The construction of an agro-industrial park meant to add value to farmers’ produce in Kabarole District has not commenced, three years after the works were commissioned.
To kick-start the works, Kabarole local government gave away 100 acres of land in Kyembogo, Rwegaju Sub-county.
The park was meant to benefit farmers from all the eight districts in Rwenzori Sub-region, with emphasis on value addition to their produce.
Upon the commissioning of the industrial park, farmers were encouraged to grow crops such as bananas, coffee, tea and cocoa. However, farmers’ hopes are now fading away since the site has since been abandoned.
The farmers say they have made losses because they cannot find market for their surplus produce.
Mr James Musiime, one of the affected farmers in Busoro Sub-county, said they were contacted in 2018 and assured that the government would buy their produce and process them, but they have waited in vain.
“We expected to sell our produce at attractive prices, but instead, we have incurred huge losses since we cannot find market for the produce,” Mr Musiime said. The industrial park was also planned to create employment for both professionals and casual labourers.
“We want our leaders to come out and explain the next move,” Mr Musiime said.
On September 21, 2018, Gen Salim Saleh, the coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), while commissioning the works, said the project would improve the farmers’ livelihoods.
The agro-industrial park was to be implemented under the Agri-Led programme for the Rwenzori Sub-region.
The initiative was started by Gen Saleh as a poverty alleviation drive.
Ms Agnes Kasiime, a maize farmer, accused the government of making empty promises.
“All we see are signposts directing us to the bushy industrial park. We are stuck with our maize,” Ms Kasiime said.
In November last year, during the Kabarole budget conference, a section of local leaders tasked the chief administrative officer, Ms Phionah Sanyu, to explain why the construction of the park had stalled.
The district chairperson, Mr Richard Rwabuhinga, said the locals needed answers to what became of the project.
“We need to prioritise this project and allocate the funding,” he said.
Ms Sanyu said the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) would inject Shs4 billion to get a consultant to carry out physical planning for the establishment of the park, but the promise is yet to yield any progress.
For Kabarole, the development plan under the agri-led project was valued at Shs55 billion for three years with the main focus on the establishment of agro-processing factories.
Mr Michael Kisembo, an official in charge of the agri-led project, said they are still doing a master plan for the industrial park.
“The master plan is being development by Uganda Development Cooperation. It will identify how plots of land will be allocated for establishment of industries,” Mr Kisembo said.
The idea to start an agro-industrial park came into existence when Gen Saleh camped in Kabarole District and other districts in Rwenzori Sub-region in 2018 and convinced the district leaders to embrace the initiative. The objective is to add value to farmers’ produce, create jobs for the people and fight poverty in the region. In January 2019, funds worth Shs600 b were budgeted for as development plan for all districts in Rwenzori sub-region. The districts were expected to receive money in three phases.