Fish project fetches Bugiri women Shs4.5b in three years

A member of Women Economic Empowerment Bugiri (WEEB) Uganda Limited feeds one of their fish cages at Wakawaka Landing Site in Bulidha Sub-county Bugiri District last week. PHOTO/PHILIP WAFULA 

What you need to know:

  • Mr Kalikwani further suggested that in the subsequent budgets, the government increased women's access to the Parish Development Model (PDM) from 30 percent to 50 percent or to even 60 percent
  • The Senior Assistant Secretary Bugiri District Local Government, Mr Yakub Byakika, said the project contributes Shs960,000 in local revenue annually

At least 1,400 rural women are benefiting from a $795,000 (about Shs2.8b) cage fish farming project which was started at Wakawaka Landing Site, Bulidha Sub-county in Bugiri District three years ago.

The Women Economic Empowerment Bugiri (WEEB) Uganda Limited originated from a three-year project titled “Increasing Women Economic Empowerment through Cage Fish Farming in Bugiri District” between January 2018 and December 31, 2021.

Funded by UN Women and other development partners, the project sought to transform poor rural women from vulnerability to an economic empowerment space with enhanced food and nutrition security in their households, and transform WEEB (U) Ltd into a centre of excellence by 2030.

The project also sought to increase women economic empowerment through cage fish farming and create market linkages through increased partnerships; and also make women have income security, decent work and economic autonomy by 2025.

Benefits

The WEEB (U) Ltd chief executive officer, Ms Immaculate Were, now ssays between 2020 and 2023, the women have harvested about 594 tons of tilapia fish worth Shs4.4b and are currently producing at full capacity.

According to Ms Were, each ton of tilapia fish costs between Shs7.5m and Shs8m.

“All the 28 cages can be stocked in order to produce fish, and each cage has the capacity of producing between ten and 12 tons of fish,” Ms Were said in a brief interview.

She adds: “The women benefit by earning from the labour they offer and at the end of 2023, we were able to make some profits and each woman was paid Shs100,000 in dividends.”

Ms Were further explains that they have acquired four additional acres of land on which they have established a black soldier fly project to process fish feeds, while gender relations have improved and reduced domestic violence.

“The women have earned respect from their spouses; in fact, some of their husbands call me concerned that the wife hasn’t gone to work which will contribute to domestic needs.

“Culturally, women aren’t supposed to work on water bodies, but their men have accepted, thereby breaking cultural norms and leading to equitable sharing of the fisheries resources,” Ms Were adds.

The Senior Assistant Secretary Bugiri District Local Government, Mr Yakub Byakika, said the project contributes Shs960,000 in local revenue annually.

“Whenever donors offer support and withdraw, a project gets issues, but we are working with WEEB (U) Ltd to ensure that it goes a long way,” Mr Byakika said.


The Wakawaka Village LC1 chairman, Mr Fazil Wairaka, says men who used to complain towards their wives are now happy that they are directly benefiting from this programme. “That is why I am telling the women to never leave the lake,” he said.

Ms Zephraim Soita, a member of WEEB (U) Ltd, says one leaves a projects and starts a business; but as for now, they are no longer being referred to as “the UN”, while Ms Evelyn Auma, also a member, says she is always on the lake either fishing or patrolling.

Challenges

Despite the achievements, Ms Were says they need support to construct a hatchery, establish a land-based recirculating aquaculture system, and increase investment to accommodate up to 2,000 women.

Whereas they have made the wealth, Ms Were says 75 percent of it goes to only fish feeds, the reason they are calling out for help in getting a fish feed mill at a lower cost.

“I am also calling for retail outlets to support the women in smaller groups because 90 percent of the market are owners of the project,” she said, adding that they also need an ice plant so that they can have a consistent supply of ice.

According to Ms Were, there is no ice plant in the whole of this area, with the nearest place being Jinja whose production level she said is so low.

“If we have an ice plant, it will be another facet of bringing in money because most of our traders come from Busia; and where we want to put the ice plant is just along the Bugiri-Busia highway,” she added.

It has been established that the project had an ice plant from which fishmongers and sellers buying fish to take to their business purchased the ice; however, it collapsed when fish catches from Lake Victoria reduced. Subsequently, there was a significant reduction in the demand for ice.

Mr Moses Tabbu, the manager of the defunct ice plant, says it was lobbied for by the late State Minister for Fisheries, Mr Fred Mukisa, commissioned in 2007, but only worked for one year and malfunctioned.

Way forward

Bugiri Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Paul Mwidu Kalikwani, sas he needs to see many women benefit from this intervention.

“Bugiri has 500,000 people, out of which 300,000 are women; but of these 300,000 women, only 1,400 are benefiting from the project,” Mr Kalikwani said.

He suggested sitting down with the District Local Government to see how they can locally manage the population distribution against a small resource envelope.

“The 2014 National Housing and Population Census put us at 34 million people, but out of those, the majority are youth and women; the women, in comparison with other categories, are many,” Mr Kalikwani said.

According to Mr Kalikwani, women need special intervention because they are progressing well in managing government programmes compared to men.

He said: If this WEEB project was being managed by men, we could only find excuses and no work, but women are progressing well. There are success stories in the district from women doing poultry, piggery and so on.”

Mr Kalikwani further suggested that in the subsequent budgets, the government increased women's access to the Parish Development Model (PDM) from 30 percent to 50 percent or to even 60 percent.

In the 2024/2025 budget announced by Finance Minister, Mr Matia Kasaija, last week, Shs1.059tn has been earmarked for the PDM, meaning each parish shall get an additional Shs100m to benefit more households.

Ms Anne Magdalene Solbu Kleiven, the deputy director in the Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs in the Norwegian government, on behalf of the funders, says their role is to protect gender equality and hailed the women for breaking into the male-dominated fishing activity.