MASINDI – Masindi Sugarcane Farmers Association Limited (MASGAL) has a new board elected on June 2.
Robert Atugonza, a former board chairperson bounced back unopposed to replace Cosmas Byaruhanga, who is also the LC-V chairman of Masindi District. He has been on the job for three years.
The elections were presided over by Monica Tibemanya, the Masindi Municipality Commercial Officer.
Atugonza is deputized by Phenihansi Kyotasobora, Patrick Byamukama was elected as secretary and David Byensi is the new treasurer.
The election happened during the association’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at St. Peter’s Kabango Church of Uganda.
Other members of the board include; Olivia Mugisa (southern ward), Mary Mujumura (eastern zone), Annette Kabanogozi (northern ward), Timothy Tumwesige (western zone).
Jane Asiimwe will represent the women and Solomon Kahwa will represent Kinyara Sugarcane Growers Limited (KSGL).
Tibemanya urged the new board to review the association’s constitution because it has lots of loopholes.
She also nudged the new board to work towards forming a union, which will help them have a firmer bargaining ground.
“Cooperatives are more important than an association since the association normally agitates for unity and advocacy but cooperatives will also boost you financially,” Tibemanya noted.
In his inaugural speech, Atugonza pledged to ensure that sugarcane farmers have a strong common voice to demand for what is due to them.
“I expect support from my fellow farmers because I don’t expect to work alone or with the executive only. I need total support from you farmers to enable the board deliver,” Atugonza said.
He said the troubles dogging the sugarcane business are many and need a united front to confront them.
“I request for lenience from you members and you shouldn’t expect what is not in our capacity. Demand for something which is in our capacity. Let us not have extreme and negative expectations. Let us have positive expectations,” he said.
He also promised to address challenges such as the late harvesting of the cane, delayed payment and low sugarcane prices.
Cosmas Byaruhanga, the outgoing MASGAL chairperson, highlighted the milestones of his tenure in office. He said sugarcane farmers are now able to open up their own fields without depending on Kinyara Sugar Limited to give them sugarcane seeds and fertilizers.
“We have also opened up the market for sugarcane beyond Masindi since Kinyara was not able to absorb all the farmers’ sugarcane. Currently farmers are selling their sugarcane to Atiaka, Hoima Sugar Limited, Bwendero Sugar Factory and Kyenjojo Sugar factory,” Byaruhanga said, adding that under his tenure, his team managed to get three tractors to help farmers open up fields at a subsidized cost.
He said they fought tooth and nail to make sure zoning is dropped from the Sugar Act, assented to by the president last year.
The district boss however, challenged the new board to continue pursuing the sugar factory project.
“I want to thank the newly elected members of parliament from Masindi district for asking the president in Kyankwanzi recently to build a sugar factory for farmers. The president accepted the request but it needs follow up,” he said, adding, “However, we were given a condition that if this factory is to start, we should have a strong and organized cooperative union. We need you to build strong cooperative societies, which will form a union. We cannot grow without a cooperative union.
Byaruhanga also asked the new board to split up the existing zones. He said they are too big to manage.
“My request is that you sub divide these zones for easy management. There are four zones but we can make them eight,” he said.
MASGAL has more than 7000 members who are engaged in sugarcane farming in the district.
Buy your copy of thecooperator magazine from one of our country- wide vending points or an e-copy on emag.thecooperator.news