Francis Kwizera, 48, grows Irish potatoes in the lush but vertiginous volcanic soil of Uganda’s far southwest. He’s doing well. He has built a house for his family and opened a shop in Kisoro. Two of his children are studying at university. That’s the difference a modern road makes, specifically the one that snakes west through the mountains from Kabale to the DRC border.
“This road is God sent,” Kwizera told us as he loaded a sack of potatoes into a customer’s car. “We have never stopped thanking government for developing this road to this level. Six years ago it was practically impossible to travel from Kisoro to other parts of Uganda. Today, it takes a few hours for us farmers to deliver our produce to customers who are as far as Kampala”, 470 kms to the east.
The 100 km section of road from Kabale was upgraded from dirt to tarmac in 2012. It passes through Kisoro town and on to the border at Bunagana. A 6km spur runs south to the border with Rwanda at Kyanika. The spur also connects with Kisoro’s airstrip. The road is making an important contribution to regional integration and improved delivery of government services. And it’s injecting life in the local economy as evidenced by the lively roadside markets that have sprung up selling a cornucopia of local produce.
“The income level of the local people along the road has significantly improved. This, compared to when this road was a no-go area, is something we commend government for. No wonder the people of Kisoro have always given a block vote for President Museveni,” Kwizera said.
We heard similar sentiments at Bungana which has become a hive of cross-border commerce. Pickup trucks loaded with farm produce can be seen lining up at the border to serve eager buyers on each side.