Thursday, January 25, 2018


By Moses Sserwanga

 As Ugandans mark the 32 Liberation Day Anniversary under the theme: Uganda’s liberation struggle; a significant contribution to our present and future development, it is imperative to remind ourselves about the essentials that are central to the transformation process from a peasant to a modern and prosperous society.

Uganda’s Vision 2040 was put in place to harness the abundant opportunities around the country. The opportunities include; oil and gas, tourism, minerals, ICT business, abundant labour force, geographical location and trade, water resources, industrialisation, and agriculture among others.

But the planners envisaged that one could not possibly realise the opportunities abound with our natural resources and hence underscored the importance of accelerating investments in the development of  infrastructure for (energy, transport, water, oil and gas and ICT); Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation (STEI) not forgetting human resource development, peace , security and defence.

The full realisation of the intentions of  the well crafted  NRM government Vision 2040 statement , will therefore,  depend on the  commitment and dedication of all Ugandans towards hard work, premised on having  the  right attitudes and mind-sets to  improve our competitiveness and collective participation in national development .

This is because Uganda, as we all know, is endowed with significant amount of minerals which can be deployed for value addition across many development sectors including but not limited to the automotive industry.
Uganda’s airborne geophysical survey, geological mapping and geochemical sampling estimates that there are over 27 types of minerals in significant commercial viable reserves dotted across the country.  Iron ore deposits in Kabale and Kisoro areas alone are estimated to be over 50 million tonnes.  And yet these are not the only natural resources available , There  are other minerals which  include; Beryl, Bismuth, Columbite Tantalite, Copper, Chromite, Diamond, Gold, Tin (cassiterite), Wolfram(Tungsten), Asbes-tos, Clay, Diatomite, Feldspar, Granite Gneisis, Graphite, Gypsum, Kaolin, Kyanite, Limestone, Marble, Mica, Phos-phates, Rock Salt, Silca Sand, Talc, Cobalt, Lead, Zinc, Platinum Group Metals (PGM), Uranium, Vermiculite and Nickle to mention but a few .

When fully exploited these minerals can provide a source of raw materials for many industries triggering an industrial revolution with pleasant ramifications. The automotive industry is one of those sectors with a huge potential as demonstrated by other East African countries the Mobius in Kenya and now Volkswagen in Rwanda. Don’t forget that Uganda was hitherto ahead of these two countries in the development of the automotive industry through the country’s vehicle production flagship-the Kiira Motors Corporation, (KMC).

As  Rwanda  partners with German car maker Volkswagen to produce vehicles in Kigali,  Uganda too, has the opportunity to build a strong  automotive industry  with forward and backward linkages with other industries like mining  which will have far reaching economic and development  implications in revenue  generation and employment for the fastest  growing population in the world.

The huge global demand for vehicles is testament that once Uganda’s automotive industry takes off it could easily become one of the country‘s major foreign exchange earner. Some 79.6 million vehicles were sold last year alone and the demand is only expected to increase this year. This should be the bench-mark to fast- track the potential that Uganda’s industratisation trajectory presents.

A review of the development paths of many developed and emerging economies show that except for a few oil-exporting countries there is a direct relation between industrialisation and rapid development. A strong and competitive industrial base is therefore, important to create employment, advance technology and build a strong resilient economy.

But industrialisation cannot be realised out of the vacuum. There must be a conducive legal environment for the industrial sector development to take effect. It is a pity that not much has been done to develop the gazetted industrial parks which are supposed to be the  bedrock for industrialisation.

Government must put in place and support outward oriented policies to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and provide the entire necessary infrastructure in the gazetted national industrial parks for championing industrialisation. Otherwise,  celebrating national liberation without tangible economic benefit to the majority of the people shall be rendered redundant. Happy Liberation Day!

The writer is a media and communications Consultant/trainer and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda.   This article can also be found at


Friday, January 5, 2018



The  Visitation Committee on  Makerere University  in its report which was  officially handed over to President Yoweri Museveni last week , has made far reaching  recommendations to reform Uganda’s Higher Education Sub Sector to make it more  relevant to the country’s development goals through innovation and industrialisation.
The recommendations address thematic areas which include, teaching and learning, research and innovation, knowledge transfer partnerships and networks and the National Higher Education Strategic Plan which expired in 2015, among others.
The Committee which was set up in 2016 to examine the challenges that face Uganda’s Public Universities stressed the need to restructure training programs to place emphasis on skills development, research and innovation that is critical for the aspired national socio- economic transformation of the country.
This in essence means that Uganda must as a matter of urgency establish a resilient and vibrant higher education system that can contribute to the competitiveness of the country’s economy in tandem with the Vision 2040 and the National Development Plan II.
Although Makerere University is still ranked the 3rd in Africa by Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 2016/17, a relatively good standing among its peers in the East African region and African continent , the Visitation Committee established in its investigations that the institution just like many others in the country, is still using backward teaching and learning methods which are  devoid of serious research undertakings and innovative ideas to reflect the institution’s mission of “Bringing the Future to the Present”.

The Committee also found that Makerere University lacks a comprehensive policy to guide the development of indigenous knowledge and knowledge transfer partnerships. This situation is not helped either by the lack of a nationally-funded research agenda and the allocation of less than one percent of the University’s internally generated income to research, innovations and skilled based knowledge/learning.

 These findings are of great national concern because the challenges as highlighted by the Committee are not only limited to Makerere University but cut across the entire Higher Education Sub Sector.

If Uganda is going to find space in a highly competitive global education system, there is urgent need to put in place a Higher Education Strategic Plan that will emphasise alternative thinking or “lateral” thinking and creative application of acquired skills through research and innovation as was espoused by Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono, a Maltese philosopher, physician, psychologist, author and inventor.

 Makerere together with other stakeholders must this time round take some bold steps to implement the Committee’s recommendations by carrying out radical reforms which will promote research, innovation and skills based learning. Graduates who are skilled will be easily absorbed in the productive sectors such as the automotive industry. There is already evidence to prove that once well thought out reforms as advocated by the Visitation Committee are expeditiously implemented, Uganda’s Higher Education Sector can be transformed rapidly.
This is because many of these revolutionary concepts are not alien to our education systems they have either been captured in previous reports or have been implemented but rather selectively by a few spirited individuals.

 Take for instance the Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) a national automotive manufacturing company that designed and produced the first solar bus in Africa –the Kayoola solar bus has built on many of its widely acclaimed milestones to develop the Kiira Motors brand identity and is now slated to produce vehicles made in Uganda for the first time this year. But this is not to forget that KMC was initially a Makerere University Presidential Initiative Project which in the late 2000s demonstrated that students, when given the right knowledge, skills, guidance and attitude can be quite innovative. At the time, under the stewardship of Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa and Mr. Paul Isaac Musasizi, a handful of students at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, designed and built the first electric vehicle in Africa, the Kiira EV.

 Similarly, by employing alternative thinking, Makerere University is running a program called Resilient Africa Networks (RAN) the largest University –Institutionalised Platform that involves 18 Universities spread across 13 African countries. The Platform is used as a conduit for engagements with cities and communities in Africa to generate knowledge and skills to inform resilience driven innovations that create African solutions to Africa’s problems. The RAN lab alone manages a multidisciplinary portfolio of over 150 innovations.

These and many other examples show that we can get out of this retarded Higher Education quagmire. The Visitation Committee has recommended that Makerere and other public universities should in the short and medium term, ensure that professional bodies, industry and employers are actively involved in the development and restructuring of courses so that the restructured programs are relevant to the national development needs and agenda. The Committee also calls for a review of the internship programme to capture students’ learning experiences.

In addition, it urges government to sustainably operationalise the Research and Innovation Fund and scale it up from the Shs. 500bn to boost research and innovation at the national level. The revolving fund should be competed for nationally by education and research institutions in both the public and private domains to encourage multi-disciplinary teams of researchers, academics, students and practitioners including inventors and industrialists.

 This is the only way Higher Education Institutions can fulfil their mandate and be at the helm of national economic development and transformation through their contribution to professional training.  The Uganda Vision 2040 places great importance on developing a skilled and creative workforce to harness the abundant economic opportunities available in Uganda especially in regard to natural resources and industrialisation.

And yes, it can be done if government and all stakeholders can implement the recommendations as contained in the Makerere Visitation Committee Report without further delay.

The writer is a Media and Communications Consultant and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda. This article can also be found at

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


In concerted effort to push Uganda to a middle income economy by 2020, the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) has rolled out an ambitious strategic plan to build and complete six new Industrial and Business parks.
The six (6) new Industrial and Business Parks will be located in Jinja, Nakasongola, Arua, Buliisa, Gulu and Lira districts. Government has also committed to secure an additional Ug. Shs 500bn to complete the Kampala Industrial and Business Park (KIBP), Namanve. According to the UIA five-year strategic plan which will run until 2021, the Industrial Parks are meant to promote Uganda as a destination for profitable investment, business and innovation to create an estimated 1,000,000 (one million) jobs by 2021.
The UIA strategy and the mission to develop these parks follows President Yoweri Museveni’s directive to fast track development of the 22 gazetted Industrial Parks countrywide, as a means to accelerated industrialization, create jobs, wealth and ensure inclusive development for the entire country in line with the NRM Manifesto 2016-2021.
Already, Kiira Motors Corporation is in the process of extending electricity and water to the Jinja Industrial and Business Park where their Vehicle Plant is to be situated.  The contribution to employment of the Vehicle Plant’s establishment is estimated at over 850 jobs from the Start-Up Investment. At full-scale Plant Operation, over 2,000 jobs are estimated to be created directly and over 12,000 jobs created indirectly.
The Authority also plans to develop four (4) regional Science, Technology and Industrial Parks (STIPs) during the 5-year period. Each regional STIP will house a “German-model Multi-Skills Development Center” to offer broad-based, multi-disciplinary and hands-on training in skills and trades in various industrial and technical fields--along the German model of vocational education and training.  The objectives are to produce "industry ready" skilled graduates.

UIA has also proposed another four (4) regional Israel-model Agribusiness Technical and Vocational Skills Institutes. Central Uganda’s Agribusiness Skills Institute will be located in Nakaseke District-Luwero Triangle. It will focus on crop agriculture and animal resources value chains. Eastern Uganda’s Agribusiness Skills Institute will be located on the border of Katakwi District (Teso sub-region) and Napak District (Karamoja sub-region). It will focus on dryland agriculture with irrigation and animal resources value chain.
Northern Uganda’s Agribusiness Skills Institute will be located in Rhino Camp, Arua District on the banks of the River Nile. It will focus on Aqua-culture (commercial fish farming), Apiary (commercial bee keeping and honey production), and citrus/fruits value chains. While Western Uganda’s Israel-model Agribusiness Skills Institute will be located in Kabarole District and focus on livestock and diary value chain.
UIA seeks to tap the Ug Shs 500bn Innovation Fund set by President Museveni for the four (4) regional Science, Technology and Industrial Parks; German-model Multi-Skills Development Centers, and the Israel-model Agribusiness Technical & Vocational Skills Institutes. And the Authority has projected Ug. Shs 20 bn over 5 years for the German and Israel models Technical and Vocational Skills Centers.  
The German-model Multi-Skills Development Centers will anchor and provide “Industry-ready” skilled graduates, especially for the regional Science, Technology and Industrial Parks. Meanwhile the Israel-model Agribusiness Vocational Institutes will feed into the Industrial Parks in their regional catchment areas. They will admit young people with qualifications right from ‘O’, ‘A’ levels, BTVET, diplomas and those with degrees.
The idea is to have as many youths with a diversity of qualifications as possible to benefit from these proposed world-class Skills Development Facilities, UIA sources said.
Training and mentoring in both the German and Israel model Skills Centers/Institutes are expected to take between 1-2 years maximum. UIA expects both the German and Israel BTVET models to be operational by the third year 2019/2020 and each model is expected to admit at least 500 students at the opening, and develop over 2,000 “Industry-ready” skilled graduates by 2021.
This new blue-print is geared at making Uganda a profitable hub and destination for investment. It is in turn predicated on Uganda as the land of entrepreneurial and innovative people.
UIA will also harness the international goodwill towards Uganda through global strategic partnerships with China, South Korea, Israel and Singapore to ensure that the objectives of its new strategic plan for Industrial Parks development to accelerate industrialization is achieved.
The writer is a Media and Communications Consultant/Trainer and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

This article can also be found at:


By Moses Sserwanga 
The youth and women are a critical mass for social and economic development and in northern Uganda a region that has steadily recovered from a brutal 20 year Jospeh Kony’s LRA war, they are leading the recovery efforts to rebuild communities that were destroyed during the civil unrest.

In the remote sub counties of Kwera and Kangai in Dokolo district the  Youth Social Work Association (YSA)  a Ugandan Non Governmental Organization is working with 2,000 households to empower youth and women to increase their agricultural business competitiveness .

 The organization  which was founded in 2005, according to Mr. William Osal (28), the Project Officer,   promotes the welfare of children and youth . YSA is currently operating in the districts of Gulu, Pader Dokolo, Bushenyi with it’s head office in Kampala.

In the 2008, YSA started working with Orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in Dokolo district with a focus on core programme areas of education, health, child protection, Social economic support, food and nutrition as well as care and support.

Osal  says that YSA has since  distributed goats, provided household care items, uniforms and scholastic materials  to orphans and other war affected children . Training of  caregivers for abandoned children was also carried out.

“ Whileoffering these  services  we noted that there was a big  gap in business competition and gender inequalities  among the youth and  women in the war affected areas . So we wrote a proposal to aBi Trust to secure funds to promote business competiveness among women and youth sunflower producers to attract better markets and reliable incomes, Osal flanked with fellow youth, John Baguma (24) and Cate Alumo (26), explains .

 He said that the vuknerable farmers had to be trained in agricultural  production and product handling that sustains buyer needs in terms of quantity and quality. The abi Trust was accepted YSA proposal and in offered a grant of shs.400m

aBi Trust support beaars fruits 

After securing the finacial support from aBi Trust YSA has since December  2012 trained  100 women and 20 youth groups in Kwera, Knagai and Agwata sub counties in Dokolo District.

At least3,600 farmers from 100 women and 20 youth groups each with 30 members in 3 sub counties in Dokolo district  have been equiped with technical skills in sunflower production and marketing  to sustain threshold yield and quality crop production  that is attractive to targeted buyers. The farmers are also organised in groups to   improve marketing of sunflower through collective bargaining .

Gender mainstreaming in 3,600 sunflower growing households  for better utilization of proceeds from sunflower sales hence improved livelihood of both women and men has been undertaken.

And with increased incomes at the family level , the farmers the farmers have been encouraged to set up village Savings and Loans Associations to inculcate a culture of savings and investments to stir economic development in the rural areas.

The farmers have embraced the VSLAs concept and Osla says that  from 120 groups  savings portfolio has grown from zero  to shs.260m. “ This a remarkable achievement for us . Because the farmers are now in position to plan together and budget for their resources .men and women are working together which was not the case before ,” he says.

Sharon Akello, an extension work says that gender relations have greatly improved following the introduction of gender training session in the communities .“ cases of gender related violence have substantially reduced and the people are  happy to work together .

 We have also mobilized 100 and 20  new women and youth groups for support in sunflower value chain. Farmers have also been trainedin entrepreneurship, business development, negotiation skills, making of records and collective business plans“ akello stated.

Because  farmers are organised in groups , 480 pre-season planning meetings for timely and coordinated sunflower production operations have been held. The preseason planning meetings are helld once every year at the beginning of the first season per group.

The farmers with support from aBiTrust ,have received  360 Kg of certified hybrid sunflower seeds from Mukwano company for planting  in one acre demonstration gardens in each group and carry out the demonstration using farmer field school methodology.

The  demostration gardens help farmers  to acquire skills and knowledge  in sunflower agronomy, disease and pest control, post haverst handling produce management.

Couples have also bee trained in 3,600 households to carry out joint planning and benefit sharing and gender roles in sunflower value chain.

Farmers welcome  aBi Trust support

Syndrella Ebil (27) a member of the Oraibaing  youth group  said that the farmers have benefited alot from the trainings which have been extended to them by YSA  with the support of aBi  Trust

We are now preacing the gospel of  education because we can now save and take our children to  school. Our farm  yeilds have improved and everyone is happy because we are getting better income,“  she stated.

Ebil’s comments were  supported by those of Moses Otim(40) another member of the group  who said that their group had mobilised savings of shs.2m and families were peacefully living togther.


§  Increased productivity using the improved hybrid sunflower seeds as opposed to the local hybbridie from 400kg per acre to 600kg per acre leading to increased income among farmers ie from 320,000= to 480,000= respectively.

§  Initiated and Promoted savings within groups and individuals up to the tune of 260,000,000= as saving portfolio.

§  There is a drastic reduction in the cases of domestic violence and improved gender relations due to intensive sensitisation carried out by gender change Agents. For example gender based violence cases have reduced from 30-340 cases to 5-10 cases reported in a month in three sub counties.

§  YSA registered 120 women and youth groups with the sub counties as viable enterprises. This has guaranteed for them support from other government interventions and development partners.

§  There is increased knowledge and skills in growing sunflower hence increase in production ie on average, individuals are now growing at least two acres compared to half or nothing before the intervention.


§  Sunflower as an enterprise is dominated by Mukwano as the supllier of seeds and a buyer of the proceeds, this tend to make framers adhere to unfair business terms  offered especially pricing.

§  It is becomig extreamly difficult for the VSLA groups to manage thier saving portfolios as they continue growing. Therefore theirs need to set up Saccos that will help manage farmers’ savings better.

§  Unfavourable weather patternsresulting to poor harvest by farmers.

§  There is also problem of transporting the farmers produce  to the nearest market. For the members of Oraibaing youth group the nearest  market is in Kwangwata  which is a long distance .

§  Women are also faced with the problem of accessing land due to traditional barriers.

Exit strategy/Sustainability mechanisms

YSA has designed to main ideas for sustainability of the project benefits;

1.    Procurement of a sunflower processing plantaccording to their business  plan.
2.    Starting a Savings and Credit Cooperative.
The writer is a  Media and  Communications consultant/Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

Thursday, November 30, 2017


BY MOSES SSERWANGA As Uganda moves steadfast to put locally made cars on the market for the first time in 2018 many Ugandans are wondering how they could benefit from a budding automotive industry when it finally takes off. What they need to know is that the car just like any other locally manufactured product has many components or parts that can be sourced locally and therefore offer huge opportunities to the local parts fabrication suppliers. A car, on average, has over 30,000 parts by the time it leaves the production line and this will not be any different when Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC)’s much anticipated Vehicle Production Plant is set up in Jinja next year. While major carmakers the world over, source car parts from a broad range of global automotive suppliers overseas, in Uganda with the availability of abundant natural raw materials for car production, enterprising Ugandans should be prepared to cash in on the economic opportunities that will be created across the country’s nascent automotive industry. Already, the country is promoting the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy which encourages local content participation, a good strategy if fully and well implemented. The policy will very much be part of the national industrialization agenda and the automotive sector can take the lead in the realization of this ambitious government development program. The BUBU initiative should, therefore, continuously be fast tracked to enable local sourcing of services and consumables that are essential for the consolidation of Ugandan components in the automotive supply chain. This is because the country is endowed with a variety of rich minerals that are key to the successful implementation of the car manufacturing sector. Among the minerals that are abundant across the country include copper and cobalt deposits in the border district of Kasese, gold in the areas of Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro, Rukungiri,Kanungu,Busia, MubendeHoima and parts of West Nile,Iron ore in Mityana and lead in Kamwenge.Other raw materials needed for car manufacturing like lithium can be found in Kabale, Mukono, Mbale and Mubende; tin, zinc, kaolin, glass and sand are all locally available. The challenge now is for the government to facilitate the business minded Ugandans to benefit from these natural resources across the automotive value chain. There is no doubt that promotion of local automotive value chain enterprises willbe a very important tgovernment intervention that will lead to the creation of jobs and spread wealth among a wide spectrum of the population. Car body builders, vehicle canopies for pick-ups, fiber glass components manufacturers, leather seats makers, after sales car service providers like garages, fuel stations should all prepare to seize and benefit from the economic opportunities that will come with the development of the automotive sector. Fortunately, there are already many young men and women in the areas of Katwe, Nsambya and Namuwongo who are involved in the interior upholstery business, an established industry since there is relatively high demand for transformation of service vans into passenger mini vans that are the main form of public transport in Uganda. These young Ugandans who are beating all odds to participate in the development of the Ugandan auto industry need every support that government can offer. In order to have as many Ugandans benefit from these prospects, there is also need to have a targeted skills development and training program which must be responsive to the technical requirements in the automotive manufacturing business. There is a need to develop and rollout specific curriculum for the automotive industry at our higher education institutions of learning. With the Ugandan economy facing a huge task to absorb some 392,000 new entrants into the labor market and the growth rate in the youth labor force now standing at an estimated at 5.7 percent annually, the automotive industry could as well be a very good entry point in mitigating some of these national development challenges. The writer is a Media and Communications Consultant /trainer and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda. This article can also be found

Monday, November 27, 2017


By Moses Sserwanga So it came to pass when Gen. Mugisha Muntu could not beat the odds and lost the Forum for Democratic Change ,(FDC) Party presidency . But to many political pundits Gen. Muntu’s humiliating defeat having worked tirelessly to build the party structures and mobilise from the grassroots was not by surprise . Ever since he assumed the FDC party leadership Gen. Muntu ‘s leadership style and his background having been the e army commander for close to a decade was never accepted by the radical wing of the FDC led by Dr. Kiza Besigye . While the Muntu and his liberal supporters believed in the leadership of peaceful engagement , mobilization from the grassroots to create a mass base of supporters and putting in place party structures that can out live individuals, on the other hand the Besigye faction was hell- bent at the politics of defiance , confrontation and violence which prescribes to “an eye for an eye” principle. At the end, the two opposing forces could not be accommodated within the same party and it was apparent that one had to give way and the radicals had an upper hand this time round . And yet ,this was not the first time a senior member of the FDC party was being shown the door for having contrary principles , ideology and political tactical maneuvers to those of Dr. Kizza Besigye . Beti Kamanya experienced similar political mortification when she dared to take on Besigye . She left the party a frustrated, bitter woman and now she is back to the NRM. There is no way Muntu or Beti Kamanya would succeed in FDC with out the endorsement of Besigye just like no one can succeed for now, in the NRM without the support of President Museveni But all is not lost on Gen. Muntu who seems to have a national appeal which he never exploited fully due to the infighting , abuse and total betrayal that undermined his FDC Presidency .. I think the best way forward for Gen. Muntu is to either go back to NRM and work from within to start the succession conversation and also position himself as one of the possible candidates that can takeover from Gen. Museveni once the opportunity presents itself in the future ;or , he forms a loose political organisation , it might not necessary be a political party ( a party is an expensive venture to run and besides we have quite a number already). He can then employ that organisation to force a coalition with say NRM to take over leadership of the country starting in 2026. I'm saying starting 2026 because I'm not sure whether Gen. Museveni who 81 at the time would still not be interested in having one more shot at the presidency. However, what is certain is that at that time , Museveni would be seriously thinking about who will take over from him and Muntu who would be , approaching 70 years of age could still be a viable prospect to do at least two terms. Right now , I don't think FDC especially under Besigye has the capacity whatsoever to wrestle political power from NRM let alone Museveni and apart from Jacob Olanya , Edward Sekandi by virtue of being Vice President ,I don't see an easy sell within the NRM to replace the big man . Whoever will takeover from Museveni in the NRM Party , will have to enlist the confidence and support of the security forces especially the army and for now I don't see any other better candidate than the amiable Gen. Mugisha Muntu. The writer is Communications, Media Consultant /Trainer And of The High Court of Uganda Advocate

Friday, November 17, 2017


By Moses Sserwanga Their lives were shattered by Jospeh Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) two decades bloody war but the women ex-combatants and child mothers in Gulu district in northern Uganda, are picking the pieces to live a normal happy life and rebuild their war torn communities. With the restoration of peace in northern Uganda ,many of the ex-combatants who were forced to participate in the vicious war by the then marauding LRA rebels, have long returned to their villages to reconstruct their lives . Now living happily together , the traumatised women ex-combatants are tilling the land not only to produce for their homesteads but for the market as well. They have even set up village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) of 30 members each to cultivate a culture of saving and investment . One such association is the Ribe Ryemo Can, Farmer and Drama group which operates in Ibakara Parish Koro sub-county Gulu district . The Association has 30 members , 24 of whom are women ex-combatants , child mothers and 6 men. Mr. Jacob Oloya (42) the Association’s secretary says that they have raised their savings portfolio considerably since they set up the savings association in 2009. “ We are now in position to lend to each other at an interest rate of 10%. With the savings we have managed to construct houses for the elderly members of our village, sponsored 52 primary seven candidates at Lakwatomer Primary School and we support war orphaned children to attend school,” a beaming Oloya stated while listing a number of achievements registered since the village came together to set up the their Village Savings and Loans Association. Because of their demonstrated efforts to rebuild their communities the women ex-combatants have now attracted support from local and international organisations. Through the Enhancing Business Competitiveness and Income for Women Ex- combatants project in Gulu , implemented by the YMCA Gulu branch with financial support form aBiTrust , the women who are organised in 15 groups of between 20-30 members are now supported to grow and produce groundnuts on large scale for the ready markets in the Acholi sub region and South Sudan . Reniel Rwendeire the project coordinator, says that other activities carried out by the project include promotion of gender main streaming, large scale production of groundnuts and establishment of Village Savings and Loans Associations to improve the economic and social livelihood of people who are recovering from the effects of war . Mr. Rwendeire said that with the financial support of shs.52M from aBiTrust the project has managed to support the women ex-combatants in agronomy where they are encouraged to practice modern farming techniques to yield high quality produce for their homes and the market. “ We have trained them to engage in agriculture production as a business and many of them are now in position to sustain themselves , “ he explained. Flanked by the project Finance and Administration Officer, Perez Akanyaijuka, Dora Ayaa , extension officer, Jackline Ajok Social Worker and Wiliam Osal (28) , Rwendeire said that the project has also set up 15 farmers’ field sites or demonstration centres which operate as learning points for famers to acquire knowledge and skills to carry out good farm practices, post harvest handling and pesticides management. “The ex-combatant are trained to adopt to better farming methods were hey plant their crops in lines for better farm management when weeding and harvesting . We provide them with high quality yielding seeds to increase productivity . we want all the farmers to look at farming as a business ,” Ayaa explained. Through the gender mainstream element of the project, men are encouraged to join the VSLAs and help the women to open up land for large scale farming. Families are also encouraged to plan together, budget together and share the proceeds of their agricultural produce equitably . “You can clearly see that people are happy and have settled back to their villages. They are working hard to rebuild their communities and earning money too because of the support extended by aBiTrust through training, provision of improved seeds and the gender component where women and men treat each other as equals, “ Oloya said. Oloya said men are now involved in opening up land and farming as a household. The project has also provided a psychologist to help the communities recover from the post war trauma by encouraging community bonding. Service provision: Groups have been provided with 30 bicycles for the change agents who move around the villages to promote farming for the market and gender equality. provision of seeds ,15 knapsack sprayers, fertilisers TSP; G.nut paste machines ,G nut shellers, Tarpaulins and monthly allowances for change agents. Challenges: Both Oloya and Rwendeire noted that the communities are faced with the challenge of lack of land for large scale farming especially for the women are not supposed town land due to cultural practices in some communities, effects of climate change with erratic weather partners that affect planting seasons and limited access to agricultural credit. There is also high demand for specialised interventions like training, counselling and access to markets ,all of which need more human and financial resources to manage. Way forward: Rwendiere said that they are preparing the groups to form a bigger Sacco to attract financing from government to continue with the work they have started with the aBitrust support. We want the communities to be self-financing to sustain the good work they have attained so far with or without aBiTrust help , “ Rwendiere said. The writer is a media and communications consultant and advocate of High Court of Uganda