Wednesday September 3 2014

Rice farmers oppose Shs10b Namatala wetland project

By Mudangha Kolyangha

More than 500 rice farmers in Budaka District are opposed to the plan by government in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) to redevelop Doho-Namatala wetland into a modern rice scheme.

During a meeting chaired by the farmers’ chairperson, Abudallah Isiko, several farmers expressed fear that the wetland is their only source of income and if surrendered for development, many may be kicked out.

“For many years, we have been embroiled in wrangles with our neighbours (Mbale) over ownership. Why now?” asked Isiko. Jica planned $4m (Shs10b) for the project but there is resistance from the farmers.

Request for support
Budaka LC5 chairperson, Arthur Wako Mboizi, met them to urge them to embrace the plan as it is intended to boost rice production. “This is good for our people. I know there are people who may be against this project but for the good of the community, support it,” he said.

Jica designed the project with a management plan that includes protecting and restoring valuable biological resources in the wetland system and promoting sustainable utilisation. The Namatala wetland provides livelihoods to more than 20,000 farmers in Mbale, Budaka, Kibuku, Pallisa and Manafwa districts. But there have been wrangles over boundary issues.

It has been at the centre of violent clashes between farmers from either side of Mbale and Budaka. Several people have been killed and scores seriously injured in the fracas in the past years over land ownership.