Actors saving Kalangala from the palm oil project ‘curse’

Bujumba Youth Smart Actors performing during the world environment day recently. The group sensitises the community on environment issues through music and drama. Photo by Martin Ssebuyira.

What you need to know:

To fight the effects of the chemicals used in the palm oil project in Kalangala, the youth have turned to drama, music and poetry to sensitise the community.

The Palm oil project in Kalangala was received with mixed feelings. Many embraced it when it kicked off in 2002 because it was creating jobs but others rejected it because they were worried about outgrowers of the palm plantation taking over their land.

Then there was a section of people who rejected it because it would lead to cutting of forests and its negative effects on the environment.

Politicians in Kalangala offered the palm oil investors free land to grow the plantations and a tax holiday to boost the project.

Communities in Kulugulu, Bujumba, Kasenyi, and the rest of Kalangala appreciated the jobs created by the project but were worried that the fertilisers and weed control chemicals would end up being drained in the lake and other water sources like village springs.

Fighting for a pollution-free environment
To this effect, the community led by youths formed a group dubbed Bujumba Youth smart actors. The group has embarked on composing songs, poems and plays foretelling the likely negative impacts of palm plantation to Lake Victoria and Kalangala District in general.

The group performs at various national and local functions in different areas of Kalangala sensitising the masses on the “curse” that has come with the palm plantation project and how it can be averted. “Kalangala people are hard to mobilise because spend most of their time in water trying to catch fish.

“Having our messages packaged in music and drama enables us reach them easily because they gather to be entertained and end up being educated,” Ronald Lukwago, the group leader explains.

He says they started the group in 2003 as a community initiative to create HIV awareness. They moved from place to place spreading the HIV prevention gospel until various organisations like the Red Cross spotted them and started offering them support.

They were later joined by organisations such as the National Organisation of Professional Environmentalists (Nape) that supported them to buy costumes, drums, to mention but two

“They then helped us design better messages to save our environment and help communities avert any possible negative effects of palm oil plantation on the environment,” he added.

Social responsibility
Rose Nakidde, a member of the Bujumba Youth Smart Actors, says they have since managed to register some success like tasking Bidco, an edible oil company, to explain to the community members why they have encroached on the 200-metre zone to plant palm plantation.

“We tasked them to stop spraying fertilisers on plantations near our spring wells and they responded,” she said.

Allan Kalangi, National Association for Professional Environmentalists sustainability school manager says, they empower communities through sensitising them about their land rights and how to protect their environment from pollution.

Bidco Uganda Limited and its partners supply free palm oil seeds and fetilisers to the community and in turn buys the produce from them at a price set by the company.

In pursuit of this business venture, palm Oil Uganda Limited signed an agreement with the government to undertake an integrated palm oil project in Kalangala District in 2002.

Kalangala palm oil project was and is part of the Ugandan Government Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP) initiative geared towards increasing Vegetable oil production in Uganda.

The project is supported by International Funder for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Bank, Bidco Uganda Limited and Wilmar Plantations.

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