Mbarara — Residents of Mwizi Sub-county in Mbarara District have lived for years without a convenient access road and connection to other areas, including markets and health centres.
The people in the parishes of Ngoma, Bushwere, Kabaramu and Nyaruhandagazi are disadvantaged in terms of accessing markets, health centres and education facilities.
Travelling in those areas using a vehicle is hard due to the poor state of the roads despite the sub-county being densely populated.
According to the LC 1 Chairperson, Mr Bony Mahatane, Kamurani Village (Ngoma Parish) alone has a population of 2,600 people with Bakiga comprising more than 90 per cent.
He said majority of the population grow bananas, coffee, beans, peas, cassava, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes as food and cash crops but cannot take them to markets because of poor roads hence selling them cheaply.
Mr Mahatane said the highest price a farmer can sell a bunch of matooke is Shs5,000 yet it costs more than Shs10,000 in areas with better access to roads.
To access the nearest health facilities of Bugamba and Mwizi Health Centre IVs, residents have to walk a distance of more than 20km.
Mid-last year, a eucalyptus forest in Nyarubanga Village caught fire and five people, including a pregnant woman died while trying to save the plantation.
"Five people were burnt by wildfire as they were trying to save the forest. The fire started from a garden where a resident was burning grass. We called for help from police and a fire brigade was sent but could not reach where fire was because there was no road. People died and the forest was destroyed," says Mr Joram Nuwakuma, the Bushwere Parish internal security officer.
It is this tragedy and other hardships that compelled residents to embark on constructing new roads.
So far, they have constructed a 9km road that starts from Kikunda village in Bushwere parish. It connects to the neigbouring sub-counties of Bugamba and Rukoni East in Ruhaama Ntungamo.
The residents formed a 12-man committee from the parish of Bushere to spearhead the project. The committee comprises chairperson, vice chairperson, secretary, treasurer, four defense personnel, three 'engineers' and a mobiliser.
Mr Edward Tuhamize was chosen as chairperson and Mr Aron Banyoya was handed the task of mobilisation.
The residents signed an agreement allowing the road to pass in their land.
"Since people wanted good services, they allowed the road to pass through their land. We had our first meeting on June 27, 2016. We convened another one a week after where we made a minute for people whose land was to be encroached on by the road project to sign a memorandum of understanding and 40 signed," said Mr Tuhamize.
He added; "After the agreement, we informed the LC3 Chairman, Mr Godfrey Sunday about the project and he supported it."
"There was a strong need for a good road, there was one but in a very sorry state and passing through a forest where thieves could hide and terrorise travellers was very risky. We decided to construct a road in an open and secure place. This road will steer development since some traders have been cheating farmers because of lack of access to markets," said Mr Sunday.
Rules and procedure were put in place to guide them on how to operate. Saturday was chosen as the day for the community work. Every able bodied man is supposed to report for the road construction by 8am.
Using the same mobilisation approach, residents of Ngoma Parish have also constructed an 8km road. It starts from Kamurani and goes through Kashekure village connecting to Nyaruhandagazi Parish in Bugamba. The area Member of Parliament, Mr Charles Ngabirano, Resident District Commissioner, Capt Martha Asiimwe and the Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Felix Cuthbert Esoku, while inspecting road works on May 8 promised to provide grader to improve the road.
"Bulungi Bwansi is the way to go for it enables communities to take charge of their development needs. When I was in South Korea in 2016, I found that this model of community development has been used in most parts of the country; there is self-help and cooperation amongst the communities."
Martha Asiimwe, MBARARA Resident District Commissioner
"We agreed to work together as community. So they picked me to mobilize the residents for Bulungi Bwansi (community service) every Saturday morning. Mr Aron Banyoya, road committee MOBILISER