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Atiak Sugar Industry: Police Recommends Action to Avert Fire Outbreaks

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Patrick Jimmy Okema, the Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson reveals that their recommendations are based on thorough investigations that have undoubtedly pointed out to the factors causing the sudden fires.
Part of the 5 blocks of growing cane plantation razed down by rural fire outbreak in Amuru district - Photo by Aswa Region Police

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Aswa River Region Police have made seven strategic recommendations to avert rampant fire outbreaks in the sugar plantations belonging to Atiak Sugar industry.

They include among others recruiting a Community Liaison Officer, profiling all workers, building a watch tower, outlawing charcoal burning around the plantation, installing fire breakers and urgent resolution of worker’s grievances relating to wages.

This follows three separate fire outbreaks in the plantations, which razed down an estimated 200 acres of cane belonging to Atiak out Growers’ Cooperative Society towards the end of December 2019 and early January this year.

This was the fourth fire incident within a space of two years since December 2018 when 600 acres of sugarcane were burnt down. The devastating effect of the fires is valued at Shillings 2.8 billion.  

Patrick Jimmy Okema, the Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson reveals that their recommendations are based on thorough investigations that have undoubtedly pointed out to the factors causing the sudden fires.

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According to Okema, the management of Atiak Sugar faction has been given various security measures including strengthening community liaison department to create a conducive working environment to avert future fire outbreaks.

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Some local leaders including area MPs have welcomed the police recommendations. Anthony Akol, the Kilak North MP agrees with the recommendations, saying initially they blamed the fire outbreaks on unresolved land disputes.

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Santa Joyce Laker, the Chairperson of Atiak Out Grower’s Cooperative Society proposed creation of community vigilantes, crop insurance and security cameras to help detect the fires to facilitate timely response especially during dry seasons.

Mohammed Ahmed, the Director Atiak Sugar Project, said management is already working with different stakeholders including police, community and local leaders to harmonize their positions in order to put an end to fire risks.  

He however, rejected some of the proposals by out growers regarding the acquisition and installation of security cameras as impracticable solution to the fire outbreaks given the remote nature of the project area and availability of power.

 

Established in 2016, the Atiak Sugar Project is owned by Horyal Investment Holdings Company LTD covering at least 27,000 acres of land. Government, through Uganda Development Corporation owns 40 percent stake in the project after investing in it more than 75 billion Shillings. 

The sugar factory, which is expected to begin production this year, employs over 1,000 workers and benefits more than 4,000 out growers from Gulu, Amuru, Lamwo and Adumani districts.