ARUA SOLAR ENERGY AGRICULTURE
Arua district market currently under construction will be the first market to completely run on solar power.
Operations of the market's public utilities, such as cold rooms, storage of fresh foods and vegetables, will be solar-powered, according to the Ministry of Local Government. Arua
Arua Municipality mayor Alhaji Isa Kato says the installation of solar power will ensure that the market has constant electricity to help grow value addition to agricultural products targeting exports to the neighbouring countries. He said the market has been designed with sections where value addition will take place.
"We have designated special sections for adding value to agricultural products, such as maize. There is a section in the market that will process and package flour for export that makes the market unique from others," Kato said. Arua borders DR Congo to the west and South Sudan to the north.
There is vibrant trade between communities in Arua and the neighbouring two countries. They deal in foodstuffs, textiles and construction materials, among others, but the volume of foodstuffs is higher.
However, a lot of the food gets wasted because of the lack of value addition. The Arua market, which is being constructed by Dott Services at about sh29.6b, is funded by a loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB). Kato said solar power will also cut down the cost of doing business because there would be no heavy electricity bill.
He added that solar power is environment-friendly "This is a megastructure and, in case we are to run it using hydropower, we shall be incurring huge monthly bills. We wanted to avoid inconveniencing our market vendors and make their business operations cheaper," Kato said.
The market is one of those being constructed around the country, under the Market and Agricultural Trade Improvement programme, MATIPII project of the local government ministry, though it is the only one powered by solar.
The others are connected to the national grid or run on fuel-guzzling generators It is also the biggest market infrastructure project under the project.
The new market is expected to host 4,600 vendors. The other new markets under MATIPII are in Tororo, Mbale, Gulu, Soroti, Fort Portal, Kampala, Hoima and Jinja districts. Joel Aita, the chief executive officer of Joadah Consult, the company that is overseeing the construction of the Arua market, said the market will also have a solar-powered water pumping system, independent of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation system.
The market will also be fitted with over 70 closed-circuit cameras and loudspeakers controlled from the office of the chairperson of the vendors for easy communication, Aita said. There will also be kitchens and restaurants, paved lanes, waste collection trucks, and six rubbish skips.
The construction of the project is expected to take two years. The works were commissioned in January last year and should be completed early next year.
Kato said the construction was, however, disrupted for over two months by the blockage of Duka Road, which was under construction. "We were able to engage the Uganda National Roads Authority and the hiccup of access was solved.
The project is now 85% complete and we are sure that by February next year, we shall be commissioning it," Kato said.
Nelson Dada, the chairperson of Arua main Agro-Market Vendors Association, said they were happy with the construction progress of the new market, which had created more room for lockups to effectively address the problems of congestion, poor sanitation, and storage shortage.
He also noted that the local stakeholders were involved in the construction process through a series of monthly meetings with the local district officials, the contractor, and consultant. "We have been having the meetings with the consultants (Joadah Consult) and the contractors and we are constantly briefed about the construction details. We have also been able to share our views on the project," Dada said.
He added that they had ensured that all the traders who were in the old market and were registered during the relocation process get space in the new market. "We have our records of all those who had stalls in the market and we will ensure that nobody is left out. Our processes are transparent," Dada said. He noted that the market was befitting for city status, given the recent Cabinet decision to approve the creation of nine cities, Arua inclusive, which will become operational next year.
However, Dada said the construction of the market has created a problem of vendors congesting the neighbouring streets. "This has congested Avenue Road as bodaboda riders who usually stage in front of the market have also moved to the new location. We are eagerly waiting for the market to be completed," he said.
Among those who have given a thumbs up to the progress is Arua Municipality Member of Parliament Kassiano Wadri, who expressed satisfaction with the quality of works and pace of the construction.
The MATIPII project specifically aims at creating an additional working space and improved working conditions in selected markets by providing better structures, proper access, proper drainage, water, electricity, and general amenities.
It is also aimed at reducing street vending and illegal markets, which have caused many roads in the city to be blocked, causing a traffic jam. In addition, it is intended to increase revenue collection by urban councils.
The local government permanent secretary, Ben Kumumanya, said the project is also aimed at "reducing solid waste management generated by illegal markets and street vendors, which usually cause blockage of road drains and makes maintenance expensive".