SHEEMA –Dairy farmers in Sheema district have rejected a milk cooler installed by government over 10 years ago to boost production and marketing of the farm product.
The fully-fledged 300-litre capacity milk cooler found in Shuuku town council, Sheema district, and connected to electricity and water lines has been abandoned due to misunderstandings between the farmers and leaders.
According to Boaz Biziira, LC III Chairperson Shuuku town council, the dairy plant was constructed under the Community Agriculture Infrastructure Improvement Programme- Project 3 [CAIIP-3] during the financial year 2013/2014.
The construction of the agro-processing facility cost government Shs 200 million while the milk cooler itself cost Shs 114 mln but has stalled since then.
“It is unfortunate that the milk cooler which was constructed in 2013 has so far stalled for 10 years,” Biziira said.
Biziira said the project’s funding was part of the loan from the African Development Bank [ADB] and the International Fund for Agricultural Development [IFAD] formulated by government in a bid to address the inadequate physical infrastructure challenges in the agricultural sector.
He adds that it was intended to generate more income for Shuuku Sub-county, which was later elevated into a town council in 2018.
Biziira said the town council has failed to get a competent person to manage the milk collection facility.
“It was at first given to Shuuku Dairy Farmers Co-operative Society Limited in 2019 which later withdrew its operations after recording some challenges with the facility,” he said.
Edson Nuwagaba, chairman Shuuku Dairy Farmers Co-op Limited said their ambition to effectively utilise the government project was sabotaged by the town council leadership which considered it to be a direct source of revenue.
“The facility [milk cooler] lies idle because the town council wanted farmers to start paying. This would increase the farmers’ expenses and they decided not to use it,” Nuwagaba said.
Nuwagaba says the milk cooler was also not functioning well as some accessories were missing. This, he said, forced the cooperative members to exit after five months of using it.
“The cooler was not fully installed because it lacked a milking rack and a fence yet the place is isolated and the security itself is not guaranteed,” he said.
Nuwagaba also said irregular electricity interrupted operations of the milk cooler forcing farmers to leave it.
Frank Besigye Kyereere, the then Resident district commissioner, Sheema said the milk cooler is among other facilities like a coffee factory in Rushozi Ward that government gave to the district under CAIIP-3, but all are not being put to proper use.
Kyereere advised the town council leadership to speed up the processes of hiring the facility to competent groups.
“It would be better if it’s hired out. It doesn’t matter whether the milk comes from Mbarara, Bushenyi, or Sheema, so long as the facility is put to good use,” he suggested, adding that it would be wise for government to take it away since it is not being utilised.
Biziira encouraged government to always first consult the communities before project implementation.
“Let the government apply the bottom-up approach, consult the locals on ground to establish which project serve them best,” the LC III boss advised.
Sheema District Woman MP, Rosemary Nyakikongoro said that some of the abandoned projects are rushed by politicians before consulting the locals on ground.
“When few characters put pressure on politicians they rush to lobby for certain things without thinking about sustainability,” Nyakikongoro added.
Nyakikongoro said it was high time government started auditing such projects in the communities. “These are some of the projects we should identify and carry out an audit to see whether they have yielded results or not and hold beneficiaries accountable,” she said.
Other abandoned projects in the district include storage facilities and coffee hullers among others.
Buy your copy of thecooperator magazine from one of our country-wide vending points or an e-copy on emag.thecooperator.news