area in Ngwedu Sub-county in Buliisa, has been ramping up efforts to support project affected persons by providing start-up kits under the Resettlement Action Plan to help people in project affected communities to set up income generating activities.  

The support followed completion of various skills training programmes, among them tailoring, hairdressing, mechanics, plumbing, catering and welding through which different start-up kits were identified and offered to trainees as startup support. 

Future Options, a human resource consulting firm contracted under Total Energies provided the training to 100 project affected persons for a period of 12 months, in which a needs assessment was conducted in Kisomere, Kirama, Kasenyi and Kilima villages in Buliisa. 

Anthony Oroga, a project affected person, and beneficiary of the training as a motorcycle mechanic said he had achieved key modules such as servicing an engine, maintaining brake systems, and carrying out daily morning checks.

“The training is more than the amount of money which I was compensated for because it is a lifelong skill,” he said.  

The programmes also covered business management training, vocational training, vulnerable group support, employment linkages and monitoring and evaluation. 

TotalEnergies Deputy General Manager Mariam Nampeera Mbowa, said the support is part of the company’s strategy and commitment to empower project affected persons through a Global Livelihood Restoration programme. 

The programme seeks to restore, transition and improve livelihoods by leveraging available household livelihood resources post-resettlement.