Ugandan village, Buhuka, a tiny fishing village, is perched on the shores of Lake Albert in the western arm of the great East African Rift Valley.
Access to the village used to be only by boat and foot. Villagers including pregnant women, the sick and children had to scale an 8km escarpment to go to other parts of the country.
“Pregnant women and many sick people used to die going up that escarpment,” George Bangonza, Chairman of Local Council at Hoima district told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Now a life-saving road has emerged thanks to the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), a Chinese company operating in oil fields nearby.
Previous multinational companies which used to explore oil in this area were using a barge to transport their equipment to and from the oil field.
But for the locals, a road down the escarpment that would ease transport for people had never been built due to high cost. The Chinese have come with a difference.
The CNOOC, in consultation with the Ugandan government, has constructed a 10 km paved road that winds down the escarpment, opening the village to the rest of the world.
Besides CNOOC using it to transport equipment to and from the well, the villagers here see it as a catalyst in helping improve their livelihoods.
Omuwereza Byamukama, a local dealer of agricultural produce, said the road would reduce the transport costs which have been eating into his profit margins.
“This road is very helpful because my profit margins are going to increase as a result of reduced transport costs. It will also ease trade,” Byamukama said.
Georgina Kawaya, a mother of two, said it was easier to transport to the sick to the hospital with the new road, adding that previously they used to carry then on locally-made trenchers upside the escarpment.
Uganda’s Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said on regional level the road would serve as an important means to link the country with neigbouring DR Congo across Lake Albert.
“This will boost trade and access to social services within Uganda and the DRC,” Rugunda said while officially launching the road on Feb. 26. He urged the locals to utilize the road to increase household income and improve their quality of life.
Zhao Yali, China’s ambassador to Uganda. described the road as a sign of friendship between the Chinese people and Ugandans.
CNOOC Uganda manager, Xiao Zongwei, said the road would also help boost the relations between the local community and the company.
“We believe that the opening of the road will not only benefit the development of Kingfisher Oilfield, but also the local community who have suffered this situation for a long time,” he said.
Besides the road, the locals here are already reaping from their cooperation with the Chinese.
The CNOOC is providing a top-up on the salary of teachers at a Buhuka Primary School in the Ugandan village.
It has previously provided scholastic materials to pupils in the school. Health camps conducted by Chinese medical experts have also been held in the village.