By Samuel Nkuba
The blocks and units palm farmer leaders in Kalangala district have been divided over sh50b returned by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to be used as revolving funds through their organization of Kalangala Palm Oil Growers Trust (KOPGT).
These divisions emerged from Ssese Oil Palm Growers Co-operative Society Limited (SACCO) Annual General Meeting held yesterday Friday at KOPGT offices as majority of members’ suggestions defied presidential directive of using this money for Kyamuswa county palm expansion.
On May 26th while handing over a dummy check of sh50.195b to KOPGT management and Oil Palm Uganda Limited, the president rejected proposals of using this money for social corporate responsibilities.
“Use this money as a revolving fund, to avail loans for new farmers including Kyamuswa farmers who have woken up,” said President Museveni on 26th May while addressing islanders.
From AGM, farmers suggested that this money should be used to appreciate pioneer palm oil farmers since their farms led to the accumulation of these dividends.
“Let’s use this money for exchange visits to palm oil growing countries such as Malaysia to acquire more knowledge,” farmers suggested.
All these are contrary to Presidential directives as far as these dividends are concerned.
Farmers also rejected the proposal of using this money for Kyamuswa plantations asserting that they should also experience the same situation as Bujumba farmers went through when the project commenced in 2006.
Leaders’ proposals on the Money.
The board of Ssese Oil Palm Growers Co-operative Society Limited during their report indicated that sh2b has been allocated for SACCO, others for purchasing of 200 acres of land for nursery bed seedlings, construction of fuel station among others.
“Our initial plans were purchasing a simple boat ambulance that would connect Luku – Bukakata since Kalangala receives emergencies when ferries stop day operations,” said Cancoo Diamond, the Chairperson board.
He further narrates that after presidential conditions on these funds, they are also focusing on construction of a three-level flat building consisting of KOPGT offices, SACCO among other offices.
“Since the Government and district is not responsible for our farm roads, we plan to construct and maintain the existing ones using these funds for easy transportation of FFB from our out growers’ plantations,” added Cancoo
The dividends are still in consolidated funds where it has been always allocated for safety.
Stephen Tibeijuka, the director of crop resources under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has applauded islanders’ effort to engage into the Palm project which has boosted the country’s economy as well as household income for farmers.
“We still need more palm plantations to stop the importation of vegetable oils used in making soap and other commodities because they cost the country million $300 annually,” said Tibeijuka.
Tibeijuka urged farmers to work as a team in inspiring other new farmers in other parts of the country.
Kalangala district currently has 2,213 palm oil farmers of which 839 are female, 1,305 are male and 69 are institutions. On percentage, females stand at 38% while male constitute 59% and institutions 3%.
This number indicates an increase in palm farmers by 150 and 27 institutions from last year 2022.
A number of 1,474 farmers were harvested by April 2022 yet 739 were under development. The current price of Fresh Fruit Bunches per kg has been sh828 by June.
From 2010 to 2022, farmers harvested 377,674,615 million kgs sold sh257b at average FFB price of sh881.
The country has so far planted 10,000 hectares yet it needs 100,000 hectares to independently produce its own vegetable oil products.
The board has decided to have a consultative meeting with President Museveni for orientation on their plans as well as getting more advice on proper use of the funds.
Julius Mukasa Opondo the Bujumba legislator as well as a farmer appealed to the board for speeding up the consultative meeting so that by the time money is recovered from the consolidated, it’s well allocated.