For some months now, Hoima Sugar Company has been facing resistance from environmental activists for allegedly encroaching on Budongo forest but the company maintains it has never encroached on Mother Nature and is instead using land donated by Bunyoro Kingdom to help feed the people of Kikuube and Hoima.
Recently, the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) issued the company an Environment Impact Assessment certificate, implying that they meet the required standards. Nema however barred the investor from using up to 13sq miles of the land donated by the kingdom.
The company has not only expanded its wings to cover 163 villages in Kikuube and Hoima, but also come up with vast opportunities such as employment and market for the locals.
By the time of our visit last week, Hoima Sugar had a registered pool of 3,500 farmers as out-growers. Mr Rajasekaran Ramados, an agro engineer at Hoima Sugar Ltd, told this reporter that the company employs 567 men and women directly, and another 800 people indirectly.
“All our employees are from the local community,” Mr Ramados said.
The out-growers too, extend employment opportunities to other locals in the community and the chain continues.“We are putting up a clinic which will be expanded into a hospital within the complex. The facility will be accessed by the population at a minimum charge,’ Mr Ramados says.
With all these developments, the land value in a remote Kiswaza town has increased multiple times from only Shs300,000 to Shs10m for a plot of 50ft by 100ft. The township is also a bee-hive of activities ranging from petty food vending to large scale real estates. For Mr Justus Birungi, 56, a resident of Kuhenda, Kabwooya Sub-county in Kikuube, the company came as a blessing.
At first, Mr Birungi did not have money but he benefited from Shs50 million capital support to cultivate his 36 acres of land.
Mr Robert Mwesigwa,59, a farmer and also the chairperson of Kiswaza Village, says: “I have benefited a lot; first at an individual level, I have been able to get lumpsum money that I had never got before,’ he says.
Hoima Sugar, also undertakes corporate social responsibilities such as conducting routine medical camps, feeding learners and constructing roads. Many locals have also been connected to electricity and tapped water. The company has improved a total of 47 roads within Hoima and Kikuube covering between 1km and 20km each.