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Sericulture: Parliamentary Committee on STI says appropriated fund has to be released to TRIDI

The line Ministry under the leadership of Dr Monica Musenero has since refused to release over shs41b approved by Parliament for 2021/2022 financial year for Sericulture projects across the country currently implemented by TRIDI.
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The MPs and some of the workers and local leaders pose for a photo in Mulaya, Kayunga. In the background is a mulberry garden in Namusumbi station in Mukono.

Last Updated on: 5th May 2023, 05:35 pm

Mukono/Kayunga, April 5, 2023: Members of Parliament on the Committee of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) are in their last day of field visits to Kamuli and Iganga districts where Sericulture projects are being implemented.

On Thursday, May 4, the MPs visited Namusumbi fibre and textile Sericulture station in Mukono, where over 40 acres of mulberry trees have been planted. They would later visit another project in Mulaya village, Kayunga district.

Before interacting with causal workers and local leaders in Mukono, the MPs were taken through a mini exhibition and tour of the station’s premises by the Executive Director of Tropical Institute of Development Initiative (TRIDI), Clet Wandui Masiga who showed them different types of products made from silk.

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MP Betty Aol Ochan and other MPs during the mini-exhibition on Thursday.

Many of the causal workers who interacted with the MPs said the Sericulture project has supported them and they would want the government to release the ‘held’ money so that TRIDI can pay them for the months they have worked for. 

TRIDI says they have not been able to, among other things, pay workers; continue with the project expansion and production because of a lack of funding support from the government.

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It’s worth noting that in the last financial year 2021/2022, Parliament approved shs43b for the Ministry of Science and Technology to support sericulture projects across the country. This money, until now, has not been remitted to the implementing entity, TRIDI.

Mulaya, Kayunga 

In the project brief on the Commercialization of Sericulture Technologies and Innovations in Uganda, with a specific focus on Mulaya, Kayunga where 400 acres were acquired and mulberry trees already planted, Daniel Mushikoma, TRIDI’s Strategic Supervisor, said the project objectives are to continue managing mulberry (food for silkworm) and increasing the area under mulberry for increased cocoon production and popularization of Sericulture activities to enhance the income of rural areas specially for women.

Another objective, he said, is to advise the government on all matters relating to the development of the silk industry including the utilization and export of raw silk.

“The project is in progress and the mulberry establishment is now on quarter acreage. There is a need for more support to establish and maintain the mulberry feed on all the 400 acres, put up modernized rearing house, grainage and also a factory for fibre handling and processing,” added Mushikoma.

Betty Aol Ochan, a member of the Committee and Woman MP for Gulu City, told TND News’ Milton Emmy Akwam from Namusumbi that it was a mistake by the President to do away with the (previous) ministry.

“Because there was a Ministry of Science and Technology now it looks like it is a department. So, it has frustrated very many other things which were under the ministry. What we are trying to interrogate is, ‘find exactly where the problem is so that if it can be sorted out, it should be sorted out’.”

“If you see the people who worked, even in Kween (district) when we went people who worked were never paid. It looks like there is no money for paying them. ‘Where has the money gone?’”

Asked whether she knows there is a very big concern between TRIDI and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, when the government allocated money, about shs43b for the project and it’s not released, and maybe it is a reason causal workers are not paid, she replied, “Probably. You see that one I cannot enter deep into it.”

“But whoever tempered with the resources for these people (TRIDI) has made the biggest mistake. If only we can be transparent and accountable for everything, I think there would be a lot of peace,” MP Aol added.

What would be your message or recommendation to the Minister? TND News asked her and she replied, “My message is, these people should be paid. The people who have worked be paid and protected, they should be paid, nothing less nothing more.”

So you are telling me the Minister should release the money? “Yes! Release the money. The Minister has to release the money, so let them not wait.”

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People of Mulaya village including causal workers of TRIDI interacts with the MPs on Thursday.

Committee Chairperson speaks

Speaking to TND News from Mulaya village, Kayunga on Thursday, the Committee Chairperson who is also the MP of Pian County, Nabilatuk district, Remigio Achia, said, “On this site where we invested about shs4b to buy 400 acres, that is about 10m per acre, what we have observed is that most of the mulberry which was planted has gone to waste because of the weeds and any other factors.”

The MP and his colleagues had earlier interacted with causal workers and local leaders who said because of the lack of funding to TRIDI, they have not been paid. “The most painful thing is that all the 110 workers (causal laborers) have not been paid since June last year and we are coming to almost June this year, that is almost a full year of nonpayment,” MP Achia said.

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“As we heard from the meetings, many people have not been paid and because of that children are not going to school others have no access to health, they are continuing to work on the farm and we are surprised that even some people with goodwill out of 110 acres, there are about 30 who are here, some of them came from Mbale, others from far away.”

According to the Committee Chairperson, they have noted that this project is good because it is employing a lot of young people in this sub-county (Bbaale).

“This was a very good opportunity for the government to support to reduce poverty in this area. What we as a committee have observed is that we need very urgently, very urgently money to be found to pay these people. It is inhuman to make someone work, with no food, and not paid for a whole year. This is not fair and this is our country and we should not make our people suffer.”

TND News asked him, “The financial year is almost ending, what do you say about releasing the money?”

“We know that the financial year is coming to an end next month but obviously resource can be found, government has always found an opportunity to use a supplementary budget to get money. We might find money is not in the budget, yes but why we are here is to find how much we can put in the budget and how much can be released quickly.”

He added, “We are aware that there is shs42b for this project but because of the legalese, the change in the focus of the project, the money is there but we need to find a way out, how we can make an arrangement for the money to be released.”

When we should expect the Committee’s report on the Sericulture project? “This is actually the final thing because now, we wanted to visit a few more sites. We have visited Rubare in Sheema district, we have visited Kween, Bulambuli, and we have visited many sites. So, this actually was our final phase of making our report otherwise the draft is complete.”

“But we wanted to see, not to conclude just using a few sites; we wanted to conclude using a bigger picture, to see the gravity of the problem.”

Asked about his (their) level of satisfaction with the project, MP Achia responded, “I think it is good we came here. It is good we came here because we would have not got the feeling or even the visibility of what it means.”

“If we didn’t come since yesterday and today and even the other week (the other month), we have got the gravity of the problem especially the nonpayment of causal laborors and other workers of the company. Even if there are other things that the Ministry of Science and Technology is trying to discuss with TRIDI, it is important that we honour our obligations to pay the workers who are on these sites as we move forward.”

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