The long awaited oil palm project in Buvuma Islands, has finally kicked off with the Ministry of Agriculture preparing the site where nursery beds will be put.
The nursery beds will be set up at Buwangwe Village, Busamuzi Sub-county on a 40–hectare piece of land out of the 5,500 hectares procured for the project.
The project, which is a component of the Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP), is implemented by Oil Palm Uganda Ltd (OPUL), a subsidiary of Bidco Uganda, which manages oil palm plantations on Bugala Islands in Kalangala District.
The VODP project manager, Ms Connie Magomu Masaba, said the seedlings will be nurtured in the nursery beds for 15 months before supplying them to outgrowers.
She said the rest of the seedlings will be planted in the nucleus estate owned by OPUL.
The project has been on the ministry’s to-do list for a decade and some residents who had sold their land to government to pave way for the project had started taking advantage of the delay of the project to utilise the land for other purposes.
“We are now preparing where to set up the nursery beds and we expect to get the seedlings next month,” Ms Masaba said during an interview at the weekend
She said the outgrowers will receive seedlings and fertilisers on loan and they will pay back at the time of harvesting.
“The government of Uganda has borrowed money from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, to support outgrowers by providing them with necessary items such as pesticides and fertilisers needed in agriculture,” she said
Ms Masaba said although their initial target was to secure 10,000 hectares of land, they settled for 7,500 hectares, of which 2,500 are for the outgrowers .
“We have decided to preserve the remaining land on the islands for other purposes, we plan to get more land [of 25,00 hectares] on the main land in the districts of Mayuge, Buikwe and Mukono,” she added.
Ms Masaba said at least Shs76 billion has so far have been spent on purchasing land and compensation of the affected persons.
The Busamuzi Sub-county chairperson, Mr Charles Aisu, said as local leaders they are happy to see the project kick off after many years of waiting.
“I am sure our people, especially the youth are going to be employed because many are currently jobless,” he said.
Ms Masaba said more than 3,000 people will be employed at the nucleolus estate, nursery bed and the milling factory.
Mr Thomas Ssebugulu Mowa, a resident of Bukwaaya Village, said: “I surrendered my land to government to have the project start, but they have been dilly-dallying, I am happy to learn that they have started because we expect to benefit a lot from that project,” he said.
Although Buvuma main island has seven sub-countries, oil palm growing will mainly be carried out in the three sub-counties of Buwoya, Busamuzi, Nayirambi and part of Buvuma Town Council.
Agriculture State minister Vincent Ssempijja had assured residents in Buvuma that the project was to kick off in April, but this did not happen. What has been in place all these years is a two- acre oil palm demonstration garden at Kawafu Village in Buvuma Town Council.
Early last year, legislators on the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture advised government to implement the oil palm project, warning that any further delays would give unscrupulous individuals a chance to grab the land earmarked for the project.
The MPs also directed the project manager to quicken the process of compensating affected persons, who refused to vacate their plots, claiming their property was undervalued.
The legislators also urged the project implementers to ensure that there is no encroachment on the existing forests and wetlands.