Shs2b govt project stalls as locals hold onto land

Namutumba District officials meet landowners in Kimombasa Village, Mazuba Sub-county in Namutumba District on September 24, 2022. PHOTO/RONALD SEEBE

What you need to know:

  • The Namutumba deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr James Kyomya, says only four of the 10 acres  have been secured.

Construction of a Shs2 billion irrigation scheme in Kimombasa Village, Mazuba Sub-county, Namutumba District, has stalled after farmers, especially in villages bordering River Mpologoma, refused to surrender their land for the cause.

 Mr James Mugurwa, the Mazuba Sub-county chairperson, said works on the solar-powered scheme commenced in 2020, adding that the contractor [Akvo] was expected to complete the works in October.

“The plant is going to use solar power to pump water. Initially, it was expected to be completed next month, but it is likely to be extended as we look for land for expansion,” he said in an interview at the weekend.

Mr Mugurwa said the scheme will be constructed on 10 acres of land and more than 2,000 farmers are expected to benefit from it.

He said the scheme is a reward from government to rice farmers in Namutumba District following their eviction from wetlands in 2021.

Earlier, President Museveni, concerned by the rate at which wetlands were destroyed, ordered a total ban on rice growing in wetlands countrywide.

Mr Museveni renewed his battle against encroachers during the Budget speech in June when he told legislators and other government officials that there should be no negotiations with encroachers.

The President, however, said there are people who were forced into wetlands by the colonial government, adding that these groups would be compensated, but those who willfully settled in and conducted illegal activities in wetlands would be kicked out without any compensation.

This scheme, Mr Mugurwa adds, comes with a number of benefits, including piped water, which will minimise residents’ visits to River Mpologoma for water for domestic use.

He said the project would encourage farmers to practise modern farming methods on a small scale.

The Namutumba deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr James Kyomya, said only four acres have been secured.

“We are in talks with land owners, whom we are requesting to give us more [six acres of] land to make a total of 10 acres which are needed by the contractor,” he said.

Mr Kyomya blamed some Opposition figures in the district for allegedly misleading masses that the government intends to grab their land. 

Land on which to erect the irrigation plant has remained a contentious issue, with many farmers unwilling to surrender their land unless they are compensated.

Mr Ronald Kimbowa, a resident of Kimombasa Village, said the government asked his family to vacate the wetland they were occupying. 
“Let the [irrigation] plant be constructed in the wetland,” he said.

He added: “We [land owners] should reach a Memorandum of Understanding with the government on how we shall benefit from the scheme. Much as we want modern farming methods, we do not want to be cheated.”
Mr Swaibu Nabongho, a farmer, said he would not surrender his land before he is compensated, while Ms Robinah Mukembo, also a farmer, said she expected compensation for the alleged damage to her property.

The Namutumba District vice chairperson, Mr Patrick Mutyaba, said the government would construct another irrigation plant in Nangonde Sub-county.

“The government is encouraging farmers to get used to irrigation type of farming because it is reliable and affordable, other than depending on rains,” Mr Mutyaba said.

“The weather and environment have changed because of human activities on wetlands; the rains are not coming,” he added.

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