ZOMBO. The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has approved connecting the coffee processing factory belonging to Okoro Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union with electricity for the first time since its establishment in the 1970s.
The absence of electricity coupled with other factors had rendered the plant idle despite its endowment with the state of art McKinnon machines that last ran in 2006.
The hope of reviving the once cherished coffee processing plant was rekindled after the State Minister for energy and mineral development also Okoro county Member of Parliament Mr Simone D’Ujanga directed REA during the launch of its activities in the Northern region held on 16th August 2019 in Zombo district to extend power connection to the factory.
The REA team led by Mr Abel Bees, the REA site engineer visited the factory on Monday with a move aimed at commencing survey and ascertaining the amount of power the factory would require.
Abel said their coming to the factory located about 2kms West of Paidha town was the beginning of the survey that will also see electricity extended also to the neighbouring community.
“We are going to bring power here so that this big plant gets to work and we shall also connect the nearby homes and schools because we are here for rural electrification”, he said.
He revealed power connection to the factory just like it is expected for the rest of the connections in the region is to reach completion by November this year.
When asked about compensation for people whose crops among other property will be destroyed in the due course of power line construction, he said REA does not have a budget line for compensation for this particular project.
“I’m appealing to the members of the community through whose areas we are going to pass not to interrupt our work because this project has no budget for compensation and our major goal is to connect your home to electricity”, he appealed.
Mr George Onen, a resident of Okeyu village in Thanga parish, Paidha Sub County similarly appealed to other members of the community not to ask for compensation because it is a long-awaited project and most of all people will not be asked to pay for the connection fee.
“I’m sure people will not ask for compensation because their houses are going to be connected free of charge,” he said.
Mr Gilbert Wachal, the manager Okoro coffee farmers’ cooperative union said he is optimistic that power extension to the factory will go a long way to reviving the union since the farmers will be able to add value to their coffee which eventually is sold at an attractive price.
He said the first thing that will be done upon getting electricity to the plant is testing of the machines to ascertain their status so that replacement is immediately done to worn out parts.
‘Power is what we most needed here and I tell you, there was untold excitement in this area when the REA team arrived to do their survey”, he said.
Formed in 1970, the union has at least 600 registered farmers belonging to 37 primary societies spread across Zombo and part of Nebbi district.
But the union is facing tough times since Uganda adopted the free-market economy in 1987 and eventual liberalization of the economy in the 1990s that opened doors for other players.
This move suffocated most cooperative unions in the country including the Okoro coffee farmers’ cooperative union.