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TRIDI shifts blame to Ministry of Science & Technology over losses in Sericulture project

TRIDI's Head Office located along Kalagi-Gayaza Road in Kyampisi Sub County, Mukono District

The Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI), one of the most practical Agriculture institutions in Uganda has blamed the Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation (MoSTI) for the wastage and economic losses of investment into TRIDI Sericulture project due to its alleged failure to meet its obligations in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Sericulture, or silk farming, is the cultivation of silkworms to produce silk.

While updating on the status of the institution’s Sericulture Project, Mr Robson Aine, the director of monitoring and Evaluation at TRIDI said clutter started when Parliament appropriated UGX43 billion for sericulture development in 24 districts in FY 2022/2023 but the science ministry wanted TRIDI to scale down to only two districts.

‘’Part of the money was for three other factories for Teso, Buganda and Acholi sub-regions. Who should TRIDI have listened to? Parliament that appropriated the funds based on an agreed work plan or Ministry whose role is not appropriation. The Project has never had any audit queries, Auditor General always audits the project based on international well-established procedures and practices,” says Mr Aine.

He adds that there has not been any audit query, yet the project has a legal framework cleared by the Attorney General. TRIDI has no single query or even error in its plan and implementation in developing the Sericulture Sector in Uganda.

On Tuesday 15th August 2023, the Committee on Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) laid on the floor of parliament a report of the committee on science, technology and innovation on the sericulture project managed by the Tropical Institute for Development Innovation (TRIDI) and the work of the committee is acknowledged.

“However, we have today seen several media publications twisting facts and misinforming the public. There is a need to clarify some of the issues. This project has produced its silk yarn brand named Usilk. Usilkis 100% Ugandan and our Ugandan silk brand. We are very proud we have produced this within the target timeframe. We have sent this brand to Europe and Asia and it has been accepted on their market”, said Aine.

He added that the project had a plan which was disrupted by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. As a result, They have not been able to produce enough raw materials to meet the market demand.

Parliament appropriated the project UGX43 in FY 2022/2023 to enable the project to produce raw materials for processing, install silkworm egg production facilities and train Ugandans to install and operate the machinery for silk yarn production in Sheema, Kween, Nwoya, Kayunga and Bukedea.

TIRIDI officials revealed that the Ministry decided to suspend the release of the funds contrary to Public Finance Management Act 2015 which resulted in wastage of investments more than UGX85 Billion.

By the time of breach of the MOU, the project was employing over 1500 Ugandans and the project had achieved key output including; operating in 24 districts of Sheema, Kiruhura, Bulambuli, Kamuli, Mubende, Mukono, Iganga, Luweero, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Kween, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Buikwe, Pallisa, Busia, Amorator, Otuke, Lira, Agago and Pader’’, he further noted.

Aine adds that in Luweero, Mubende, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Kween, Buikwe, Agago, and Pader, it is farmers that demanded and they are being provided with skills and input. On station is in Mukono, Sheema, Kiruhura, Bulambuli, Kamuli, Mubende, Iganga, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Pallisa, Busia, Amorator, Otuke, and Lira.

The project had achieved Shell for two research centres completed in Sheema and Mukono and initiated a shell for Busitema and plans approved for Lira University by University Authorities.

The project had also supported the establishment of additional 500 acres of land under mulberry thereby bringing total of mulberry established and managed to 2,230 acres in 22 districts which will serve as sources of planting materials to serve 50 districts and as initial commercial production as well as training and research sites.

It had in addition procured 870 acres of land for establishment of silk factory and production of mulberry for silkworm rearing and committed the procurement of 2200 acres of additional land and deposited 30% payment for manufacture of three silk reeling and reeling machines which have been manufactured and are ready for UNBS verification, shipping and clearing of URA taxes to be established in three other districts.

The project acquired intelligent equipment for silkworm egg production designed, procured and ready for UNBS verification, shipping and clearing of URA taxes.

Other achievements include silkworm reared at farm and central levels focusing on training rearers; two complete lines of post cocoon delivered to Uganda and installed and not completed in Sheema and Kween; ongoing research on various aspects of Sericulture; 10 shells for rearing of silk worm being constructed in Nwoya, Gomba, Mubende, Kween, Kitagata, Kiruhura, Busitema/Busia, Buikwe, Nakaseke, and Luwero.

The project employs a total of 152 full-time staff and 1500 casual workers who derive their livelihoods from the project and recruited graduate trainees to be allocated different project sites to offer technical support.

According to officials at TRIDI, the report of the Committee of Science, Technology and Innovations does mention some of the outputs but it has omitted some facts and inaccuracies.

“The entire blame for wastage of investment is 100% a responsibility of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations and the allies that it mobilized to blackmail the project, the scientist and the Institution TRIDI.”

Despite the blackmail against the project and its scientists by self-seekers, the project is at 6% funding and yet at 8% implementation. In other words, implementation is a head of level of financing and assets of the project are managed within the provisions of the MOU which has not yet been suspended or terminated.

It is alleged that funding was suspended without suspending the activities and the MOU apart from scaling down to two sites which they are not in agreement with because, all the recommendations of the committee would not have been mentioned if the funding had not been suspended.

‘’The Ministry should take responsibility for the wastage and economic losses that the project has suffered.

The project is as a result of Financial Support from the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. YoweriKaguta Museveni, to Scientists through the Innovation Fund. It is the first project of the 17 innovation fund projects funded in FY 2017/2018 to produce a commercial product.

Usilk is the first commercial product from the Commercialization of sericulture technologies and Innovations project implemented by Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI).

The process begins from the garden growing mulberry plants. The leaves of this plant are fed to silkworms reared in a rearing house. The cocoons produced from the silkworm are harvested before the month emerges to extract the silk thread known as silk yarn through a process of reeling and re-reeling.

TRIDI has done all this from here in Uganda and there are many more products they are yet to produce.

The project is to be implemented in 50 districts and currently, it is being implemented in 24 districts of Sheema, Kiruhura, Bulambuli, Kamuli, Mubende, Mukono, Iganga, Luweero, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Kween, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Buikwe, Pallisa, Busia, Amorator, Otuke, Lira, Agago and Pader. In Luweero, Mubende, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Kween, Buikwe, Agago, and Pader, it is farmers that demanded and they are being provided with skills and input. On station is in Mukono, Sheema, Kiruhura, Bulambuli, Kamuli, Mubende, Iganga, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Pallisa, Busia, Amorator, Otuke, and Lira.

At full commercialization, shall have invested into the project UGX800 billion and the government of Uganda will earn approximately UGX50B annually in Taxes. The jobs created will be worth 300 Billion every year.

‘’Project assets are managed within the provisions of the MOU and it should not be used as a reason for the government failing to meet its obligations. Parliament appropriated funds for work in 24 districts, why should TRIDI scale the work to two districts. Who will explain to parliament what happened later’’, noted Aine.

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