Locals block surveyors from Amuru irrigation project land

Project. An irrigation scheme in northern Uganda. Residents of Atiak Sub-county in Amuru District. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • They demand that their land be registered first to protect it from grabbers.

The establishment of the Shs30b irrigation scheme at Ayila Village, Guruguru Sub-county in Amuru District, has suffered a setback after residents blocked engineers from the Ministry of Water and Environment from mapping out 500 square metres for the project last week.

During a meeting in Ayila Village at the weekend, residents demanded that their land be titled and a memorandum of understanding between them and the government be signed to protect their land before engineers install their equipment. 

Ms Santa Akello, a landlord, said they blocked the mapping because of a lack of communication from the district and fears that the move could be a ploy to grab their land.

“Without any clear assurances on the safety of our land through registering it, we have agreed not to surrender the land or allow the ministry officials to survey it in the project’s name,” she said.

Mr Ray Okwera, the Ayila Village chairman, blamed the technical and political leaders for failing to sensitise residents about the project.  

“If they did so, the community would have understood and appreciated the intervention and be willing to give their land for the project since it is not taking away anyone’s land,” Mr Okwera said. 

“My committee and I are just hearing it from the higher authorities, the engineers, and the ministry officials have never met us although they keep coming to map the project area,”  he added.

Mr Okwera added that information from area MPs and the office of the district chairman varies, creating more suspicion.

The Kilak South MP, Mr Gilbert Olanya, called for a meeting with the district leaders and legislators on the project. 

Mr Olanya said many people are skeptical about the project, citing similar circumstances under which community land was lost to individuals who pretended to act on behalf of the government.

“Everything must be clear, our people have lost trust in government projects because many times, they turn out to be ploys to grab land. Our people need  assurance that this time their land is safe by documenting it,” Mr Olanya said. 

Mr Michael Lakony, the district chairman, said the project is aimed at boosting agricultural production and the livelihoods.

 Mr Lakony said the district would organise another engagement with other stakeholders to find a solution. 
“As leaders, we are supposed to find solutions to problems because we can’t allow a project that will help fight poverty to be lost. Our farmers in these areas will be able have two seasons of planting,” he said.

Mr Julius Otim, the agricultural officer for Guruguru and Layima sub-counties, said the project is still under design.

He said six acres would be used for the establishment of water reservoir tanks and 500 square metres for laying out water pipes. Mr Otim denied allegations of land grabbing.

“The government will buy six acres of land from the owners (community) while the right to own land of the rest of the 500 square metres will remain with the land owners who will be expected to use the irrigation system,” he said.

“There is no need of titling community land because the owners will not be changed. Our leaders needed to understand the project well before they begin misinforming the community that their land will be taken,”  Mr Otim added.

About project

The Ayila irrigation scheme is a government project under the Agricultural Cluster Development Project. In the 2018/19 financial year, Parliament approved the initiative that will draw water from River Aswa to irrigate the area. The project targets approximately 25,000 households sorrounding Aswa River.

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