How Lake Victoria fishermen will benefit from parish model

Fishermen engage in fish cage farming in Masese, Jinja City. With PDM, such fishermen are expected to expand their businesses. PHOTO / DENIS EDEMA 

What you need to know:

  • The Parish Development Model (PDM) is a new government programme to lift more than 3 million peasant households into the money economy.
  • In this third instalment of our series, PDM and making money, our reporters Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Sylvester Ssemugenyi, Wilson Kutamba & Denis Ssebwami detail how the fishermen around the lake are ready to benefit from the programme.

When UPDF was deployed on the lakes to eliminate illegal fishing due to dwindling fish stocks, majority fishermen were forced to quit the trade.

Others had long left due to lack of government support.

Those operating on Lake Victoria had for long appealed to the government to facilitate them to boost the industry as well as conserve fish stocks in vain.

They say they had never benefitted from any of the government poverty alleviation interventions, owing to the peculiar nature of their trade.

Currently, the high fuel prices have increased the fishermen’s operational costs.

Some now decline to take on long routes as a way of avoiding high operational costs and this has pushed fish prices up, and it’s feared many will quit the business.

The good news though is that the government has mobilised them to benefit from the Parish Development Model.

Faced with numerous challenges, majority spend the day on the lake fishing and sometimes this extends into the night.

With the new PDM programme, which is underway, a section of fishermen say it could be their life and soul.

In Buvuma District, which has an estimated population of 130,000 people on 52 islands, a total of 38 savings and credit cooperative societies (Saccos) have so far registered for PDM, with each receiving  She 5.9m instead of the initial Shs17m. 

According to Mr Zebio Wasswa, the Buvuma information officer, the money so far received is yet to be utilised by individual Saccos.

“There were certain things we needed to fix first before authorising the Saccos to access the money. The information we are getting from government is that, money will be coming in instalments and we are yet to receive more funds and each Sacco will get its allotted budget as planned,” he says.

However, Mr Yunus Maganda, the chairperson of Nairambi Sub-county, is worried that some densely populated parishes may find difficulty in utilising the PDM funds.

“Some parishes have an average of 10,000 people, but they are receiving the same amount of money like those that are sparsely populated, I think that is unfair,” he opines 

“Secondly, imagine a Sacco of 30 groups receiving only Shs5 million, how are they going to divide that money among themselves?” he wonders.

According to the PDM implementation guidelines, parish chiefs are the principal signatories to the bank accounts of all the groups in each parish and are also the chief coordinators.

Mr Adrian Wasswa Ddungu, the chairperson of Buvuma District, says despite the challenges associated with the programme at the start, they are happy that a government-led poverty alleviation intervention is coordinated at the parish level. 

“In the past, people used to bring citrus and coffee seedlings and dump them at the district headquarters without first carrying out a needs assessment survey, but this time procurement of what is needed by the groups will be  in the hands of the beneficiaries themselves ,which I think is good,“ he says.

“What we are doing as leaders, is to encourage our people to form groups and participate in trainings so that they understand the programme very well,” he adds

However, to ensure a successful PDM, a supportive infrastructure such as community roads, water for production and connectivity to sources of affordable and reliable energy are key enablers.

Social services too such as health, education, good housing, sanitation and hygiene are also a pre-requisite for improved livelihood. However, many parishes across Uganda still lack such basic amenities.

But Mr John Baptist Sserwanja, the chairperson of Bugaya Sub-county in Buvuma District, is optimistic that PDM being the vehicle of development at the parish level, service delivery will gradually improve.

“Once our people embrace this concept (PDM), interventions towards improving service delivery will be effected in a coordinated manner, at the parish level and meaningful change will be visible,” he explains.

Category of beneficiaries

In Kalangala Islands, the targeted beneficiaries are clustered in 17 Saccos but six of these are going to be considered  in the first phase  of  the programme venturing into poultry, piggery and fish smoking, according to Mr Geoffrey Ntabazi, the district PDM focal person.

These include; Ward B Kalangala Town Council  PDM Sacco, Bujumba Bujumba PDM Sacco, Kayunga Mugoye PDM Sacco, Lulamba Bufumira PDM Sacco, Bubeke Bubeke PDM Sacco and Buzingo Kyamuswa PDM Sacco .

“The mobile fishers, locally known as Babaliya, are not included in the first roll out of the progamme. However, they will go through the assessment at household level by the Parish Development Model chairperson before they are given money,” he says.

But Mr Robert Munaaba, the chairperson of Bufumira Sub-county, is pessimistic about the success of the programme in the area.  

 “Whichever business investment you think of in the islands, it has a connection to fishing, so the Shs1 million government plans to give individual households is too little  to make meaningful investment,” he says .

Other beneficiaries plan to invest the money in rice growing which may put pressure on the existing wetlands and forests in the area.

“Among the key well-known factors of production is land. In  Kalangala, we lack enough  land and enterprises that require a lot of space may not be sustainable,”he adds 

At both Lambu and Bukakkata fish landing sites in Masaka District, residents are planning to use the PDM funds for fish farming, horticulture and other related agriculture projects.

According to Mr Vincent Sseruli, the chairperson of Lambu Fish Farming Association, they have already set up fish cages, but lack feeds.

“Our group already mobilised some funds for buying fish cages and they are available, but we have only two. So, we want to use the PDM funds to buy more cages and fish feeds to aid and sustain our fish farming project,” he says.

Mr Sseruli reveals that Bukibonga Parish in Bukakkata Sub-county is the only parish out of the three (Makonzi and Ssunga) that received the initial Shs17m for PDM and awaits approval so that the Saccos can start accessing  the funds.

Ms Ritah Nuwamanya, the chairperson of Bukakkata Horticulture Sacco, says she is optimistic that PDM will improve their incomes and livelihood because local people will be managing their own Saccos and have full control over the money.

“It has been so difficult for us the poor people to get loans due to lack of collateral security and other bureaucratic related requirements for loans, but PDM will be an inclusive vehicle without discrimination,” she says.

She notes that Bukakkata Women Horticulture group is planning to use the PDM money to bolster their horticulture business.

“Given the availability of water and favourable weather conditions along Lake Victoria shores, we are going to use that money for boosting our horticulture venture as a side income to our fish sun drying and smoking  business,” Ms Nuwamanya says.

Mr John Rodger Mutebi, the head of Bukibonga Parish Fishers Sacco,   notes   that the parish has six associations with members dealing in bee keeping, piggery, fish farming, horticulture, coffee farming and poultry.

“The Sacco has already received money (Shs17 million) on their accounts and we are waiting for applications from associations to give them their share,” he says.

Mr Mutebi is optimistic that the government target of fighting household

What residents say
 Maria Nakitende, farmer in Bugala B, Kalangala Town Council: Once I get that money, I will venture into smoking fish because it is a business where I can make some money yet it doesn’t require a lot of capital. 
 Tonny Jjumba, resident of Zzitwe Buikwe District: We specialise  in fish farming and we  have been borrowing money from the village banks  to buy fish feeds and pay back in a period of three months yet harvest happens after eight months, which has been a big challenge. We are happy that we are going to get money and pay back after harvesting.                                         

Teddy Nakaggwa, resident of Lugala Ssi Sub-county, Buikwe:  We received Shs 16 million from government  and so far 12 groups have been formed and registered, most of them are interested in  farming and we have been attending workshops to know how the project will run. However since this is  a rural setting,  more training sessions are needed before money is released.

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