Youths in Western Uganda under their umbrella body – Passion Fruits Association of Uganda – have Tuesday morning staged a peaceful demonstration in Mbarara demanding that the NAADS Executive Director, Dr Mugasi Samuel pays their arrears totaling to Shs 161m for the seed supplies they made to farmers since 2017.
According to the group chairperson, Isaac Nuwamanya, the youths who make up the Association entered an agreement with NAADS to grow passion fruit seedlings for supply to the farmers in the region.
“We are graduates, but as you know, there are no jobs currently in Uganda. So, we decided to venture into agriculture,” he said.
He says the idea to supply the seeds to the NAADS program was recommended by the Chief Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), Gen Salim Saleh as a way to transform the communities in Western Uganda.
“We were authorized by Gen Salim Saleh to supply the seedlings and NAADS itself verified our gardens twice before we started supplying,” Nuwamanya explained.
The Association currently has close to 2,000 members that engage in training farmers, producing seedlings, providing extension services and also connecting farmers to the markets in Ankole and Kigezi sub-regions.
“Production of passion fruits has increased in Western Uganda and we account for 90 percent of passion fruits in the market now,” said Nuwamanya.
He revealed that the Association has invested Shs 800m into supply of 3.6 million passion fruit seedlings to the farmers in Kigezi and Ankole.
Nuwamanya however says the strides made so far risk being hampered by the NAADS Executive Director who has taken it upon himself to default payment of their monies after their supplies (of seedlings) to farmers in districts of Rubirizi, Isingiro and Rubanda.
“We supplied passion fruit seedlings totaling to Shs 161 million in March, 2017 but since then, NAADS has never paid our money”.
They claim they were reliably informed that the Ministry of Finance released their money in 2017 after supplying the seedlings.
“Before delivery, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the people that we supplied the seedlings and NAADS issued a call off order to allow us to supply the passion seedlings plus NAADS framework contracts”.
He says the matter has reached the Chief Coordinator of OWC and the Anti-corruption Unit led by Lt Col Edith Nakalema but no progress has been made. The Anti-corruptio Unit team promised to meet the Association members next week together with NAADS officials in Kampala, Nuwamanya said.
According to the group leader, the group has made numerous visits to the NAADS Secretariat incurring costs of accommodation, transportation and welfare. As such, he said that the Association has resolved to halt its supply of seedlings to farmers in the communities.
The Association Treasurer, Medard Ngabirano, said should the matter not be resolved, they plan to match to State House to seek redress from the President.
“We are going to camp at the NAADS offices in Kampala until they pay us our money. If that fails, we shall continue to State House but we are not going to sit back and watch NAADS frustrate more youths like it has done with us,” Ngabirano said.