Japan's decades of assistance to Uganda changing rural lives

By Edwin Muhumuza

The Japanese Government is in preparations to mark 50 years of cooperation, support and Aid to Uganda. Among the activities leading up to the event, the embassy took Capital Radio and a group of journalists on a tour to western Uganda to showcase the diversity of Japanese assistance including technical cooperation, grant aid, volunteers,Japanese NGO’s projects and multilateral cooperation. The projects supported by Japan (Japan International Cooperation Agency-JICA)have not only been infrastructure but health ,education, climate change, water and sanitation and income generation.

One of them is the Kahinju Secondary School project for the construction of a girls dormitory in Kabarole district valued at USD 93,463. The Church owned school requested the Japanese Government to intervene following statistics that revealed that close to 30 girl students were dropping out of school per term a trend attributed to men who lure girls with money before having sex with them hence impregnating them,according to the Bishop of Rwenzori Diocese,Reuben Kisembo.

The school currently has a capacity of 1,250 students of which 557 are girls.Last year it emerged 7th in the whole district and was the best among Universal Secondary Education(USE) However the trend of pregnancies, walking long distances, lack of support from parents is  negatively  affecting academic performance according to substantive Deputy Headteacher Asiimwe Lillian Olimi, who erstwhile is optimistic that the new girls dormitory will change the trend.

In Kasese district, the Japanese government is supporting over 140 farmers  in another project  aiming to improve responses to disasters and climate change adaptation capacity for vulnerable people. In conjunction with Save The Children and Kasese Local Government, about 140 families do not have to depend on rain, which is unreliable but rather irrigation in Karusandara subcounty. Program manager disaster risk reduction, Save the Children, Vianne Musika, tells me that an empowered family directly impacts on the livelihood of children through modern farming methods.One,Sam a farmer and chairperson of the group says their livelihoods have changed as they are able to sell water melons, onions, tomatoes and other crops at high price at a time when they are off-season and scarce.

Representative of JICA Uganda Office, Mr.Yutaka Fukase explains that as part of the Grassroots Human Security Grant Project(GGP) Scheme to support community development to uplift life of people at grassroots level, so far a total of 235 projects worth 18,460,456 USD have been funded and 59 projects in western Uganda have so far been implemented.

The water supply project in Ryeru subcounty, in Rubirizi district is one such example. Residents in Mushumba parish have expressed gratitude as women and children no longer drown in the crater lake Kako. Thanks to the Japanese for the plant worth 260m shs,The 80,000 litres tank currently supports close to 20,000 people. John Mubangizi,the Project Director, Mushumba water project says residents pay 100shs  per jerrycan to maintain the diesel powered pump adding that up to 2013 they had six distribution points but as of today they boast of 30 distribution points.

In Mbarara district, Japanese technical experts from Rakunogakuen University are ensuring safe milk production by Rubyerwa Dairy Investments, Kashari county. A tour around the farm exposed us to modern scientific methods of dairy production including, bucket feeding, preparation of silage and breeding of best dairy cows; Jersy, Ushire and Friesians. Approximately 550 litres of milk are produced on average and the highest ever was 800litres.The Friesians are  the best producers, according to Nshangano Philomena, the Executive Director/Founder member, experts helped in preventing cows from contracting Mastitis, a disease that affects production of milk.

While speaking at a meeting of ministers,MPs and politicians from western Uganda, organized by Japanese Ambassador,His Excellence.Kazuaki Kameda, at Lake View Hotel Mbarara,Cabinet Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Johnson Byabagambi and former minister of works hailed Japan for being Uganda’s best development partner,whose loans are affordable,at an interest of below 0.5%.

Finally, we also visited BRAC, an NGO funded through Japan Social Development Fund at Lukaya. Kalungu district. Here, the project which has been running since 2014  and benefits 19,200 beneficiaries in four districts through agriculture and nutritional activities. The project Coordinator , Hannan Ali says they give carrots, tomatoes, groundnuts, sweet potatoes ,beans and pumpkins to families and thereafter a start-up kit for small holder farmers to grow the seedlings to ensure family nutrition.

These projects are just a few of the multi-million dollar support the Japanese government has rendered to Uganda since 1954.