In May 2018, the increasing volume of traffic on the Obongi-Sinyanya route left the local leaders with no option other than request for a second ferry on the route.
At this stage, the thin staff operating the four-engine ferry with a capacity of 150 passengers and four trucks at a time were not only over stretched, but the increasing traffic exacerbated by the refugee activity in the area made the situation worse.
Indeed in the previous April traffic report of 2018, the 2.2m Euros,120 horse power ferry had carried 63,246 passengers, 42 buses, 936 Lorries and Trucks, 2,240 cars and pickups,2,714 motorcycles,2,782 bicycles and 616 animals.
However, whereas the ferry services across the river were being chocked due to overwhelming traffic, the local fish business was set for a boom.
Of course the request to have a second ferry has not been granted but the fish business has never declined to-date reports Marko Taibot
The fish business
Ms Hanifa Driciru narrates having started her dry fish business with a paltry UGX4500 two years ago. In a quick change of fortunes, besides her savings, Driciru now operates a working capital of more than UGX 1million with which she buys fish depending on the need and the season.
She says before the ferry, seven sizeable fresh fish from the landing site would cost as low as UGX 2000 and the same dried amount at about UGX 4000.
Fast forward to 2020, the same amount of dry fish sells for more than UGX 20,000.
For Ms Zaitun Ayikoru, the presence of the ferry to facilitate movement across the river has a direct correlation to the growth of her business.
More than nine years into this trade, Ayikoru and her colleagues have the luxury of selling the fish in their own locality as opposed to the long distances they used to travel before the ferry that usually came with associated losses.
Ayikoru says the previous main market for the fish used to be Yumbe town.
The Obongi ‘Juba’ market
The market at the landing site where the women sell the dry fish has been nicknamed Juba market, this they say simply because majority of their customers are passengers plying the Arua Koboko Juba route.
Driciru says passengers destined for Juba pay without complaints once told the price of the fish.
“They don’t have much time to negotiate but simply pull money and pay” a smiling Driciru speaks about her Juba customers.
Ayikoru says the market of the fish is dependent on whether the ferry is operational or not. She says her business of selling dry fish is easy and can be started with an amount as low as UGX 20,000.
The benefits of the business
Driciru who is a mother of four says she is able to pay school fees of her children despite only being in the business for a short time.
She narrates proudly paying the fees for a senior five student and others in primary six, four and one other still in a nursery school.
Ayikoru’s ordeal is no different, she says besides feeding her family well, she is able to meet expenses of rent and school fees.
Both women now want to see their children attain the highest level of education they can so that they can be independent in future.
Driciru despite the business success rues the lack of support from her husband.
“If my husband could help me, I would have built a house already” she narrates.
Besides their family woes, the women have complained of the lack of shelter and toilet facilities. The only toilet constructed by Uganda national roads authority (UNRA) is far from their selling point.
They blamed the town council authorities for only being interested in collecting dues as opposed to improving services.
What government authorities say
Mr Said Makosa Sebbi, the town clerk Obongi town council says the local government has taken keen interest and is going to reorganize the Juba market at the landing site because of the increase of the amount of trade in the place.
He says the plans are underway to establish sanitary facilities and other facilities needed for them to effectively do their business.
The town clerk says despite the lack of direct support from the government, the women would soon be sensitized on how to access the women entrepreneurship fund to improve their capital base.
All in all, whether the leaders calling for a second ferry for Obongi were justified or not is one thing but the amount of business resulting from the increased traffic seems sufficient enough to guarantee a steady source of livelihood for the local women.