Uganda: Nakasongola farmers petition Parliament over access to dams

Uganda: Nakasongola farmers petition Parliament over access to dams

Uganda: Nakasongola farmers petition Parliament over access to dams

Uganda: Nakasongola farmers petition Parliament over access to dams

Farmers from Nakasongola District are seeking Parliament’s intervention in a case where they say the National Forest Authority (NFA) has blocked them from accessing nine public water dams.

The farmers who were led by their area Member of Parliament, Hon. Noah Mutebi Wanzala said that the semi-arid district depends on dams for livestock and household use. 

“NFA blocked access routes to public water dams which are the only source of water for survival” said Edward Butera, the group leader.

Butera said the most affected sub-counties are Wabinyonyi and Kakooge which neighbour Kasagala Forest Reserve. 

This he said has left farmers at the mercy of hiring water trucks while others have opted to sell their livestock.

“Some people have fled their homes for other places with water while those who can afford, are hiring water tanks,” he said.

The farmers presented their petition to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Thursday, 02 March 2023.

The committee meeting was chaired by Hon. Emely Kugonza.

 Butera said Parliament ought to intervene after a series of failed attempts by other parties.

“We have raised this petitioned to various offices and authorities including the Minister for Lands; we however, think you are the top voice and advocates for the citizens,” Butera said.

The petitioners are also concerned that NFA has planted eucalyptus trees on a large chunk of land saying it has adverse effects on water, soil and climate change.

“The environment advocacy organizations advised a ban on eucalyptus plantations on large scale in the cattle corridor district of Uganda, yet NFA depleted the entire Kasagala native forest in favor of imported eucalyptus trees,” said Butera.

He also accused the NFA for conniving with land grabbers to forcefully plant trees on land that originally belonged to the residents of the area.

Legislators sought to understand whether the local community had documentation on the land that has allegedly been grabbed.

“Land ownership in Uganda is about documentation; you cannot assume to own land simply because you live on it. We need to know if NFA actually encroached on people’s land” said Hon. Fred Kayondo, (NRM, Mukono County South).

Budyebo County Member of Parliament, Hon. Benard Sekyanzi, said that land in Nakasongola was initially customary and the dams were constructed on both communal and government land. 

He noted that there had been conflicts over land with locals accusing NFA of land grabbing.

“There are some people grabbing land with impunity in connivance with NFA; NFA is doing us more harm, that is why you hear they are chasing people,” said Budyebo.

Nakasongola District Woman Representative, Hon. Victorious Zawedde said over 20,000 people have been denied access to water and prayed that government identifies land and constructs new dams.

“From October 2022 till now, we have not received rains. Our farmers have been moving long distances; Government should open up the routes to water sources and relocate these dams to other areas,” said Zawedde.

Hon. Kugonza said the committee is scheduled to meet NFA and visit the affected communities and ascertain the allegations. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Parliament of the Republic of Uganda.