If there is someone most suited to tell stories about the formerly remote island of Buvuma, then that person is me. Right from the time, it was under Mukono District, right into its infant days as a new district in 2010 up to the current rapidly transforming economic and investment hub. Generally, I have watched and seen it all.
With the four guiding core principles of the NRM Government of Patriotism, Pan- Africanism, Social Economic Transformation and Democracy, one easily recognise that the vibrancy being enjoyed by the islanders is deliberate, and not accidental.
The salient features of the development of the Island District can, of course not be exhausted in any one single submission but for matters of clarity and simplicity of understanding, I will categorise them into three parent strata. These are; Education, Health and Production.
As one of the hardest to reach areas of the country, it’s no mistake to mention that narrating the journey of education from before 1986 to where we are now is a pain to all that have known, or lived the island through the times.
By 2010, Buvuma Island, home to over 120,000 people had only 12 Primary Schools, with a mere 7500 pupils attending studies in the whole district. These have since increased to 22, with enrollment nearly tripling at 21000 pupils.
Up from one secondary school- Buvuma College constructed in the 1970s, the Island has so far witnessed the development of more than three schools to make it four, including Nairambi Seed School established as a presidential pledge in Nairambi Sub County.
At the time, the district had seventy (70) government teachers in the 12 school, a number that has since been increased to 160.
Under the same arrangement, two more Seed Schools are in the pipeline, in Bwema Island, and Lukoma, Busamuzi Sub County. These, once completed are expected to propel enrollment in secondary schools higher, and improve the quality of the labour force at the island.
The interventions by the NRM government above, along with many others have helped raise the standard of education at the Island from a mere 10% at which it stood at the time of attaining autonomy from Mukono to now 49%. This is even projected to continue pushing up provided government programs geared towards the same are efficiently implemented by the concerned departments.
The fact that as of now, the district can boast of several personnel occupying positions in the top service at the district such as the District Planner, Secretary District Service Commission, Head Teachers, Health workers, raised and trained by the local education system is testimony to the great work so far well done.
Just like education, accessibility constraints have always hurt the health sector in most water surrounded districts. With limited availability of pit latrines, poorly developed health networks, difficulties in movements from island to island, high illiteracy levels, all hurt the sector.
Nonetheless, the government has upped the scale from the original two health Centers IIs at Bwema and Bugaya, and one Health Center 3 at Kitamiiro to now 12, including; Namatale, Lubya, Nkata, Lwagi, Busamuzi, Buwooya, Lukale, among others. These have been fully equipped, staffed and regularly supplied with drugs from the Ministry of Health.
Since Buvuma is not connected to the National Hydro Power Grid, the government has improvised by powering each of the health facilities with reliable solar power solutions to run equipment like fridges that store vaccines. Immunisation outreach programs have also been intensified under the Primary Health Care Fund.
On the fight against HIV/ AIDS, amid the many challenges, there is a lot to celebrate still.
At a prevalence rate of 12%, Buvuma remains one of the most immensely affected districts in Uganda. This is partly due to the nomadic nature of its inhabitants who keep moving from one place to another. This normally makes it difficult for health service providers to monitor patients on drugs since they are here today and tomorrow they will move to a different place.
The government, however, in partnership with Makerere University Water Reed Project(MUWRP) has intensified outreach programs to scale down infection rates, and management of those already infected through enrolling for Anti Retroviral drug programs. During the COVID 19 period, mechanisms to facilitate easy and safe delivery of drugs to patients in hard to reach areas have been put in place to mitigate the damage that could have arisen from the lockdown.
Specific interventions in the different sectors have simultaneously seen an upsurge in production levels on the island formerly reserved for primary fishing. Programs like those engineered by the Operation Wealth Creation and NAADS have increased agriculture productivity to complement fishing.
Every other month, Buvuma exports 460 tons of quality dry cassavaa to as far as Kenya, 364tons of Bogoya to Congo and South Sudan, 120 tons of rice, 240 tons of Maize and 130 tons of Matooke as per the figure provided by the ferry service that connects the island to the mainland.
If only a more robust intervention by the operation Wealth Creation is implemented, there would be more magic without any question.
The Palm Oil Gold
The introduction of the palm oil cash crop is a new golden strategy that’s tipped to radically pull the islanders out of poverty, diversify production, and promote infrastructural development through corporate social responsibility for the investment firms.
This is a diversification strategy by HE the President that he believes will create jobs, widen the tax basket, improve standards of living in host communities. As we talk now, more than 5000 hactares of land have been leased to BIDCO to spearhead the palm oil project on the Island. The government has also secured a loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the growth of an out grower arm of palm oil production.
Under the program, farmers will be advanced credit to engage in palm oil farming. The loans will be payable in ten years from the start of the first harvest. 266 farmers have already registered under the arrangement, with 75 of these already taking off. If adequately handled by the beneficiaries, and embraced by the leaders, all we shall wait to witness a time when Buvuma will blossom and become a place for other places to visit for benchmarking.
The writer is the Deputy RDC Buvuma district. Reach him on 0700299123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at email@example.com