Kigezi’s future as food basket at risk

Irish potatoes take three months to mature. PHOTO/courtesy 

What you need to know:

  • The authorities must take responsibility for their inaction and work towards comprehensive solutions.

Known for its beautiful hills, valleys and fertile volcanic soils, Kigezi now faces a crisis that threatens to explode into disaster. This region was historically the country’s food basket, but it is currently on the verge of starvation and malnutrition. 

Overpopulation has driven its residents to encroach on wetlands in search of safety and sustenance, particularly for cultivating Irish potatoes—now deemed as valuable as gold in Rubanda, Kabale, and Kisoro districts. However, the degradation of these wetlands poses significant environmental threats, including the exacerbation of climate change.

Deforestation on Kigezi’s hills has led to severe soil erosion, stripping the land of its fertility and leaving behind barren landscapes. The once-rich soil has been swept into valleys and wetlands, leaving the highlands desolate and unproductive. The people definitely followed the rich soils to the wetlands.

In response, the government is threatening to implement policies to remove farmers from these wetlands, Kigezi’s remaining hope for agriculture. Unfortunately, these farmers are resistant, feeling they have no alternative but to fight for their livelihoods as the government has not provided them with viable solutions.

Rather than enforcing eviction, the government and local politicians should focus on educating the population about sustainable living in the highlands. 

This includes teaching them how to restore forest cover to prevent soil erosion and regenerate the volcanic soil’s fertility. 

Neighbouring countries have successfully implemented contour plowing to maintain soil fertility on similar hillsides, offering a model for Kigezi to follow. Effective policies and committed technical guidance are crucial to encourage reforestation and sustainable agricultural practices in Kigezi’s highlands.

It is unjust for the government, which has witnessed the degradation of Kigezi’s soil and remained silent, to now evict residents from wetlands without providing proper support and alternatives.

The authorities must take responsibility for their inaction and work towards comprehensive solutions.

Moreover, the wetlands in Kigezi alone cannot meet the nutritional needs of the growing population, leading to a surge in malnutrition cases. Without addressing soil erosion and implementing sustainable agricultural practices, the region will continue to face increasing hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.

Wilfred Arinda Nsheeka, LC5 male youth councillor for Rubanda District        [email protected]