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The deficiency of Ugandans’ ingenuity

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Added 19th September 2018 10:47 AM

We may not achieve Vision 2040 if we continue like this!

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We may not achieve Vision 2040 if we continue like this!

By Dr. Myers Lugemwa

It was not until last week, when I saw the LCV Chairman for Wakiso District literally poking with his clenched fist into the stomach of the man he had found excavating sand from Lake Victoria, possibly for export that I was obliged to write this article.

You may recall this was not the first time sand excavation from Lake Victoria was being carried out more for export by both the locals and foreigners than construction of Ugandan houses and other infrastructure.

Sand is used to provide bulk, strength, and other properties to construction materials like asphalt and concrete. It is also used as a decorative material in landscaping. Specific types of sand are used in the manufacture of glass and as a molding material for metal casting to your disbelief since some Ugandans think Entebbe Beach sand football is the only use of sand.

Glass is made from liquid sand. You can make glass by heating ordinary sand (which is mostly made of silicon dioxide) until it melts and turns into a liquid. You won't find that happening on your local beach: sand melts at the incredibly high temperature of 1700°C (3090°F). Lake Victoria sand is used for this purpose when exported and comes back to in form of glass which we procure at exorbitant prices.

 

If Ugandans are not ingenuous to themselves, why not harness this resource by investing in the glass industry with this high quality Victoria sand?

This ingenuity does not end here on lake sand. Hardly five years ago, the Nile perch fish which is used in the preparation of salmon style slices, soup concentrate, fish sausages, fish hams and fish cutlets gained external market for which Uganda earns good monies.

Unfortunately, Ugandans least know that the Nile Perch fish skin is used in making of shoes and handbags while its bones are used in ornaments. Ugandans least know that some of the expensive shoes, hand bags and ornaments we see in some supermarkets here and abroad are made from the Nile perch!

But said and done, unfortunately, the most precious part of the Nile perch is the swim bladder also referred to as mondo, maw or ennuni and whose main buyers are the wealthy Chinese and Indians. Just like a ballast in a ship, a swim bladder is a special organ which controls the buoyancy in a fish, helping it to either sink or rise.

The product goes for a fortune depending on how much it weighs with a fisherman getting paid up to ten times for the swim bladder than the price the fish flesh can go for. Regardless of the regulated processing factories illegalizing large fish catching as these big size fish are substantial spawners and so as to prevent stock recruitment, fishermen are targeting big sized perches since the larger the fish the larger the bladder. Mondo, maw or ennuni can be dubbed the Aquatic cocaine due to its price.

Scientifically, it is said that the swim bladder is used for the manufacture of bio-degradable surgical sutures which make absorbable stitches that decompose in the human tissue. The manufacturing of the bio-degradable sutures starts with the washing of the extracted fresh fish gut in water, then purified by dipping in a chemical solution and finally the smoothening and sterilization of the fibers.

It is also said that plastic casing of capsules which make capsules such amoxicillin, chloramphenicol has been replaced by the swim bladders. If it was not for lack of ingenuity of Ugandans, wouldn’t it be Uganda making these surgical sutures and capsule casings?

About 7kms from Mubende town on Mubende-Mityana Road lies a forest of coniferous resinous trees commonly known as pine.

Pines are grown in plantations for timber that is denser, more resinous, and therefore more durable than spruce. Pine wood is widely used in high valued carpentry items such as furniture, window frames, paneling, floors, and roofing. The resin of some species is an important source of turpentine. A few species can poisonous with their needles although others are edible.

Native Americans routinely chew and consume the resin for its anti-bacterial properties and for treatment of joint pains. Some species have large seeds, called pine nuts that are harvested and sold for cooking and baking. Pine nuts are a major source of amino acids and proteins, which make them highly nutritious. A tea made by steeping young, green pine needles in boiling water (known as “tallstrunt” in Sweden) is high in vitamins A and C.

Other uses include disinfectants, vinegar among others.

As I drove along this forest, I noticed a rare picture on almost every pine tree therein. Each of these trees had a “V” shaped cutting about a meter from the base at which bottom of the “V” was attached a kavera. In the kavera, oozed a liquid from the pine.

I later learnt that some foreign investor was collecting this liquid for export for manufacture of anti-cancer medicine. Cancer medicines in Uganda are exorbitantly priced. Where is the ingenuity of Ugandans in this equation? Looking on while this raw material for anti- cancer medicine is being taken?

“Uganda Zaabu”, literally translated as “Uganda is gold” that is being tapped by other people while our Ugandan scientists not only ogle but pay through the nose for finished products from their Zaabu!

We may not achieve Vision 2040 if we continue like this!

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