About 15,000 rice farmers in Butaleja District have rejected giveaway of Doho Rice Scheme to an investor.
Farmers under their umbrella organisation “Doho Irrigation Scheme Farmers’ Co-operative Society Limited (DIFACOS) have vowed not to let go of the scheme.
This follows information by the district LC5 chairman, Mr Richard Waya, that he wanted to link Doho Rice Scheme to some investors.
The farmers accused Mr Waya and his executive of personal interest in the venture.
They made the remarks during a consultative meeting on the proposed investment in Doho rice scheme in Nampologoma Trading Centre recently.
Police headed by the district police commander, Mr Patrick Odokonyero, deployed at the meeting to avert violence. People had threatened to attack Mr Waya and his executive, accusing them of attempting to sell the scheme to an investor dubiously.
Mr Gesa Kabasa Nakemea, the chairperson of the co-operative, who could not hold his tears, said they do not need an investor for the scheme.
“We only need grants and donations. This will help us to strengthen what already exists. For example, we need market for our rice and perhaps a bigger processing plant,” said Mr Kabasa.
Mr James Mbulambago, a councillor representing Naweyo Sub-county in the district council, told farmers that the District Executive Committee (DEC) had already made the resolution to give away the rice scheme to an investor.
“DEC has appointed a committee of five people to go and negotiate with an unidentified investor about the price,” Mr Mbulambago alleged at the meeting. “But we are ready to fight and save our bread,” he added.
The Butaleja District Woman MP, Ms Milly Mugeni, threw her weight behind the farmers and said the rice scheme is their main source of livelihood and should not be given away.
“Farmers are the investors themselves. Let’s support them in getting markets and mobilising them on saving culture instead of getting an investor,” said Ms Mugeni.
She said selling the scheme will affect residents’ livelihoods and they will not be able to educate their children.
“The issue of investor has caused a lot of fracas and division among leaders in the district. To make the matter worse we as area MPs are not aware,” said Ms Mugeni.
The Resident District Commissioner, Mr Richard Gulume Balyaino, who also heads security in the district, called for calm among the residents and leaders.
“Government injected Shs21 billion to rehabilitate the scheme and we cannot allow somebody to play with it,” said Mr Gulume.
Mr Richard Waya, the LC5 chairperson, confirmed the plan to secure an investor whom he did not name but dismissed allegations that he wanted to sell off the scheme.
“We still have a big challenge to educate our people about investment. The investor wanted to come here and partner with the farmers,” said Mr Waya.
“I am not giving up. The investor will come,” he vowed.