Ankole; the confluence of milk, tea, tourism, factories, old and new money- Ofwono Opondo

Testing my body endurance, but also to quench my appetite to know places that I haven’t hitherto visited, early this morning I drove from Mulanda to Kyangabi Crater Resort nestled on an expansive shaded hill and valley in Bunyarugru, Rubirizi at the invitation alongside other media gurus by the Uganda Airlines to have discussions on how to support the nascent national carrier reactivated after a twenty-year lull.

The two-day discussion focused on understanding the industry and mobilizing stakeholder support for the airline to play its role in making Uganda conducive as a travel, tourism and investment destination.

Traveling from a wretched Tororo through Busoga, you cannot avoid the tingling envy over visible socio-economic transformation underway here. To reach there, I passed through the recently rebellious Katonga Bridge that was washed away in late May but now partially reconstructed allowing light vehicles from Masaka and Kampala to pass with ease.

In Masaka, Lwengo, Lyatonde and Kiruhura districts, it’s scotching weather with banana, coffee, maize, and pasture for livestock looking miserable that you have to pity even the hardest working farmers.

On the great Buganda kingdom side up to Lwengo it’s bad, partly I suppose because of poor farmer attitude, farming practices and possibly ignorance. But you have to commend them for not as yet subjecting swamps to wanton and regrettable abuse as in Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Busoga and Bukedi regions.

On the Ankole side from Lyantonde, Kirihura all the way to Bunyaruguru, even with the tough sunshine, there’s marked difference in quality of both livestock and crop farming, partly due to better and more positive farmer attitude, enlightenment and practice where farming is now commercialized for profit.

The same trends are in Rwampara, Ntungamo, Ibanda and Kazo districts. At the Kaguta junction, charcoal business is still rampant, an eyesore along that stretch, although living happily side by side with the mushrooming factories.

An Executive Order banning charcoal burning for this area should be in order. Akageti, formerly for only vending raw milk, ghee, chicken and charcoal is now a huge town putting my Iyolwa, Nabuyoga and Pajwenda town councils in West Budama to big shame.

In Ankole there’s purposeful commercialized farming that has created a good confluence of productivity in banana, milk, tea, coffee, forests, plenty and varied tourism attractions, and urban vibrancy merging new and old money in the hands of locally grown entrepreneurs, most of them young people. Even from a casual observation, one cannot fail to notice the commitment, deliberate and systematic planning, and execution driven by healthy competition.

Now because of the new 14km Mbarara bypass, to go to Bushenyi, I didn’t go through town but rather snaked along many fabulous structures including the Business Centre sprawling up.

Between Mbarara and Sheema district, one meets columns of men drenched in sweat slugging bicycles with up to ten huge bunches of matooke to the market. The matooke are from the well-maintained plantations one sees for as far as eyes stretch. Now, if you have been thinking that all Banyankore just load it on government, you need to reconsider your views.

Just before Bushenyi town, I turned a short distance into a country road for a courtesy with my old friend and former minister Mary Businge Karoro Okurut at her forested home where she was meeting local community groups giving updates on their various enterprises she supports. Nearby, she is building a Mary Karoro Okurut Foundation, a Craft Skilling Centre for young people which is already putting some items for sale on the shelves. Good luck.

In the Nyamurunga bygone days, Bushenyi was a cradle of its own with Adonia Tiberondwa, Yonasani Kanyomozi, Edward Rurangaranga now all departed, and Chris Rwakasisi, Richard Henry Kaijuka (RIHEKA), and Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, when Kahinda Otafire and Nuwe Amanya Mushega where hiding in the bush avoiding being captured alive.

In 1986 the tables turned, and thirty seven years later the situation hasn’t changed. Ishaka and Bushenyi have expanded exponentially that Tiberondwa and Rurangaranga would smile if they woke up from their permanent sleep. But I guess, Otafire, Mushega, Kamuntu and Tarsis Bazana Kabwegyere will tell them when they eventually meet again, and this is not to wish any of them bad omen.

Bushenyi, Ishaka and Bunyaruguru are all green hills and valleys with truly well-manicured banana, tea, eucalyptus and natural forests especially from Kyamuhunga in Igara. From Bushenyi to Queen Elizabeth National Park 60km away, most homes are silhouetted behind banana and tea plantations interspersed with planted forests probably to hide the poverty.

But on second look, you notice that homestead poverty has been banished for you only see good permanent homes, signs of continuous and sustainable wealth.

Rubirizi with many hills, gorges, and craters, has a magnificent swathe of forest slopping down steep hills almost hugging Lake Bunyaruguru.

Probably needless to say, the Uganda Airline meeting, early morning Game Drive in Queen Elizabeth national park to track lions, elephants, leopards and Buffalos which was a success, and Kyangabi Crater Resort hospitality all left good taste on me.


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