By Sylvia Jjuuko
ALBERT Bageya is a contented man. He has seen his fortune accumulate through growing and supplying sugarcane to Kakira Sugar Works (KSW). His fruitful journey with KSW began about 41 years ago when he joined the company as a security officer.
â€œWhen I came to Kakira, I was a young man and I left when I was an old man, but even today I am still enjoying money from the company,â€ he says.
Realising there was an opportunity to supplement his income, he decided to supply sugarcane to the company two years later. He grew the cane on his 7-acre plot of land at Nakbale.
However, misfortune struck in 1973 when the country was hit by political turmoil, which culminated into the expulsion of Asians and the closure of the factory.
â€œThe factory was not taking sugarcane, so I abandoned growing it and switched to food crops,â€ he says.
With the return of Madhvani Group in the 1980s, Bageya resumed growing sugarcane on his land. Nine years after this resumption, he had made enough money to expand his land to 20 acres.
â€œI grow coffee, vanilla, food crops and sugarcane, but of these, sugarcane gives me the best returns. My income from Kakira has enabled me to educate my four boys,â€ says Bageya. â€œIn Busoga, whoever is growing cane is well off.â€
Despite having retired officially in 1992, he has no plans of stopping growing sugarcane.
â€œI prefer remaining an outgrower â€“ the company will be here forever. I have plans of expanding my land,â€ he says.
Bageyaâ€™s fortune will continue accumulating, owing to Madhvani Groupâ€™s launch of an expansion drive with $43m earmarked for Kakira Sugar Works growth and the generation of power. This project has been undertaken with the assistance of the Government, World Bank and the rural electrification programme. Mayur Madhvani, the group managing director, says the group is eyeing northern Uganda for the possibility of setting up a plant there.
â€œThe groupâ€™s overall vision is to consolidate the sugar industry in Uganda, making sugar available at cheaper rates through economies of scale and eventually encouraging the Ugandan public to invest in the group through floatation,â€ he said.
Sugarcane production is projected to expand to 17,000 hectares to enable farmers supply over 1.1 million tonnes of cane from the current 550,000 tonnes annually by 2007 under the KSW outgrowersâ€™ expansion programme. Madhvani reveals that KSW currently employs over 6,200 employees and the expansion programme will have a significant social impact on rural agriculture.
Under the expansion and co-generation project, the KSWâ€™s factory plant will provide 30MW of power for sale to the national grid.
â€œThe generation of up to 30MW will augment national supply, which would reduce current peak-hour power generation from petro-carbon based fuels,â€ says Madhvani.
The group is also exploring the production of fuel grade ethanol from molasses, a by-product from sugar production, which move will help the country save on importing fuels.
â€œFuel ethanol produced from molasses can be easily blended up to 10% with normal petrol without requiring any modification of automobile engines,â€ he said. Alongside nurturing entrepreneurship, KSW takes pride in grooming athletes. With the support of the company, Waiswa Lukungu, 22, has lifted the KSW athletics team to national recognition.
â€œThe KSW athletics team is now considered one of the best teams in Uganda, in part due to Waiswaâ€™s performance,â€ says Nathan Mujongola, the Kakira Assistant sports officer.
Waiswaâ€™s prowess has taken him beyond Ugandaâ€™s borders to compete at an international level.
â€œI have Kakira at heart. KSW sponsored me to attend the 2003 African Junior Athletics Championship in Cameroon, where I won a silver medal in the 400m class with 47.4 seconds,â€ he says.
Because of Waiswaâ€™s performance, the Kakira team was able to win the 400m relay, 400m hurdles as well as the 100m, 200m and long jump in the 2005 National Open championships.
Waiswa acknowledges that Kakira has had a huge influence on his life. He was born in Kakira Hospital and studied at Madhvani Primary School.
Most of the employment opportunities and support that Madhvani Group gives the different sectors are based on the founder of the group, Muljibhai Madhvaniâ€™s belief in working together with people at all levels.