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National Council for Science faulted over a Shs2 billion liver fluke, bilharzia project land

Casual Labourers harvesting the Omuhoko from the garden before it is taken for drying up. (Photo by Bob Aine)

KIRUHURA– The National Council for Science and Technology has been faulted for interfering with a Shs2 billion project in Rushorora, Sanga, Kiruhura district that manufacturers Snailtox drug that prevents liver fluke in livestock and Bilharzia inhuman.

The project located on over 175 hectares of land started in 2006 under the presidential initiative to support scientists and successfully produced a drug that kills snails in water called Snailtox.

Snails cause liver fluke in animals and bilharzia inhuman.

On  June 3, 2006, President Museveni wrote a letter to the permanent secretary ministry of finance informing him how late Prof. Isharazi had submitted his budget to him to develop this product.

Museveni directed the permanent secretary that during the financial year 2006/2007 budget to release shs5billions to fund project of Prof. Isharazi, Dr. Kyamuhangire, and Dr. Muranga.

“I introduced Dr. Isharazi to the minister of finance I even raised the need for these scientists funding in the cabinet, however, nothing was done there is an additional evidence that the same omuhoko may kill mosquito larvae how can we fail to raise shs5bn from a budget of 2.5trillion? Let us restrict ravels, how much do we spend on travels?” the letter reads in part.

Snailtox is manufactured from a native plant called phytollaca dodecandra known as omuhoko in vernacular. It should be noted that after Museveni’s letter, land equivalent to 175 hectares was bought for the project to start.

Kekimuri on the improvised drying Mechanism of Omuhoko. (Photo by Bob Aine)

The managers of this project (Tropical Ethnobotany Chemotherapeutical Research Development Centre Ltd)however said along the way in 2016, the project initiator and director Prof.William Isharaza died which culminated in many challenges the project is facing especially eviction by a section of people in the  National Council for Science and Technology.

“Immediately after the death of my husband in 2016 some people started calling me and asking me to surrender this land and any other assets on it to National Council for science and technology, last year around May some person again called me that he is from same council that I leave this land because it has been allocated to another project,” said Edith Kekimuri, the project executive director.

She added she has since been getting threatening messages and calls to take away this project from here by officials purporting to be working with national council for science and technology.

“True we got the funding to start this project under the Presidential initiative to support scientists and part of the money was used to buy land which was titled under national council for science and technology, but if they are issues and government wants to use this land for an alternative project as stakeholders who have been here, have plantations, human resource, are in production, we should be consulted,” added Kekimuri.

Paul Rukundo, the project manager said they have been attacked for over four times and part of their property destroyed by people who including Chinese at the project site.

“Our workers are leaving in fear, and we are also worried but what is disturbing us is that these people are not telling us their motives, one time they came with police forcefully destroyed our gate and entered into the land and started planting mark stones the land was given to Chinese,” said Rukundo.

When contacted Executive Director National Council for Science and Technology Dr Peter Ndemere said true the institution wants to use this land for another over $100 million skilling project to be supported by China but also the importance of the current project housed here which he said they have injected close to Shs 2 billion is not underlooked.

Kekimuri on the improvised drying Mechanism of Omuhoko. (Photo by Bob Aine)

“This land belongs to us and according to our mandate is to support researchers, we bought this land for Professor Isharaza project to do research on use of Omuhoko (Pytolleca dendocandra) for treating bilharzia and liver fluke. The research was done successfully and drug to that effect called Snailtox was produced and is on market and that phase ended, ‘ Ndemere said.

He added however unfortunately along the way Professor Isharaza died, the progress of the project stalled and could not absorb all this land leaving a vast of it idle.

Ndemere said the national council of science and technology and its line ministry of science and technology later got another ‘star’ project they thought would effectively use this place but promised they are planning for alternative land for current project.

“We cannot accept to lose this star project coming, we are going to find alternative land for these people because this project has already been approved by parliament,” said Ndemere.

But Kekimuri said what Ndemere is saying is news to her because in all what they are doing and planning they have never involved them.

“I am just hearing this from you because these people have never involved us in what they are telling only telling us to vacate the land but again this land was bought specifically for this project, why can’t they get alternative land for this project they claim they are bringing here,” said  Kekimuri.

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