By Leonard Mukooli
Rice farmers in Namakoko along Mpologoma wetland in Namutumba district have unanimously agreed to vacate the wetland with an appeal to the government not to harshly evict them.
The farmers said that through rice growing, tomatoes, yams and other first growing crops they have been able to educate their children and provide basic needs for their families and when they are forced out, they will be left with no option for their survival.
Nelson Mbulamuko farmer and resident of Namakoko village in Nankonde sub-county said the government should give them a grace period of one extra years to cultivate rice and harvest so that will enable them to service their bank loans and complete fees.
He said the majority of farmers lost bumper harvest in the the past two seasons due to changes in weather patterns.
He said the government should prioritize giving them viable alternative livelihood projects to enable them to cope up with the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Isma Kirunda another farmers requested the government to provide them with capital to begin small businesses on top of compensation.The farmers made these remarks on Thursday while witnessing the launch of the demarcation exercise by the ministry of water and environment.
Despite the lamentation from the farmers but the exercise later went on smoothly amidst heavy security deployment especially of anti-riot police ends today and environmental police officers.
Fred Bakibinga from the RDC office Namutumba while witnessing the demarcation exercise, appealed to residents not to remove the mark stones saying the district is already experiencing adverse weather changes.
“My people we have already started experiencing adverse weather changes and it will be bad if you come and uproot these mark stones, let’s leave them here for our own good” Bakibinga said.
” In the begging the rice farmers expressed fear that government was intending to sell wetland to the Chinese but we sensitized them and have allowed to vacate the wetland to pave way for the demarcation and restoration. Namakoko wetland catchment is located on the side of Namutumba district along Mpologoma wetland” he said.
He said that rate at which the wetland was being abused was alarming, adding that recently the district had started experiencing floods and prolonged drought.
He explained that the demarcation exercise which is ongoing involves retracing wetland boundaries and placing of mark stones basing on three parameters such as water, vegetation and soil.
The project covers 12 districts of Butebo, Pallisa, Ngora, Tororo, Butaleja, Namutumba, Kaliro, Kibuku, Budaka, Bukedea, Kumi and Mbale. He said farmers who have been depending on the wetland will be registered at their respective sub counties for them to benefit from government projects.
Information available indicates that at least 65 percent of the wetlands in Namutumba have been encroached on and degraded by human activity.
He said that over five villages will be affected by the exercise, adding that over 2000 hectares of wetland had been destroyed adding that government is working out to see that affected families are given alterative solution for livelihood.
” We are requesting the government to come up with alternative sources of livelihood for farmers who have mainly been depending on the swamp since time memorial” Kirunda appealed
He said as leaders, they will embark on mindset change and sensitization of communities to appreciate government projects