Leaders, residents task govt to explain delay in oil palm project

Monday January 14 2019

Valuation. A government surveyor measuring a

Valuation. A government surveyor measuring a resident’s piece of land in Busamuzi Sub-county in Buvuma District before he was compensated last year. PHOTO BY DENNIS SSEBWAMI 

By SSEBWAMI DENNIS

BUVUMA. The leaders and residents in the island district of Buvuma have tasked government to explain why the oil palm project has failed to kick off in their area in the past decade.
The Buvuma Oil Palm project, which was unveiled in 2008, has failed to take off despite establishing a demonstration garden at Kawafu Village in Buvuma Town Council.
According to Buvuma District vice chairperson, Mr Ronald Wanda, residents who surrendered their land to pave way for the project and those expecting to get jobs, always bombard him with questions, demanding to know why the project is not taking off.
“We have been challenged by our people who surrendered their land for the project, putting us on task to explain what failed the project, we have been asking them to be patient, but now we have run out of answers,” Mr Wanda said during an interview over the weekend
He added that the delayed project has created suspicion among locals that government could have relocated the project to another area without informing their leaders.
The Busamuzi Sub-county chairperson, Mr Charles Aisu, said their people surrendered their land hoping to be employed on oil palm fields and factories, but the project has failed to take off.
He said the delayed project has also affected their revenue collections since many productive people who were doing businesses at the islands have relocated to the mainland.
Mr Aisu said in Busamuzi Sub-county, they have already secured about 100 acres where government can put the oil palm factory and another 200 acres for nursery beds.
The project, a component of the Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP) is under the Ministry of Agriculture.
It is implemented by Oil Palm Uganda Ltd, a subsidiary of Bidco Uganda, which manages oil palm plantations on Bugala Islands in Kalangala District.
Ms Specioza Nakyeyune, a resident of Bukwaya Village who had hope of benefiting from the project as an out grower, said she has reserved her piece of land for three years waiting to be given seedlings and fertilisers in vain.
“I was given training on how to grow palm oil, I was registered as an outgrower after an assurance that the project was to kick off soon, but nothing is taking place, I am now tired,” she said.
Legislators on the parliamentary committee on agriculture were the first to complain about the delayed oil palm project, warning that any further delays would give unscrupulous individuals a chance to grab land earmarked for the project.

MPs’ inspection
While touring the land secured for the project in Busamuzi Sub-county in February last year, MPs led by the vice chairperson parliamentary committee on agriculture, Mr Robert Migadde, advised government to swiftly start the project and avoid unscrupulous residents who had started reclaiming land, under the pretext that their property was undervalued.
When contacted, VODP project manager, Ms Connie Magomu Masaba, said the delays have been occasioned by tenants who were compensated for their land, but do not want to vacate the land besides other technical issues.
“The delay [to kick start oil palm project] is as result of several factors, we are still opening up boundaries of all the land we purchased to ensure that there are no squatters, but also the other thing is that, we want to ensure that our activities do not affect the environment,” she said.
A section of conservationists have since 2016 been opposed to the planned oil project in Buvuma like they did to one in Kalangala Islands, saying it is not environment friendly.
On the issue of outgrowers, Mr Masaba said the government has been in negotiation with International Fund for Agricultural Development so that they can access money to give out agriculture loans.
“It is good we have concluded the negotiations and the government has signed the agreement,” she added.

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