Before Hoima Sugar Limited set up a factory in village of Kikuube, Mr Atugonza Musa and Birungi Justus were just hustling farmers—subject to the vagaries of weather, the rice, maize and beans they dealt in couldn’t raise enough money to give them a decent life.
They had the land. But could not even manage to till the whole of it.
Hiring a tractor to overturn 60 acres, and buying seeds enough to cover the entire land are unfathomable.
“I used to deal in rice. The process of planting and then when its ready you are supposed to look for market. I used to take mine to Kabale but still you would not get the best price,
“With Hoima Sugar Limited, all I have to do is have land and they will do everything from, clearing it to planting and harvesting on their own then when time to pay comes, they deduct the fees spent on the garden and harvesting and I get the balance. It is very good business,” Mr Atugonza narrates.
When Hoima Sugar set factory in Kikuube, formerly part of Hoima but has since become an independent district, around five years ago, life in the area was slow. Locals poorer and villages only connected using village footpaths.
However, with the roaring of the cane crushing mills in hills of Kiswaza, life was pumped into the erstwhile quiet village, engines roaring to the factory to deliver cane, town centres springing up near the factory to serve workers hot tea and anything that can energise them to keep working.
But most importantly, the insatiable thirst for cane from the factory gave the local a chance to tap into the sugar cash as out growers.
“We even have an association now. We call ourselves the Hoima Sugar Limited Out-Growers Association. We are 600 members, but many are going to join. What matters is that we are benefiting from the coming of this factory.
“I now have a tractor that I own. For the time I planted maize I do not remember ever getting shs100M in one harvest. But now get that easily. Of course, sometimes they can delay to pay say by a month or so, but at least you are assured of your money,” Mr Birungi Justus the chairperson of the out-growers says.
According to the Hoima Sugar Limited agriculture manager, Mr Rajshecran, there are around 3500 sugarcane outgrowers serving the factory. They are strewn across 163 villages and they altogether have 8000 hectares of cane.
All the farmers have to do is to have land. The company gives them the cane seedlings, tills the land, weeds it and even harvests the cane when ready. Then, they calculate, together with the farmer, and deduct the cost that goes into that. The farmer takes the profit.
Mr Kyaligonza Patrick of Muntume Subcounty understands that better.
“I have over 80 acres of sugarcane. The company even gave me a tractor on loan. On my very first planting, I used 15 acres and made shs75M. When they deducted the loan payment for that harvest, I took home shs35M.
“In the second harvest on the same acreage, I got shs100 million and when they deducted the tractor loan, I remained with shs 75m net. I could never make that off maize that I used to plant. What is even more attractive on this one is that all I do is avail my land and they do everything,” he said.
Life in Kikuube, however, is not just about the out-growers. The locals too have benefited.
“The company gives porridge, with sugar to three schools and they promised to increase the number of schools when schools reopen after Covid-19. Maybe they will offer all primary schools in Kikuube porridge lunch,
“They have also opened up and worked on so many roads. Villages can now connect easily and that too has improved on the security of the areas,” the Kikuube RDC, Richard Tabaaro said.
With now just over five years since being established. Hoima Sugar Limited is making a mark on the people and the villages that allowed it in are now reaping the fruits.
“We feel cheated because the sugar bags have Hoima Sugar yet the factory and the sugarcane is grown here in Kikuube. You know the company was established when this place was still part of Hoima.
“We have asked Management to write on the sugar bags, Hoima Sugar, Produced in Kikuube. Our new district should be known for the good things that re coming from here,” RDC Tabaaro said.