Cool clean green: Fort Portal town shines
By Wilson Asiimwe
Founded as a garrison for British soldiers by Gerald Portal in 1859, the area eventually came to be known as Fort Portal. It happens to be the only town with an English name in Uganda. Fort Portal, which was granted a municipality status in 1976, is marking 40 years.
In August 2014, the national population census put the population of Fort Portal municipality at 54,275, making it one of the densely populated towns in the country. Despite its high population, Fort Portal scooped an award as the second cleanest town in Uganda in a campaign spearheaded by Vision Group in 2013.
With River Mpanga flowing across the town, Fort Portal is one of the coolest towns in western Uganda — very green with trees and beautiful scenery. The Toro kingdom palace nestles on top of a hill in the town, commanding a majestic view.
According to the Rev. Willy Muhanga, the mayor of Fort Portal municipality, their current efforts are geared towards attaining the tourism city status as stipulated in Uganda’s Vision 2040.
He says the council is currently spearheading a campaign of planting trees in the town and that they have passed a resolution requiring everyone who visits Fort Portal town to plant a tree. “We want Fort Portal to remain green and cool and as council we have moved in very fast in ensuring that people plant trees. We are providing them with seedlings for planting,” Muhanga says.
He says they have also moved in very fast to conserve river Mpanga which he said residents are endangering with human activities. People are endangering it with human activities such as dumping polythene bags and setting up washing bays.
We have moved fast in ensuring that we control such activities because the river might dry up in the near future. Muhanga says the council was also partnering with stakeholders in ensuring that they install solar-powered street lights in town, so as to encourage business operators to work until late at night.
“We have started the installation of solar-powered street lights and so far we have installed 10 lights out of the 200 lights that we need, each light costs sh11m and Fort Portal will be the only town with solar street lights in the country apart from Kampala,” Muhanga adds.
He says the council had finalised the tarmacking of roads in the municipality namely: Water-Rwengoma road, Kitahuruzo-Bukwali, Bukasara, Kitumba and Kasusu-Rubingo road in East division.
Fort Portal municipality, which sits at the foot of Rwenzori Mountains, is considered the gateway to various national parks, including Kibale, Semuliki, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi Impenetrable, Rwenzori and Toro-Semuliki Wildlife reserves.
It is famous for the stalagmites and Nyakasura waterfalls linked to the rich Chwezi culture. The area is surrounded by a scenic of over 40 crater lakes, beautiful tea plantations and the Rwenzori mountain ranges, besides a cool climate and hospitable people.
It is also known for the Bigodi wetland sanctuary. According to the deputy resident district commissioner, Rose Byabasaija, the region is endowed with water resources and a host of other tourism attractions found nowhere else in the country.
It is the reason the national Vision 2040 projects the municipality as the tourism city comparable to Arusha in northern Tanzania. Byabasaija describes Fort Portal as a booming cultural tourist destination with a king whose youthful vigour has made culture relevant to modern transformation.
King Oyo Nyimba Rukidi IV ascended to the throne aged three. Fort Portal Municipality MP Alex Ruhunda, who chairs the task force for transforming the urban centre into a tourism city, says a concept paper is in place and physical planning to zone various areas has kicked off.
Richard Kiema, the general manager of Mountains of the Moon Hotel, the oldest hotel in the region, says the hotel industry is gearing up for the tourism city come 2040.
“As you are aware, hotels are crucial in the promotion of tourism and everything has been put in place. In preparation for the tourism city, more facilities are being put in place,” Kiema says. He says they are working closely with leaders in Fort Portal municipality in ensuring that they put in place tourism friendly facilities.
Paul Omoko, the municipal council town clerk, says the council has put in place a strategic plan of managing all government and private schools to ensure they operate within set guidelines.
Having been founded in 1910, Kyebambe Girls’ Secondary School is one of the oldest and best schools in Tooro kingdom. Night Mpairwe Karungi, the headteacher says the school has continued to nurture girls beyond the classroom for years.
Currently with a population of 1500 students, the school recently benefi ted from an African Development Bank grant. “We are currently undertaking the construction of a chapel, which is likely to cost over sh2b.
This is partly because we encourage our students to be God-fearing and we try to instill in them Christian values,” Mpairwe says. Dr Nasani Batungi, the vice-chancellor of Uganda Pentecostal University, the oldest private university in the district, says the university opened in 2005 due to the high demand for postsecondary education.
He says currently the university has an enrolment of 1500 students spread across its two study centres in Kamwenge and Kampala, with the main campus in Fort Portal. “Before we opened, students had a big challenge in accessing higher education, because in this region there was no any public or private university,” Batungi says.
He says they have partnered with Toro kingdom administration and they are offering bursaries and scholarships to students.
Infrastructure projects improve productivity, revenue
By Wilson Asiimwe
For several years, the Government has continued to support infrastructural developments in Fort Portal municipality with the recent being the construction of the ultramodern Mpanga Market.
Major roads in the town have been fixed with the Government support in the recent past. The municipality received funds under the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) according to Fort Portal municipality mayor, the Rev. Willy Muhanga.
He said they are working on the 4km Kitahurazo-Bukwali road, Bukasara Road (4km), Kitumba Secondary School Road (5km) in East division and Kasusu-Rubingo road (6km), in South division.
Muhanga says all the roads will be gravelled with first class murram and that in future if funds are available, they will be tarmacked. He says the roads have been in bad condition and whenever it rains, it becomes difficult for the people to access some areas as vehicles and motorcycles cannot pass through.
“All the roads are being worked on by the municipal council, with the supervision of the municipal engineer and the works department,” Muhanga says.
Joyce Baguma, a resident of Kitahuruzo, says the construction of the roads by the municipal council will ease transportation in the town. “Kitahurozo is near town, but whenever it rains some people do not work because of the bad state of the road,” Baguma says.
In Kasusu, the road has been in a poor state for the last four years, but now residents are happy that the municipal council has started working on it. “Some of us have been wondering whether we belong to the municipality because the road has been so poor that sometimes we could mobilise ourselves and work on it, but now it is being worked on,” Patrick Kayondo, the LC1 chairman for Bukwali, says.
The construction of Mpanga Market by the Government with funding from the African Development Bank has greatly improved the economy of Fort Portal and it has enhanced the local revenue collection.
Joy Basemera, a trader in Mpanga Market, says she is excited with the facilities the new market and traders are able to open their businesses and close late at night. “Power supply is constant, the drainage system is okay.
We are doing our business in a very conducive environment,” Basemera says. She says the construction of the modern market has also attracted more traders in the town and that the number of traders doing their business in Mpanga has more than doubled. Muhanga says council is able to collect over sh500m every quarter from Mpanga Market in local revenue, unlike before construction of the market when collecting sh100m was a big challenge.
He says with funding from the World Bank, they had also graveled and worked on Kabundire Market drainage system and tarmacked the road with first grade murram. He says the council used over sh100m to work on the drainage system which had become a problem to the people in the market.
In Kabundire Market, traders are happy with the new drainage system which has been worked on. “This place used to be smelly, but I am happy that council moved in fast last fi nancial year and worked on it,” Francis Mugisha, the chairman of the Matooke Vendors Association in the market, says.
“In terms of infrastructural development, we have developed a comprehensive master plan with the help of the physical planner, which we are following to develop the infrastructure in the town,” Paul Omoka, the town clerk, says.
Muhanga says the municipal council is also in the process of fi nalising the construction of its administration block so that they can shift. “When I took over to this offi ce, the council had accumulated over sh360m in debts, but we are paying the money and after that we shall shift to our administration block,” Muhanga says.
The council has also embarked on the renovation of abattoirs in all the three divisions of the municipality and two bridges — Kahungabunyonyi and Bulyanyenje have also been worked on. Jacob Businge, an architectural engineer, says: “We are working with the municipal local government in ensuring we follow the approved construction designs in the town,” Businge says.
Businge adds that as private engineers, they work with the physical planner in ensuring that the all buildings are constructed based on the Physical Planning Act. According to Francis Kalyebara, the general manager of DAJ Communications, there is increasing demand for accommodation and offi ce space in the town, which is a positive sign of growth.
Tea claims its place again in Fort Portal’s economy
By Wilson Asiimwe
The tea industry accounts for 40% of employment in Fort Portal municipality, with several people either directly or indirectly employed in the sector, according to information from the offi ce of the town clerk, Paul Omoka.
Having been introduced in the town by the colonialists, tea is one of the oldest cash crops in Kabarole district and is grown extensively in Rutete and Rugombe sub-counties. Several tea processing factories which include Mukwano, Mpanga and Mabale have opened up in the area to tap into the industry and own several plantations in Fort Portal.
Plantations that had been adversely affected by frost early this year have fully recovered. Multi-national tea companies and small-scale farmers say tea production has improved since the rains started.
“The tea industry is rising back to its peak because we had a challenge of the frost as a result of bad weather. We also had a long dry spell, but now that the rains have started again, most farmers are smiling,” Bagonza Adyeri, a farmer, says
FACTS ABOUT TEA
Tea is hydrating to the body (even despite the caffeine)
Tea could be benefi cial to people with Type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that compounds in green tea help diabetics better process sugars
Tea reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke
Tea helps in weight loss
The tea industry lost millions of shillings after frost destroyed plantations in areas where large-scale production companies operate. The tea sector recorded the highest losses ever in recent years, according to experts, who blamed this on the effects of climate change.
Double production Several multi-national tea company managers say they expect the production to double because of the increased rains. They say the number of days for plucking tea has increased from four per week to six as normal operations resume.
Steven Mugisha, a plantations supervisor, says plantations destroyed by frost normally take between two and three months to recover fully, but the situation had improved faster than expected. “We are sensitising the farmers to plant rare tree species that will not affect tea growth. They are also urging farmers to stop tempering with water catchment areas as one way of mitigating the effects of climate change,” Mugisha says.
Jacob Musinguzi, an agricultural offi cer in Rutete sub-county, says they are working with farmers in ensuring that they produce good quality tea that can match standards of other African countries. “As of now, we have the best quality tea and we need to maintain our standard, so we have designed programmes in which we shall continue engaging our farmers and training them,” Musinguzi says.