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From lepers’ refuge to tourist site

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th June 2008 03:00 AM

In the 1930s, missionaries touched by the plight of leprosy victims then treated as outcasts, put up a secluded establishment which they could call their home.

In the 1930s, missionaries touched by the plight of leprosy victims then treated as outcasts, put up a secluded establishment which they could call their home.

BY GEORGE BITA

In the 1930s, missionaries touched by the plight of leprosy victims then treated as outcasts, put up a secluded establishment which they could call their home.

They opted for Buluba village, Waitambogwe sub-county on the shores of an arm of Lake Victoria’s Napoleon gulf in present day Mayuge district. St. Francis hospital came up as a result.

However, moving supplies to the site while building the health facility was a daunting task, given that the Jinja-Tororo highway was non-existent. water transport was the only solution.

They used a ferry from Jinja to deliver building materials at a makeshift pier in Buluba, which structure has stood the test of time.

Although it is usually submerged by water during the wet season, the metallic jetty now provides a convenient platform for fishermen as they cast their rods into the lake waters. Many villagers in Buluba know the exact location of the quay even when it is under water.

Nowadays, tourists do not have to come in via the waterway, because a 10km ride from Musita trading centre on the Jinja-Iganga highway leads to the site.

The lake is the main livelihood of this village of about 500 people. They use it for drinking, washing, preparing local brew, collecting lake sand for sale and most importantly, fishing.

There are numerous old abandoned boats in the vicinity with some being used for firewood. Only one big boat with an out-board engine lies in the shallow waters alongside several smaller fishing vessels.

The waterside is also crowded with fishing gear including floats, nets spread out to dry and wooden oars, as fishermen brave the afternoon heat to mend the holes in their nets.

Children are not afraid of water here, as very young ones keep dashing into the shallow parts to draw some in their jerrycans.

Martin Langii, a fisherman, says the especially white visitors at the hospital take time to tour the landing site.

“There are big, ever-green trees near the guesthouse that provide shade for picnics. Tourists usually carry their own food and music and enjoy the beautiful scenery and the breeze,” Langii adds. He identifies the main fish types here as tilapia, Nile perch, catfish, haplochromis (enkejje) and silver fish (mukene).

Depending on the size of the catch, the cost ranges from sh1,500 to Sh2,500 when purchased directly from fishermen.

According to Langii, the haplochromis is used as bait for catching bigger fish.

He explains that the fish is sold to the St. Francis hospital community as well as to traders in Musita.

“we collect mukene for about a week as it is dried on a daily basis. If there isn’t ample sunshine, the fish rots. But when the weather is persistently sunny, it dries completely and is placed in sacks destined for markets elsewhere,” he says.

Most hotels in the area have boiled fish as the main item on their menu, going for about sh700.

Langii attributes the undersize fishing boats to loopholes in the Beach Management Unit system, which allows non-lake-worthy vessels to be on water.

The residents do not put all their eggs in one basket, hence a fisherman can take time off to wash a car for sh1,500 or collect lake sand at sh30,000 per lorry.

Cossam Waako, the LC1 chairman, says although fishermen used to come here daily, their actual settlement started almost 10 years ago.

“We used to come with our fishing gear in the mornings and retire to far off villages late in the night.”

He describes the settlement as comprising a mixture of Jaluo, Baganda, Bagwere, Bagisu and the indigenous Basoga tribesmen.

However, there is need for this historic strategic waterway to Jinja, splendid scenery and sport fishing, to be harnessed as a tangible tourist attraction to the fairly new Mayuge district.

From lepers’ refuge to tourist site

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