IF the Conqueror of the British Empire, Idi Amin Dadaâ€™s armyâ€™s dreams were to come true, Nakasongola would have been the base of Ugandaâ€™s airforce.
â€œThe pilots of the MiG-17 jets used to train there. They would taxi underground and pop out after gathering momentum to take off,â€ John Odit, a former soldier in the Uganda Army in the 1970s, says with nostalgia.
â€œUnfortunately 11 of the jets were destroyed on June 4, 1976 during the raid on Entebbe.â€
After the attack, there were no jets to dog fight, nosedive and release patterns of smoke spelling the name Uganda in the clouds. More than 25 years have gone by, but the miniature town remains best known for a UPDF Airforce an artillery training school it still hosts and a pastoral lifestyle.
This is Nakasongola, a place of myths and real life tales. Today, the residents are all smiles. This follows the completion of the Wabigalo-Nakasongola-Sasira road, connecting the district headquarters to the Kampala-Gulu highway.
For a fare of sh1,000, the journey takes 10 minutes on a boda boda. This way you get to enjoy the breeze from the swamps or the perfect view of the panoramic hills.
Reconstruction work is being undertaken at a cost of $6m (about sh13.8b.)
A boda boda operator Salim Nkugwe says â€œBefore work on the road commenced, the potholes were so big. But today, the 21km stretch connecting us to the highway is smooth.â€
Already, the road is attracting more taxis plying the Gulu/Kampala Highway. There are travellers who use a ferry from Nakasongola to Lira, Shengebe and Namasale. Residents have access to almost all telephone networks.
To keep law and order, the Uganda Police is challenged by a pastoral life style. Parents have children herding cows instead of going to school. The probation officer, Irene Sanyu, says, dropping out of school due to early or forced marriages is still a common occurrence.
World Vision programme manager, Moses Kadobela says a home, to a pastoralist, is where there is water and pasture for the livestock.
â€œPastoralists have no permanent addresses,â€ says Kadobela. â€œBut this lifestyle is slowly changing as they adopt modern farming methods.â€
Soon families in Nakasongola expect to benefit from Universal Primary Education and NAADS programmes.
â€œOur lives economically, socially and politically are dictated, largely, by livestock,â€ says Roscoe Segujja. â€œFor bride price it is cows, insurance is cows and social status are measured upon the size of the kraal.â€
For a place that is located 130km north of Kampala city, the farm land is diverse and the residents have found a niche in farming and ranching. Milk costs sh600 per litre and beef goes for between sh5,000 and sh6,000. Agriculture is one of the major activities in Nakasongola.
Inspite of the changing climate, residents have a steady supply of food. The produce comprises fish, cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, sorghum, bananas and millet.
But among the challenges is the unscrupulous herdsmen who sell off their employersâ€™ animals and migrate to Lango or Teso.
If you want to live in Nakasongola, a single room with shared toilets costs sh50,000 per month. A single roomed unit is between sh80,000 and sh100,000 and a full bungalow goes for sh250,000.
Land in the trading centre is much more expensive than it is in the villages. A 50 by100ft piece of land goes for between sh2m and sh5m. On the other hand, an acre of farmland costs between sh200,000 and sh600,000 in the countryside. All these prices depend on the buyerâ€™s negotiating skills.
Nakasongola a town of dreams