House committee supports revival of silkworm project

KAMPALA, March 7, 2024 – The Committee of Science, Technology and Innovation has urged the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Monicah Musenero, to revive the sericulture project that government was financing.

Sericulture, which involves cultivating silkworms and extracting silk from them, is projected to out-compete coffee as a leading foreign exchange earner for the country, according to Musenero.

However, the minister revealed to the committee that the project was suspended due to contractual difficulties with the project lead.

“We terminated the memorandum of understanding with the project lead as it was poorly designed and complicated to implement, and the Attorney General guided that there was a lot of ambiguity and difficulty for the project to run,” said Musenero.

MPs said government had already invested heavily in the project and urged the minister to resolve the difficulties and restore the project.

“The project lead could have been stubborn; but let us look at the money we have spent in sericulture. Why do we rush into terminating the memorandum of understanding with the leader when we have infrastructure, farmers have the silk-producing eggs, and we can still earn something from what is existing?” asked Yona Musinguzi, MP Ntungamo Municipality.

Abim District Woman MP, Janet Okori-Moe, and also chairperson of the agriculture committee, said there is evidence that silk production would significantly boost the economy, if there was proper coordination, legislation, and a committed team.

“We are told that our country has a good climate for mulberry trees from which the silkworms are fed, I am aware the little silk exported to Tanzania earned us US$ 45,000 as of 2022. We need to build the synergy, come up with clear policies, and build a strong system for this sector,” said Okori-Moe.

Members were interacting with the minister and her officials during a half-day conference on Science, Technology and Innovation at the Kampala Serena Hotel on Wednesday, 06 March 2024.

James Kubeketerya, Bunya County East MP noted that Parliament appropriated Shs27.6 billion to enhance sericulture in the financial year 2023/2024 and wondered what the money has been utilised for since the project was suspended.

“We need information on what that amount has been able to do, are the workers still being paid, are the gardens being cared for, or are they simply bushes?” asked Kubeketerya.

Members also asked Musenero to explain the fate of Uganda’s first satellite dubbed PearlAfricaSat-1 launched in 2022, cognisant that government spent at least Shs 5 billion.

The satellite station located in Mpoma, Mukono District, was expected to collect data for weather forecasts and mapping of land, water bodies, and other natural resources.

“I would request that the minister give a general statement on what happened and what the value for the money was. Did we get any data, any geographic image or it was a fake project?” Musinguzi asked.

On the satellite project, she pledged to appraise the committee on the kind of data that was gathered at a later date and confirmed that the satellite had lived its life span of 12 months.

She also revealed that there are plans for a new satellite with a longer lifespan.

Musenero further informed MPs that her team was now working on improving traditional medicines into modern medicines, with three clinical trials completed for the treatment of respiratory ailments.

The drugs aimed at treating, diabetes, malaria, and cancer are due for clinical trials, she said.

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