In 10 years of working at the Namawojjolo roadside market along the Kampala-Jinja highway, Peter Mayanja has experienced a considerable change in his fortunes.
Mayanja started out by vending gonja (roasted plantain) and, with his incomes gradually increasing, eventually graduated to selling water and soda as well.
On a daily average, according to Mayanja, his earnings oscillate between Shs 10,000. and Shs 30,000 With that money, Mayanja is able to rent a room within Namawojjolo, own a fridge for cooling the drinks, and employ an assistant who vends the snacks to vehicles in transit.
“This business has saved me from idling around, going to cinema halls and taking drugs like other people do. It keeps me busy and I get my money for survival,” Mayanja tells The Observer.
Beyond survival, Mayanja has also been able to buy some assets. Today, he owns a plot of land, rears a number of turkeys at home and can afford to employ labourers to till his gardens while he is busy at Namawojjolo market.
Started in 1967 by the late Joseph Musoke, Namawojjolo’s first vendors were the proprietor’s wives, young farmers and school leavers. They used to sell fruits and vegetables. More vendors later joined the market and, by 1985, additional items were on sale too. Those items included roasted beef and chicken (muchomo), as well as gonja.
Before Musoke passed on in 1999, he handed over the market to a group of Catholic priests at Lubaga cathedral, under the Wekembe Cooperative Programme (Wecop), who later built it to its current state.
Since then, the beneficiaries from the market have grown in leaps and bounds. The secretary of the market committee, Hamed Nsereko, one such beneficiary, says the proceeds from the market have enabled him educate some of his 19 children. Nsereko says three of his children have so far completed senior four while another three are in primary seven.
“I have managed to secure an acre of land for my family. My two sons are working in the market and they have constructed their own houses from their independent businesses. I also set up a canteen for my wife to manage our family,” he adds, with a tinge of contentment.
Like Nsereko and Muyanja, other area locals have benefitted from the existence of the market. Authorities estimate the number of vendors working in the market at 700.
“The workers have bought plots of land, motorcycles and have built good houses in their homes using their take-home pay at the market,” says Nsereko.
Where people converge in an urban setting, the need for social services inevitably arises. Nsereko says the presence of the market has seen at least six primary schools and four secondary schools spring up, which have come in handy to enable the locals educate their children.
While travellers see a cacophony of vendors milling from one car to another, Namawojjolo is actually made of two markets called the Maroon market and the Super market. Each of the two markets has a chairperson of a sub-committee that runs it, along with an executive selected from among its members. Maroon market then sends eight members to the joint executive committee while the Super market has 10.
According to James Wandera, the chairperson of Maroon market, the joint executive members sit every Wednesday to discuss weekly developments that affect the vendors.
“We do not segregate the vendors because of different market leaderships. Rather, we handle them as a unit. We assemble together as a market committee to work out the issues at the market,” says Wandera.
On a nearly daily basis, the vendors grapple with all sorts of problems, from customers driving away without paying for items they take, insecurity, hit-and-run accidents on the often busy highway to lack of hospital in their vicinity to treat family members who fall sick. In an effort to deal with the security questions, Mukasa says the committee formed a security sub-committee that patrols the market on a regular basis.
The lack of a nearby hospital is, however, a more complex problem. According to the vice chairperson Namawojjolo East, Moses Mukasa Magasi, the nearest hospitals to the market are in Lugazi district and Mukono district which are far. In case of major accidents that call for immediate attention, he says, it becomes a difficult situation to handle.
During a September 2014 visit to Namawojjolo market, President Museveni donated Shs 50 million, shared by the market (Shs 30 million) and the community (Shs 20m). Mukasa says the market vendors shared their money while the community purchased a tent and 900 chairs for their gatherings.
Mukasa says while they are grateful to the president for the offer, the community is waiting for him to fulfill his promise of building a hospital in the area and purchasing a lorry for the vendors to transport their goods.
While most travellers enjoy a roadside snack at places like Namawojjolo, many cannot avoid thinking to themselves about the safety and quality of what they eat. Could some unscrupulous vendors be selling dog meat rather than genuine beef? Do they sell chicken or, as the joke often goes, marabou storks? What happens to the muchomo that remains from a particular day’s sale?
Mukasa, a born of Namawojjolo East who has served as a vice chairperson of Namawojjolo East since 1986, says the chicken, cows and goat muchomo that they sell is from animals slaughtered in the Namawojjolo market abattoir.
“The chicken that is slaughtered close by the market is not allowed to be sold in the market. And if one brings goat meat and beef from Kampala or elsewhere, heshe must have a stamp [from the place of origin] before we grant them permission to sell it,” says Mukasa, adding that all their muchomo is halal, meaning it is slaughtered by a Muslim who is paid by the vendors for his services.
“In order to ensure that the chicken sold doesn’t sleep over to be sold the next day, the chicken roasters are not allowed to slaughter more than six chickens in a day,” he says
Mukasa says if the chicken or meat is left over by the evening of a particular day, their rules stipulate that vendors must reduce the cost so that area locals can purchase it.
The rules that govern operations at Namawojjolo market are made by the board of governors, sub-county leadership and market landlords. For instance, vendors are barred from crossing the road in a bid to reduce accidents.
In total, there are 22 rules, with monetary penalties of Shs 10,000 to Shs 20,000, or a one month suspension from the market, for anyone who violates any of them. With that level of organisation, what started as a small market between Mukono and Lugazi has become a source of livelihood for many people who would otherwise not have much else to do with their lives.
Source : The Observer