Vanila and cocoa farmers in Bundibugyo District are counting losses following floods and landslides that have hit the area since last month.
According to local authorities, the floods have also claimed more than 16 lives.
Vanilla is mostly grown on the hilly slopes of the district while cocoa lies in the lowlands.
The farmers had anticipated to have their first harvest on December 15 but are now in misery.
“My cocoa plantation was my only source of income and it has all been washed away by floods,” Mr Amon Tindyebwa, a resident of Kasulenge Parish in Ngite Sub-county, said on Sunday.
A kilogramme of fresh vanilla fiber fetches Shs200,000. Many homes grow the crop on about 100 square metres while those on a large scale plant it on an acre.
Mr Julius Baluku, the chairperson of Bundibugyo Vanilla Wembule team, said an acre of vanilla can produce 200kgs per season. Middlemen buy a kilogramme at Shs160,000 while companies buy it at Shs200,000 when mature.
According to Mr Baluku, many farmers have been hiring armed guards to protect their vanilla. They pay each guard Shs200,000 per month.
Mr Light Kisembo, the district production officer, said cocoa production in the area stands at 18,000 metric tonnes annually. A kilogramme is sold at Shs6,000.
“The floods swept rocks and logs that uprooted our crops. My cocoa and banana plantations, yams and sweet potatoes were all swept away,” Mr Rogers Baluku, a resident of Burambagira Village in Ngamba Sub-county, said.
Mr Nyamutswangana Badanga, a resident of Kibale II Village in Bupomboli Parish, Harugale Sub-county, also lost his house and relatives.
“I have lost everything, my brother lost nine children at once, so we are feeling a lot of pain,” Mr Nyamutswangana said.
Ms Diana Tumuhimbise, the Red Cross manager Bundibugyo branch, said the displaced people are taking refuge at Semuliki High School and Bubukwanga refugee centre.
“We are still making assessment to establish the exact number of the affected people and the property destroyed. We are working with the district leadership, police, military and local community in search and rescue mission,” Mr Tumuhimbise said.
The Ministry of Relief and Disaster Preparedness distributed its first consignment of relief items to the victims in the district.
Mr Ronald Mutegeki, the district chairperson, said the items received so far include 500 bags of rice, 90 blankets, 100 buckets, 60 empty jerrycans, 100 spades and 800 cartons of soap. “We shall start the distribution of these items in the most affected areas, especially in Harugale, as we wait for more relief items,” Mr Mutegeki said.
The State minister for Agriculture, who is also Bughendera County MP, Mr Christopher Kibanzanga, said the Ministry of Relief and Disaster Preparedness would provide iron sheets to residents whose houses were destroyed.
Disasters in Bundibugyo
On November 29, Red Cross Bundibugyo branch said more than 4,000 people had been affected by disasters and a total of 349 households have been destroyed in the district.
On July 31, six bridges were washed away by floods and household property destroyed.
On May 10, 2016, about 15 people were killed by landslides in Bubukwanga, Bukonzo, Humya sub-counties, and Bumadu Village in Bundibugyo Town Council. Ms Kabasinguzi Kurusumu, the district environmental officer, attributed the disasters to poor farming methods.