KOBOKO. The construction of a Jatropha agro-politan business cluster set to be the maiden project of the Uganda green economy development initiative will start in Koboko district next month.
The sh14.9bn project (about $4m) is the first model flagship project of the Uganda National Planning Authority as the country turns to jatropha as its magic tree to propel the country into middle income status.
The Bionas International Company, a consortium of Malaysian and Chinese companies will provide 100% funding for the project in a private sector led development model borrowed wholesale from Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mohammed Bin Mahathir’s model of 1980’s that triggered an economic turnaround in that Asian tiger.
While Malaysia relied on promotion of palm trees, Uganda under an East African Community mandate has chosen the bioenergy potent jatropha, a plant traditionally used in North Western Uganda for fencing homesteads and construction of bathing shelters.
Should Uganda succeed, the model would be rolled out to the rest of the EAC member states, Dr Ali Adnan, a Bionas East Africa Vice President said.
He was addressing the West Nile planners’ forum at Koboko district headquarters on the jatropha flagship project on Thursday.
He said the project starts in Koboko because the district already had earmarked 78 hectares of land for establishment of an industrial park near Oraba customs border post and the Koboko municipality Member of Parliament and state minister for investment and privatisation Evelyn Anite simply told them to go to work when they visited the ministry.
The official launch of the jatropha agro-politan business cluster development project by President Yoweri Museveni is planned for August 2018 when the assembling of the industrial complex known as the East African Clean Energy Exposition, a Uganda training academy for excellence would have been completed.
Organisers are planning to host about 2,000 foreign guests expected to grace the occasion from Asia and across the EAC block.
At full capacity, each cluster planned to occupy 10,000 hectares of land would comprise 1,000 hectares of industrial exposition including a jatropha processing and blending park, a waste to energy plant, commercial centre, mobile petrol stations and recreational facilities.
There will also be an export oriented meat processing plant build on a model picked straight out of the shelves of Australia’s Halal meat exporters.
The rest of the 9,000 hectares is reserved for the plantation and housing units for ordinary farmers and their supervisors dubbed techno-planters.
Dr Adnan said they would deploy experts from Industrial Building System (IBS) to construct the clusters using prefabricated material.
Bionas is currently involved in entering into production agreements with the landlords and farmers under a Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) financing model that grants the farmers a 30-year mortgage concession period to repay for the housing units.
Dr Wardah Gyagenda, one of the Bionas East Africa vice presidents said the Koboko cluster will have 240 blocks providing 1.5m direct jobs, affordable housing, apartments, hotels and shopping centres.
Application for job opportunities such as techno-planters has already opened for Ugandans through the Bionas website with minimum qualification set at diploma level.
The Koboko district planner Mr Fred Bada said the jatropha project is in line with the district’s development agenda.
“This project is going to put money into the pockets of the people. It will provide employment and reduce the number of idlers. This is why the district has embarked on community engagement and sensitisation in regard to the jatropha project,” he asserted.
Dr Gyagenda said after Koboko, they will move to establish two clusters in Karamoja, two in South-western Uganda, then Masindi and return to West Nile where a cluster will be set up in Yumbe district.
The government’s grand plan is to establish two clusters in every district throughout the country after signing a $70b (about sh261.6 trillion) green economy deal with Bionas three months ago.
Dr Gyagenda said there will be 2,000 jatropha trees planted in each hectare totalling to 18,000,000 trees per block and 4,320,000,000 trees per cluster thereby positioning Uganda at the best level of carbon credit earning in compliance with the Paris climate agreement.
She projected that each block would be producing 70.2m pellets of briquette monthly and 18.6m litres of biofuel that would be processed into biodiesel, bio-petrol (gasoline), bio-heavy fuel, bioenergy emission solution and bio-jet fuel with an eye on starting Air Africa Safaris similar to Air Asia.