Busia- The modern fish market, which was constructed by the government at Majanji Landing Site in Busia District, is lying idle after being abandoned by farmers and traders.
The facility worth Shs2 billion was constructed by the ministry of Agriculture nine years ago to promote quality fish handling and preservation.
The facility is equipped with a plant that produces five tonnes of ice every day for fish preservation, stalls, dryers and stores, washrooms and a water pump, among others.
It was built with funding from the African Development Bank (ADB) and handed over to the district authorities in 2010.
However, the facility is now covered by shrubs and has become an animal grazing area. Some of its equipment, including refrigerators, have been vandalised and others stolen.
Mr Clement Wanyama, the chairperson of Majanji Parish, said trouble started after district leaders stopped the residents from operating in the facility three years after it was completed.
“The fish farmers and traders in the area had started using it but the officials came and chased them away,” he said.
Mr Wanyama said the residents under their umbrella body, Majanji Fisheries Association, had started producing ice and selling fish in the market.
“I blame the abandonment of the market on the district authorities who chased away the farmers,” he said.
Mr Anthony Ouma, who was the chairperson of the Majanji Fish Cooperative, said they were producing the best ice at the plant, which they were selling to Busia, Tororo and Bugiri districts before they were stopped. “We had started handling about 30 tonnes of fish on a daily basis but we were surprised when the district authorities came and ordered us out of the facility,” he said.
Ms Rehema Majibo, a fish trader, said the then chief administrative officer and the district fisheries officer were bent on having the market managed by a group of people from Busia District and not the residents of Majanji, something, they opposed.
“They handed over the facility to traders under Busia Fisheries Association, who mismanaged the facility and ran away,” she said.
Ms Majibo said the fish traders from Busia vandalised the ice plant and water pumps in the facility.
“The ice plant was vandalised by the Busia group because shortly after taking over the management of the market, both the ice plant and the water pump stopped functioning,” she added.
The accused could not be traced for a comment by the press time.
Mr Hassan Omari, the chairperson of Majanji Landing Site, said they were excited when the government embarked on the construction of the fish market but now they regret because there has been no value for money.
Mr John Ouma, another resident, said the government should intervene and investigate the district officials over the issue.
What district leaders say
Mr Eugene Egessa, the district fisheries officer, confirmed he had sent away the residents because they were operating illegally at the facility.
“When the ministry of Agriculture handed over the fish market to the district, they gave us guidelines on how it should be operated but this group connived with politicians and illegally started using the facility,” Mr Egessa said.
He said whereas feasibility studies indicated that there had been enough fish stocks in the lake, by the time the construction of the market was complete, the stocks had been depleted. The district chairperson, Mr Godfrey Wandera, said he needed more time to find out more information about the project before he could comment.