As the British pondered about granting Uganda independence in 1962, the big question was how the young nation would become economically sustainable after self rule.
Uganda was required to demonstrate her readiness to run the economy.
According to a historical review of the developments then, properties belonging to Bugisu Arabica coffee farmers under their Bugisu Cooperative Union were part of what was used to defend Uganda’s demand for self rule.
David Wakikona, a veteran politician from Bugisu and a coffee farmer said when the Lancaster negotiations [for independence] began in 1960, the custody of the economy of Uganda was pledged by Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU).
Wakikona said BCU at the time had about £ 300,000 (Shs 1.4 billion) in the bank.
He said: “Coffee is something we regard as very important in our lives. All of us as children used to work on coffee plantations and we used to harvest so much of it. We would take it to the cooperative societies and you would get a receipt and then that receipt would help you to get things from some shops around Mbale town or even pay school fees. And the society would make deductions and pay directly to the shop or school.”
Today, the BCU is a shadow of its past. This is attributed to a number of factors including unfavourable economic policies, loss of vision among the new generation leaders and the politicisation of the coffee business.
“That time BCU had money and our neighbours in Teso came and told BCU that they wanted to put up a school, Teso collage Aloet. BCU lent them the money. But where is the money now? If I said I want to put up six primary schools can I get it? What has gone wrong?” he queried.
BCU vice chairperson John Musila, said they cannot compete favourably under a liberalised economy.
Stakeholders believe that BCU was the best vehicle to allevi poverty in the region.
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