Unreliable Rainfall Cripples Chinese Rice Project in Luweero

1416 Views Luweero, Uganda

In short
During its inauguration, the company indicated that they intended to inject USD 220 million (over 748 billion Shillings) to recruit more than 25, 000 workers. The Chinese also promised to develop an integrated Agricultural Park to include rice farms, poultry, livestock, processing plants, training and modern agricultural technologies among other services.

A Chinese project initiated to grow rice and other crops in Lubenge wetland in Luweero district has been crippled by unreliable rainfall. The project was launched by President Yoweri Museveni in April 2016.  




It is part of a Chinese Agricultural Industrial park championed by Kehong Uganda Industrial Development Limited, a private Chinese firm, which secured a 99-year lease to use the wetland. The firm acquired over 600 acres for the project at the border of Luweero and Nakasongola district.  




During its inauguration, the company indicated that they intended to inject USD 220 million (over 748 billion Shillings) to recruit more than 25, 000 workers. The Chinese also promised to develop an integrated Agricultural Park to include rice farms, poultry, livestock, processing plants, training and modern agricultural technologies among other services.  




But three years after the launch, the park has limited activity and its tractors were rotting away. By time URN visited the farm, a few staff members were seen cultivating fields for maize growing using hoes.  




The Financial Manager of Kehong Uganda Industrial Development Limited Liu Jianghua explains that they have managed to plant rice in an area covering only six out of 600 acres, as a result of poor rains. Liu adds that rice-growing requires good water to thrive throughout their life.




He notes that once they realize enough rainfall in the upcoming season, they will be able to plant rice at 600 acres of land. 




Liu says that currently, they have erected poultry cages where they will rear 100,000 chicken and produce 85,000 eggs per day as part of their investment in the land. Liu noted that the maize being grown on the farm will be used to produce chicken feed.  




However, Luweero District Secretary for Production Abbey Ssozi says that the district has been receiving near normal rains which have enabled other farmers to grow crops and record good harvests. Ssozi blamed the investors for draining the wetland through poor agricultural practices and failure to respect the advice of environmental officers.  




Pastoralists led by Abbey Mukalazi were also bitter with the investor for fencing off a community valley dam, for use in his rice farm. Mukalazi says that Lubenge Wetland was a source of water for pastoralists from both Luweero and Nakasongola districts before it was taken over by the investor.   




Hanhe (Uganda) Farm which is a subsidiary of Hanhe International Company, the first private Chinese land-based agriculture enterprise in Uganda has also abandoned its farm in Nakaseke. It launched its operations in 2011 after securing a lease on 400 acres of land in Kasangombe Sub County.  




Its target was to produce 30 tons of mushrooms per day for supply in local restaurants, and for export to markets as far as London, United Kingdom and in China.  The farm which opened with a hub of activity is now idle. The land is now abandoned and covered in shrubs which locals turned into a grazing zone.



 
The people found there who talked on condition of anonymity said that the farm run of funds and the area was not ideal for agriculture over floods that sweeps it every season. Last year, mysterious fire swept across the abandoned farm, destroying machinery and other property worth millions.

 

Mentioned: Lubenge Wetland

About the author

Brian Luwaga
Since Brian Luwaga joined Uganda Radio Network in 2011, he is still amazed how, "URN is a place that gives journalists a chance to enhance their skills . It gives a journalist an opportunity to adopt and master various aspects of journalism that include radio broadcast, social media, photography and television production."

A practicing journalist since 2009, first with Star FM, Luwaga has always been keen to write about the concerns of the "common person." Based for much of his career in Luweero, Luwaga takes it as a compliment if politicians complain that his reporting is too harsh.

In his journalism, Luwaga likes to merge the past with the present. He believes you cannot understand what is happening now, if you do not have a grounding in the past. Brian Luwaga is the Luweero URN bureau chief. Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Mityana, Mubende and Wakiso districts fall under his docket.

Luwaga is interested in humanitarian work and is a keen Rotarian.