Paidha town in Zombo district is one of the fastest growing towns in West Nile region.
Its growth is widely attributed to the strategic location within the lucrative agricultural belt and close proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Among the agricultural produce that Paidha is famous for are coffee, bananas, beans, iris potato and cassava.
Mr Silvano Ozelle Orwinyo, 71, an elder and a resident of Arutha cell, Oturugam ward, Paidha says that the town has come a long way.
He traces the rise of Paidha town to the coming of Asian traders believed to be of Indian origin in 1924 to set up the first shops in the area.
This opened the eyes of the local community to start venturing in serious business in Paidha town.
Orwinyo says the name Paidha was derived from the term Payudha meaning ‘hijacking somebody’s throne.’
He narrates that after the Chief Parathagu of Kaal Umua Chiefdom which encompasses the present Paidha town was forcefully overthrown by Chief Magwar, the subjects loyal to Parathagu later termed Magwar’s action as ‘Payudha.’
Then in 1914, there came the British colonialists whose pronunciation of Payuda sounded as “Paidha”. This is how Paidha town got its name.
Paidha the food basket
Paidha’s significance as a regional food basket is not new. The British realised it as soon as they set foot in the region.
Mr Orwinyo says from 1914 to 1918, the Colonialists together with the then Chief Ngukadho collected food stuff mainly millet and sorghum and preserved it in anticipation of famine.
The foodstuffs were stored in granaries that were erected near the present day Paidha market and that worked perfectly for the locals.
The Indian factor
When Indian merchants set foot in Paidha, they were given a place called Ovuruyindi, about 200 meters East of the current Paidha town council block to settle in.
The place was vast and deserted, a reason it was called Ovuruyindi with Ovuru meaning ‘deserted place’ and Yindi standing for the ‘Indians.’
The Indians were mainly selling household items such as salt, soap, clothes with others dealing in building materials. This begun the rise of Paidha town.
Eventually, Arabica coffee was introduced as an outright cash crop in the late 1940s and people started getting enough cash to do their own developments.
It was during this era that African traders including the locals started building their own shops thus competing for business with the Indians.
However, when Uganda got Independence in 1962, the West Nile district Council ordered all Indians to relocate to Dwonga, just opposite Paidha primary teachers’ college (PTC) and put up modern structures in the area.
In their wisdom, the West Nile district administrators wanted Paidha to expand to a status of a modern trading centre so that the Indians are not disturbed in the future.
The condition was that any Indian who didn’t abide by the directive either left or shifted to Arua town.
But Orwinyo said since the Indians were not able to meet the conditions, almost all of them shifted to Arua leaving behind one of their colleagues identified only as Bacu the son of Visnom.
Bacu was equally forced to leave for Mahagi in DRC when former President, Idi Amin Dada expelled all Asians in 1972.
The former Indian plots were then distributed to local businessmen who took the initiative of developing them.
Paidha in the hands of residents
In 1984, a decision was taken to elevate Paidha to a Town Board with its first elected chairman being Mr Martin Obemo.
After that elevation, business blossomed so much that people started requesting for a town council status.
When President Yoweri Museveni visited Paidha in 1993, the residents presented a memorandum requesting for a town council which he later granted.
It was within the same year that officials from the Ministry of local government appointed Mr Charles Olarker and posted him to head the technical team of the new town council.
Subsequently, the election of the town council chairperson and his councillors was organized, and Mr Gerraldo Ozele emerged the first LC3 chairperson of Paidha town council.
With all the technical and political wing in place, the team started planning for the town.
Ms Gloria Alifua, a business woman along Nebbi – Paidha road in Paidha town attributed the rapid growth of the town to the fertility of the soil in Zombo district.
She says the crops grown like coffee, bananas, maize, beans, cassava, groundnuts and fruits such as Ovacados among others yield well and the market is readily available within and outside West Nile region.
Every morning trucks arrive from Gulu, Mahagi and other surrounding areas carrying people and in the evening return fully loaded with agricultural produce as the buyers sit on top of them. The traffic is more on Wednesdays and Saturdays which are the main market days.
Paidha town has an estimated night population of 35,000 and day population of 36,000 meaning about 1,000 people visit the town daily to buy and sell produce and other merchandise.
Electricity, water, roads
Paidha town is powered by electricity from Nyagak hydro-plant that is near the town. However the power is so intermittent that residents mostly use it for lighting at night and cooling fridges instead of powering factories.
It also has a piped water system managed by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation.
The central business area has tarmacked roads most of which has been eaten by potholes while the rest of the town has deplorable access roads.
Leisure centres, educational facilities
Creamland motel, climax pork joint, country cottages, Bablon and Daudi courts are vibrant during the evening and night hours for visitors to savour their moment in Paidha and relax.
There also is Paidha Black Angels (PBA) who entertain sports lovers at Barokoro stadium.
For purposes of education, there are Fridget Nursery and primary school, St. Rachel nursery and primary, Paidha model nursery and primary, Paidha seed secondary school and Charity College.
Dollar rate distortion
According to Orwinyo, the main challenge affecting the growth of Paidha town is the United States Dollar exchange rate distortion.
DR Congo traders mostly use the US Dollar which has high exchange rate against the Ugandan currency that when the Congolese come to buy goods in Paidha using the US Dollars, it is cheaper for them while on the side of the Ugandan traders it is expensive to trade in dollars.
Glimpse into the future
Mr Pascal Wapokura, the Paidha town council chairperson says key on their future plan is the elevation of Paidha town council to a Municipal status and construction of the market with the works slated to start in January 2019.
Above all, he says there are plans to facelift the town with proper roads to facilitate regional and cross border trade.