A massive fish project worth Shs 850 million is wasting away in the south western Kanungu district.
The project was conceived in May 2017, when President Yoweri Museveni hosted in Nakasero, members of a youth group named Kanungu Youth Development or KAYODEA.
The group led by one Godfrey Niwagaba presented to the President their work plan that included a fish farming project proposal which would be implemented at a cost of Shs 850 million.
Niwagaba told the president that they had carefully carried out a baseline survey in Kanungu and established that fish farming was one of the projects that could transform the welfare of the youths because of its multiplier effect by providing a chain of employment opportunities from farming to marketing.
Niwagaba assured the President that KAYODEA had engaged fish farming consultants who assured them that the project was going to be implemented using modern professional fish farming methods.
The President was impressed and agreed to fund the project.
He then directed the State House Comptroller Lucy Nakyoobe to immediately find a source of funding for the KAYODEA Fish Farming project as it came to be known at the time, and work closely with the Youth Leaders to ensure that the project was implemented.
The team that consisted of Nakyoobe and the KAYODEA Leadership immediately got to one.
One of the issues in the proposal however, was that KAYODEA has no land to start the project.
Juma Mugisha, the KAYODEA Secretary General told ChimpReports, that later they decided to put in a request to the district leadership who pledged to support the project.
The district went ahead and passed a motion allocating them a piece of land located at Maizimera in Kihihi Town Council.
Whereas, KAYODEA was the lead organisation working with State House to implement the project, the District Youths Council felt it had been sidestepped and left out in the field implementation of the project.
They therefore courted the District Local Council to prevail engage State House to ensure that they are involved in the project implementation since they represented the bigger youth structures of the district.
The then District Male Youth Councillor Eliab Nasasira vehemently opposed the ownership of the project by KAYODEA Leadership and asked the District Local Council to put the ownership of the project under Kanungu Youth Council.
On December 21st 2018, President Museveni visited Kanungu district to commission the construction of Kanungu – Rukungiri Road and used the opportunity also to launch the huge fish farming project, which at the time had been completed.
At the event, Museveni personally fed the fish fingerlings which had started breeding in the 6 ponds.
The President was pleased with the progress and even directed Nakyoobe that extra funding for fish hatchery and feed mill be provided to ensure that this becomes the model project in Western Uganda.
However, behind the president’s back, Kanungu Youth Council and KAYODEA were engaged in ownership struggle.
This compelled the Resident District Commissioner Hajji Shafque Ssekandi to step in and form a committee where the two warring youth parties were brought on board to form a Management committee.
The project was run by the committee and the implementation process went on uninterrupted for another year in which the first harvest was carried out and fish worth Ugx 45 was harvested.
By this time, the State House team had handed over its responsibility to the Management Committee.
However, the Management Committee started failing on its roles, especially after the initial members of KAYODEA decided to pull out as they were being side-lined.
“The district officials were determined to root out the KAYODEA members, who in turn decided to sign out of the project,” said Juma Mugisha the Secretary General of KAYODEA, who had been put on the management committee.
Mugisha says the committee after the first harvest took out the money from the sales and abandoned the project entirely.
Speaking to this reporter, the Kanungu Deputy RDC Gad Ahimbisibwe Rugaju admitted that the fish farming project has been put to waste and has become a ‘white elephant’ yet it’s objectives were well intentioned to help transform the lives of the youth in Kanungu.
“The challenge is that the fish have not fed for the last 8 months; the youth leaders harvested fish and sold it, but they never restocked the ponds while the workers who include the porters and the security have not been paid for the last 8 months” he said.
“Unfortunately now even the few remaining fishes have been starving to death.”
Godfrey Niwagaba, who personally handled the original project proposal says he was disappointed with the district leadership.
“Hundreds of millions of tax payers’ money have been put to waste when the top leaders in the District are watching yet they know the truth, because they all witnessed it right from presentation of the project proposal, and subsequent events, but they have let it go to waste” Niwagaba lamented.
Niwagaba say the original vison bearers, the KAYODEA group are trying to regroup and take back their project, to ensure that it serves the purpose it was meant to for.