MUKONO: The Ministry of Works and Transport and the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) will next week launch the new MV Palm Uganda, an additional Vessel to boost agricultural activities in Buvuma Islands in Mukono District, this website has learnt.
The MV Palm Uganda docked at Portbell, Luzira on Thursday February 23rd, from Tanzania where it was built from.
The launch of this additional Vessel followed complaints from farmers that their produce takes long to reach the market due to transport challenges since there is only one ferry connecting to the island district. Buvuma, which is on Lake Victoria, comprises 52 islands with only one ferry MV Buvuma.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), through the National Oil Palm Project (NOPP) with funding from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), contracted Sorongo Marines Shipyard in Mwanza, Tanzania to design, build and deliver MV Palm Uganda, a ferry for Kiyindi-Buvuma route.
The vessel, whose capacity doubles the existing MV Buvuma ferry, costed $ 3,360,500 (about Shs12 .5billion). it has a capacity of 519 passengers and 25 vehicles with four Engines fitted with the necessary navigation and safety equipment
The National Oil Palm Project (NOPP) project is implemented in the mainland areas located in a narrow belt (25-30 km) along Lake Victoria and surrounding the two island districts of Kalangala and Buvuma, but also areas in the western (Bundibugyo, Masindi) and north-western (Arua) parts of the country.
The Project works in geographical hubs, where a hub is defined as “an Agro- climatically suitable area (not an administrative district), within a radius of 30 km around a planned or actual CPO mill, and in which a minimum of 3,000 ha of OP production can be assured.”
The Buvuma Island project was established on 7,500 hectares with 5,000 dedicated to the nucleus estate while the rest of the land (2,500) is for smallholder farmers. The nucleus estate is managed by Buvuma Oil Palm Limited (BOPL), a joint venture between the private sector, government and farmers.
The Buvuma Oil Palm Growers Cooperatives Society Limited was formed to cater for the interests of farmers.
In Kalangala, where the project was first implemented, smallholder farmers supply on average 6.9 million kilos of fresh fruit bunches earning a gross income of Shs6 billion every month. Smallholder farmers also earn from oil palm leaves once pruned, which they sell as brooms used in urban areas such as Kampala.
Commercial oil palm growing in Uganda started in Kalangala in 2006. Harvesting started in 2010 with crude palm oil shipped to Jinja where Bidco owns a refinery that makes cooking oil and soap among other products.
Oil palm trees reach maturity at four years and are harvested every 10 days for 25 years after which farmers will have to replant. This gives farmers a sustainable monthly income for years.
In 2022, government announced that it was building a new ferry to connect Bubembe and Bunyama islands to Buggala Island, Kalangala’s biggest island also to boost palm oil growing and trade in the Kalangala.
All vessels connecting to Kalangala currently dock on Buggala Island, leaving residents on the remaining 63 islands to use canoes as the only alternative transport.