By Ali Mambule
Masaka district originally shared borders with Mpigi district at Lwera and stretched up to Tanzania at Mutukula. It also touched Lake Victoria and in the south connected with Mbarara district.
Several districts have since been carved out of Masaka. These are Rakai, which was created in the early 1970s and in 2006, was also sub-divided to form Lyantonde district. Other districts carved out of Masaka are Kalangala, Lwengo, Kalungu and Bukomansimbi. Masaka currently comprises nine sub-counties including Masaka Municipality which has three divisions. The sub-counties are Kabonera, Kyannamukaaka, Kyesiiga, Buwunga, Mukungwe and Bukakatta together with Nyendo-Ssenyange division, Katwe-Butego and Kimaanya-Kyabakuza division which form the only municipality.
The mother district, however, still carries many burdens. According to Ruhemba Kweyamba, the chief administrative officer, all the veterans who lived in the districts that were created from Masaka still claim their pensions from there.
“Pensioners including teachers, medical workers and other government staffs who worked under Masaka district administration come to us for their pension although their former work stations are now in the new districts,” Kweyamba says.
This is one of the biggest challenges Masaka is facing given the fact that its major revenue sources were taken by the divisions that now form the new districts. Revenue sources like markets and landing sites where Masaka district used to collect a lot of tax are now in the new districts.
The district currently has a population of about 280,000 people with over 60,000 households. About 6.6% of these households do not have decent latrines. There are 37 shallow wells and 57 boreholes in the entire district. Dr. Stuart Musisi, the district medical officer, says Masaka has two Health Centre IVs, eight Health Centre IIIs and 18 Health Centre IIs.
Betty Namagembe, the district education officer says there are 78 primary schools under the Universal Primary Education with a total of 9,082 pupils. Of these 4,967 are boys and 4,115 girls. The district has 22 Universal Secondary Education schools with a population of 4,834 students.
Namagembe believes more children would be in school, but parents who have failed to embrace UPE and USE programmes account for the shortfall.
“We are mobilising local leaders at the the village and sub-county levels to help us look for those children who are not in school,” Namagembe says.
She says some parents instead of sending their children to school, engage them in their garden work. She, however, says some pupils dropout of school after failing to get necessities like uniforms, lunch, books, pens and pencils, which are supposed to be provided by the parents and guardians.
For a long time, Masaka has depended on agriculture which is still a major source of income. However, most people are engaged in subsistence farming which does not generate enough income.
Prossy Mutumba, the district agriculture officer says many people are engaged in piggery, cattle keeping, poultry and goat rearing.
“Coffee farming, pineapple, passion fruits and maize have also attracted great attention of farmers but cassava and banana growers are worried about pests and diseases that keep destroying their plantations,” Mutumba says. She says coffee plantations are also facing the same the same problem. Drought is yet another challenge for farmers since they cannot afford irrigating their gardens.
Joseph Kalungi the LC 5 chairperson believes that with the debt burden which Masaka district is currently having, little can be done to boost development.
“For the good of our region, the districts that were carved out of Masaka should join hands with us to settle some of the debts. We cannot even repair the district chairperson’s official vehicle which requires only sh8m,”he point out.
Since the abolition of cultural institutions, Masaka district administration has been operating in the Buganda Kingdom’s county headquarters.
“We are constructing our own home and we will leave the Kabaka’s property which we have occupied for years,” Kalungi says. The first phase of the building located at Bbooma hill in Masaka municipality will soon be completed.