By Billy Rwothungeyo
EFFORTS by farmers in Sebei subregion to further commercial farming are being thwarted by a poor road network.
The roads go from bad to worse when it rains, making them impassable. In some instances; farmers have to first go to Kenya and access areas in Uganda via different routes at the border.
Among the worst hit are barley and sorghum farmers, who despite having ready market with beer brewers, cannot get produce to stores in Kapchorwa town in time because of the poor state of the roads.
The Kapchorwa-Suam, Atari- Ngenge roads are among the roads that farmers want quick action to be taken on.
“There are a lot of rains during the harvest of the first crop. Here, the rains are at a peak in June, July and August. That is when we harvest the first crop, and the roads are terrible,” says Joseph Kiprotich, the extension manager of Kapchorwa Commercial Farmers’ Association (KACOFA).
On a rainy day recently, at Sebei Elgon Cooperative Union, Joseph Kawuki, Uganda Breweries’ head of agriculture lamented: “The farmers bring us barley, which has taken ages to come from the mountains because the roads are bad. With dryers usually unavailable (to control moisture levels), the grain changes colour and we cannot take it.”
Kawuki adds: “Roads are our major challenge. We have equipment to give farmers but we cannot. We appealed to the Government to work on the road going to Bukwa, this will improve the situation.”
Uganda Breweries has a scheme with local farmers to produce barley and sorghum for its brewery in Port Bell.
Chemutai Charles, a large scale farmer in the region, says due the hilly and rugged nature of the Atari-Ngenge road, even a truck loaded with 20 bags of grain cannot manoeuvre the way uphill to Kacphorwa town to access KACOFA stores.
Trucks then have to connect to Kapchorwa town via the longer Muyembe-Moroto route.
UNRA promises to act
The Uganda National Roads Authority admits that the roads in Sebei region are indeed in a sorry state.
“Kapchorwa roads are still in poor condition, however the procurement of contracts in the Sebei sub-region is now in advanced stages. The Kapchorwa-Suam term maintenance has already been signed, while Chepsikunya-Girik-Amudat- Lokitanyala are under procurement for term maintenance,” Dan Alinange, UNRA’s head of corporate communications said.
As regards the Kapchorwa-Suam road, the farmers have to wait at least until 2014, as that is the period that UNRA projects that the tarmac upgrade will start.
The Kapchorwa-Suam road is part of the projects that are set to be delivered through the Contractor Facilitated Funding (CFF) mechanism. Currently, contractors have submitted their bids and the evaluation process is in progress.
However, the roads authority is facing some challenges of delivering the roads under this first time arrangement.
“This is a pioneer procurement for CFF and the biggest challenge to UNRA is the evaluation of risks and eventual value for money since we have limited experience of CFF. We are mainly relying on literature which sometimes misleads,” Alinange said.