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Bunyoro gears up for trade as more roads, markets are completed

Biiso market, Buliisa district

Biiso market, Buliisa district

A project of Uganda government is revolutionising the infrastructure and trade access status in the Bunyoro sub-region.

The Albertine Region Sustainable Development Project (ARSDP), an undertaking of the ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, ministry of Education and Sports and Uganda National Roads Authority, has promoted inclusive and sustainable development by improving regional and local access to infrastructure, markets, services and skills development in the Albertine region.

With financial support from the International Development Agency (IDA) of the World Bank, the project’s Component 2 covered the districts of Buliisa, Kikuube, and Hoima, where new roads were rehabilitated, old ones upgraded to gravel, and markets constructed; all intended to facilitate accruement of the benefits from oil production.

Samuel Muhindo visited the three market projects in the three districts of Buliisa, Kikuube, and Hoima, and here reports. The ARSDP has been a multi-sectoral project, implemented by three agencies of Government. Component 1 was implemented by UNRA, Component 2 implemented by the ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Component 3 by the ministry of Education and Sports.

The 145 million USD project was conceived because of the need to promote an inclusive and sustainable development of the Albertine region and facilitate the accumulation emanating from the oil and gas boom. Having commenced in 2015, the project has come to the end, and wound up December 31, 2022.

The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, also the project secretariat, has successfully implemented the following:

(1) Preparation of physical development plans for nine growth centers in the sub-region;

(2) Engineering Design, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and Tender documentation for 350km of gravel roads, 10km of roads for upgrade to tarmac, 13 local markets, two fish landing sites, 25 fish cages and one animal slaughterhouse;

(3) Rehabilitation of district gravel roads totalling to 220.3km;

(4) Upgrading of 7km of urban roads in Buliisa town council, complete with solar street lighting and (5) Construction of four local markets: one at Biiso in Buliisa town council, Kabaale in Hoima district, Buhuka in Kikuube district and Walukuba in Buliisa district.

PROJECT WORK IN BULIISA DISTRICT

In Buliisa district, the ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development developed two physical development plans; one for the Biiso, which later was converted into a Town Council, and the second plan was for Wanseko.

The project rehabilitated 29.92km of district gravel roads, and 7.3km of town tarmac roads, fully fitted with solar street lighting. The project also constructed two markets, one at Biiso which was fully occupied by vendors a year ago, and the other at Walukuba, which by project closure was at substantial completion.

PROJECT IMPACT IN KIKUUBE DISTRICT

Buhuka market is located in Kikuube district. The district was also provided the most of the physical development plans; in Kabwoya, Kyaruseisa, Kyangwali, Kiziranfumbi and Buhuka.

The ministry also rehabilitated 70.3km of gravel roads including capacity building of the professional district staff like the engineers, physical planners, environment officers and community development officers.

Buhuka market is located approximately 60 miles out of Hoima city, adjacent to Lake Albert and a stone’s throw away from the prized King Fisher Exploration Area. From the entrance, the market is a beehive of activity, with Luganda, Kiswahili, Runyoro-Rutooro, and Alur dominating the vendors’ conversations.

ACHIEVEMENTS IN HOIMA DISTRICT

Under the project, Hoima district was central in the implementation. Kabaale market, already occupied, is on the way to Kabaale international airport. Hoima also benefited from two physical development plans for Kigorobya and Butema, and also eight gravel roads, totalling to 117.64km were rehabilitated.

Watson Tiraga, the vice chairperson of Biiso market management committee, said the market has registered a significant rise in the number of vendors.

“When we still operated in our old market, the highest number of vendors stood at 200 on a normal day and 500 on open market days. This number has more than doubled to over 1,000 during market days. The shelter provided by the new market has encouraged most of our vendors to become daily market vendors.

Sometimes the market is so busy that we close even after 7 pm. This was never the case in the older market. Although the customers are still few, we are hopeful that as more people get to know of the new market, the numbers will increase. Also, the presence of the water-harvesting tanks and other sources of cleaning has ensured that our waterborne toilets can easily be maintained clean.”

To encourage the involvement of all demographics in the market operations, Tiraga indicated that the market management committee had, though not in writing, emphasized encouragement of all – women, youth, men and the elderly – to register with them for a stall. “This market is for the people and everyone should benefit,” he assured.

He added: “As some vendors might have told you, we still have some challenges. We lack cold rooms and refrigerators where those that deal in perishable commodities like fish and meat can store them. Without these, vendors purchase in small quantities that can be sold in a day so that they don’t make losses when the commodities spend a night and go bad. These challenges were raised to the district leadership and they promised to work with us to find solutions”.

Mustafa Katusabe, a butcher in Biiso market

Operating inside the new Biiso market is Janet Kusemererwa. Cheekily, Kusemererwa notes that the new market has brought peace and stability into her family. The mother of five said: “Before this market was constructed, we used to work under makeshift grass-thatched stalls. Our businesses were always affected by rains and the sunshine, which made us unable to work all days of the week.

Everything has changed with the new market; I am at my stall during any day of the week because I am now shielded from the rain and the hot sunshine. Also, I now have a reliable inflow of customers. I am now able to repay my loan which requires a weekly contribution of Shs 4,000. I am also able to pay the fees of my three children in school. There’s relative peace at home because we now have more than one revenue stream. I am grateful to the government for the market.”

“The only challenge I have registered so far is that the tables on which we operate are raised too highly yet the contractor did not cater for matching seats. In some cases, some of my colleagues have been forced to sit on top of the table with their goods! The strong ones opt to stand. I would also wish that they would have offered us slightly wider stalls with individual stores where we could store our goods at the end of the day instead of returning with them back home,” she added.

Like other women operating in Biiso market, Kusemererwa testified that the involvement of women in production or trade activities contributes to the growth of household wealth.

Fred Lukumu, the chairperson of local council five, Buliisa district, said the new markets were very timely and desirable for the business communities in Biiso and Walukuba to develop.

“Since the world is advancing, we needed standardized markets and we have received them. These markets shall help our vendors and other people from Buliisa to raise the standards and quality of services that they offer. When a market and roads are established in any area, the production capacity of the community grows.

For any business-minded community, a good road and a ready market are a spark for development. On the other hand, as the local government council, we are confident that when the production capacity of our people improves, then the revenues of the district will also be increased because the two are interlinked.”

Lukumu added: “These same issues [raised by vendors of Biiso market] have been communicated to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development by the district leadership but I think there’s little that can be done at the moment since the project is already completed; we might have to improvise to cater for the weather challenge. About the stalls, the adjustments can be done on individual basis following the market designs”.

“For Walukuba market, which is still un- der construction, some of these changes will be considered. I came into the office when some of these projects were underway and we couldn’t change much. I am confident that Walukuba market will have stores, cold rooms for perishable commodities and provisions to protect the vendors from weather changes. Unlike other markets which are now completed, Walukuba delayed because the contractors didn’t start according to schedule. They linked this to the absence of funds, and global challenges caused by the Russia-Ukraine war which affected the supply of commodities necessary in the construction.

“As the district, however, we shall effect payments only after the work has been completed and our people have moved in. The rates charged on the vendors to operate in the market shall be revised in the process. Our communities are also aware that we don’t have enough resources to run the market. We have to charge a small amount to ensure that it is functional”

Sarah Kawa, the vice chairperson of the Buhuka market vendors’ committee, indicated that the new market with several languages spoken had become a gateway for daily cross-border trade.

“The market has given a good physical address for our business partners and customers that cross the lake from DR Congo to come and do business with us. In fact, the number of vendors has more than tripled. The market is now very busy for the bigger part of the week.”

Despite the benefits the market has brought to the community of Buhuka, Kawa complained about the market’s architectural design. “Those who designed this market forgot that it was next to a lake. When it rains and there’s some slight wind, the entire water blows from the lake into the market.

Before the market was completed, they informed us that they would either drill for us a borehole or tap rainwater. Instead, the contractors decided to connect the water for the market on the community source of water. Every time this happens, the community goes for three days without water. We cannot go on without water in our homes!”

However, when interviewed the ARSDP project communications Specialist Ms Sheila Naturinda said during the construction of the market, the contractor found all the underground water in the whole of Buhuka area very salty and not fit for human consumption. That was the reason the borehole, earlier promised was not delivered.

She added that after the consultations with the leadership of the community and the district, it was agreed that the market be connected to the CNOOC-established gravity water scheme in the interim, as the district devises means of future water supply in the area.

“We are also charged highly to use this market. We have raised concerns, but this falls on deaf ears. A bag of 100kg is charged Shs 8,000; Shs 4,000 is charged for the stall and Shs 500 for the market. All these are daily charges. It is as if we are working for the tenderer instead of working for ourselves!” Kawa complained.

Responding to claims raised by the vendors, Peter Banura, the Local Council Five chairperson for Kikuube district, said the district would devise possible means through which the tenderer and the market vendors could co-exist, without one thinking they are being cheated.

“We intend to continue sensitizing the people that the market has to be sustained by them. Even if the market is for free, the market needs maintenance. These people have suffered a lot with the activities of the fisheries protection unit. We are trying to redirect them to see that they comfortably settle in the market as an alternative source of income. I pledge to journey with them through this turbulent transition in economic activity from fishing to other activities,” Banura said.

Commenting on the roads in his district, Banura said, “We are grateful to the government for considering the roads. Before we became a district, we had always advocated for these roads to be created.”

Kikuube has received six roads; three in Buhimba sub-county, one in Kiziranfumbi and two in Kyangwali. He added: “When you have a road opened up, middlemen shall be dealt away with; farmers will now be able to directly interact with buyers from any area beyond Bunyoro. Farmers will also have value for their products and easily access the markets because of the interconnectivity.

Herman Saidi, aged 18, operates within Buhuka market. Staying with his grandfather, Saidi said he chose to get a stall in the market after his father refused to pay school fees for him.

He told The Observer, “At the start of the first term of my senior three, my father told me he had no money to help me proceed with studying. I decided to sell my three goats at Shs 500,000, and used the money to buy some commodities which I used to start my business. The new market has enabled me to support my grandfather. I am also hoping that when my business makes more profits, I can sponsor myself for a technical course. I can no longer return into the mainstream secondary school because the curriculum was changed. The best I can do is to enrol for a technical course instead.”

samuelmhindo@gmail.com

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