Hoima farmers challenge Oranto on transparency in Ngasa oil exploration

Mr Moses Byenkya, the Coordinator Hoima District Farmers Association (HODFA), speaks during an Oranto Petroleum stakeholders engagement in Hoima City. (Image: Samuel Baguma/Kazi-njema News)

Farmers in Hoima District have challenged Oranto Petroleum to consider being transparent to save farmers from losses they have incurred while struggling to serve some oil companies due to lack of transparency.

The farmers also call upon the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) to intensify its regulatory role to ensure that food supply opportunities are safeguarded for the local farmers since they are exposed to the spillover effects of the oil industry.

These are some of the key issues raised during the National Tender Workshop organised by Oranto Petroleum in partnership with Mwitanzige Energy Services at Trisek Hotel in Hoima city.

During his presentation, Mr Moses Byenkya, the Coordinator Hoima District Farmers Association (HODFA), said the farmers have not benefited as they expected when the oil projects were gaining ground in the region.

According to him, farmers were subjected to miscalculations due to lack of transparency from the oil companies and their sub-contractors.

“The problem is in the oil companies failing to follow-up the contractors dealing in food to ensure they purchase goods from within the Albertine region. Much as we have the produce nowadays, we hardly sell it to the oil companies where we expected a higher price and reliable market. Some catering service providers have their food suppliers of choice away from the Albertine region. We lose out as the industry progresses,” he said.

Mr Byenkya gave an example of farmers who were motivated to grow cucumber targeting the oil companies but ended in loses when the demand lowered.

“You can harvest 40 tonnes of cucumber from a 40×40 garden but the local market can only consume 500kgs, yet the harvesting period is as short as two weeks. Same applies to watermelon which is highly perishable. When you are promised and they do not take, it is a great loss,” said Mr Byenkya.

The farmers’ chairperson also cited delayed payment that goes as high as six months as another challenge that mainly affect farmers that use loans to operate.

An Oranto stakeholders engagement in Hoima City. (Image: Samuel Baguma)

On his side, Mr Godfrey Magezi, the Vice Chairperson Bunyoro Business Club, said the issue of standards and quantity should not be undermined as the oil projects host community members demand for consideration from the oil conglomerates.

“I think as business community and farmers, we must ensure that our products meet good standards because even if you are to sell on the local market, quality is important,” he argued.

He gave an example of the importance of post-harvest handling of grain as key to ensuring marketable produce.

The issue of standards normally emphasised by oil companies and PAU has been puzzling many community members claiming it is used as an excuse by sub-contractors to sideline local service providers since the word ‘standards’ has no clear definition and benchmark.

Mr Robert Baguma, the Kigorobya sub-county councillor, promised to move a motion in council to prioritise community sensitisation on producing standard commercial agricultural products in order to benefit from the growing market due to the oil developments.

Mr Kenneth Mugume Kwolekya, the Hoima District Youth Chairman, mobilised the youth to mind about acquiring skills like driving, carpentry and welding to be able to tap into opportunities coming along with the oil industry.

He also urged Oranto Petroleum to give priority to the local youth during job openings to avoid hostility against the oil project from the contemporaneous and future desperate youths.

The Hoima Resident City Commissioner (RCC), Mr Badru Mugabi, urged the participants to embrace government programmes like Emyooga and Parish Development Model (PDM) in order to avoid high interest loans and be able to boost their businesses.

Mr Abdul Byakagaba Bazaara, the General Manager Oranto Petroleum Uganda Ltd. (Image: Samuel Baguma/Kazi-njema News)

In response to community concerns, Mr Abdul Byakagaba Bazaara, the General Manager Oranto Petroleum, expressed his commitment to work transparently with local communities.

“That is why we are conducting these engagements as we resume oil exploration in Ngasa Block,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Sam Mugisa, the Social Affairs Coordinator at the PAU, said some issues that have previously been unpredictable are now predictable as more activities begin.

“I understand how farmers faced challenges due to demand fluctuations previously but now some camps are accommodating 2,000 people meaning the demand will not fall in the next three years. More activities are beginning. So, I don’t think the past experience should demoralise the preparation efforts of farmers and the business community,” he said.

Mr Mugisa also challenged the public to always keep abreast of information about the oil industry progress because things shall always change sometimes beyond human control and affect any business person.

During previous stakeholder engagements, oil companies would cite unpredictable staff downsizing and a factor behind demand fluctuations.

Oranto Petroleum has resumed oil exploration activities at Ngasa block in Kikuube and Hoima districts with stakeholder engagements.

It is the only company presenting opportunities availed by oil exploration that TotalEnergies and CNOOC completed.

If one missed opportunities due to lack of preparation during the era of the block 1 and block 3 oil exploration phases, here is an opportunity on block 2 – which is Ngasa.

Recently, Mr Ernest Rubondo, the Executive Director PAU, said the oil industry shall not be halted to wait for unprepared Ugandans to prepare though the Authority’s wish is to see almost all opportunities taken by Ugandans.

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