Hoima, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Hoima Sugar Limited has utilized six out of the nine square miles that they leased from the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.
The company leased close to 22 square miles of the contested Bugoma central forest reserve land from the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom for sugarcane growing for 99 years.
However, the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA found 13 of the 22 square miles unfit for a sugar plantation and recommended their preservation since it’s a wetland and forest reserve.
As a result, NEMA allowed Hoima sugar to cultivate sugarcane on the remaining 9.24 square miles covering the grassland, establish an urban center on 1.26 square miles, an eco-tourism centre on 1.97 square miles and restore 3.13 square miles of the forest reserve.
They also recommended the preservation of another 0.156 hectares for a cultural site and 6.17 square miles as a natural forest.
Now according to the Company management, they have successfully used six of the nine square miles for sugar cane growing.
Charles Yamuremye, the Supervisor Hoima Sugar limited explains that in some parts of the plantation, they have already started harvesting sugar cane, adding that plans are underway to utilize the remaining three-square miles for the same purpose.
Amlan Tumusiime, the Resident District Commissioner Kikuube says he recently carried out an inspection in the sugar plantation to ascertain whether the company is adhering to the directives issued by NEMA.
Tumusiime applauded the company for embracing local content by employing locals to work in their plantation, a thing he says has improved the livelihood of the community around.
Tumusiime is optimistic that in future, Bunyoro region will produce enough sugar and supply to other parts of the country given the speed at which Hoima sugar limited is moving especially towards sugar production.
Charles Twongire, a resident of Rwembaho village that is situated adjacent to the land that Hoima Sugar Limited acquired for sugarcane growing applauds the investor for the cordial relationship with the locals. He says the investor rehabilitated most of the roads that had spent over ten years under unbearable situation among other benefits.
Benon Kasumba, another resident explains that as locals, they have benefited in terms of employment opportunities saying most women and youth have been employed by the company hence improving their livelihoods.
In September 2022, the National Environment Management Authority accused the sugar company for allegedly breaching the National Environmental Management Authority-NEMA guidelines issued to the company.
According to a report released then by the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA dated September 27, on the activities being conducted by Hoima sugar limited on the piece of land it leased from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, the company breached some of the key guidelines agreed upon in the ESIA Certificate issued to them.
According to NEMA, though Hoima Sugar limited submitted an environmental and social audit report for the sugar cane project in June 2022, a review of the Audit report and NEMA’s investigations including ground inspections in September revealed that there was deforestation of the natural, reserved forest areas contrary to approval condition 4.3(I)(C), adding that as a result of this, the area of natural forests that was supposed to be protected has been severely degraded.
The report further reveals that there was destruction of the eco-tourism site contrary to approval condition 4.3(I)(C) which has affected the quality of the site for eco-tourism purposes.
According to NEMA, the above findings and destruction made by Hoima Sugar Limited amount to breach of conditions of approval of the NEMA certificate issued to the company contrary to section 157(f) of the National Environment Act,2019.
As a result, NEMA has directed Hoima Sugar Limited to immediately stop any further deforestation of the natural reserved forest area, eco-tourism area and cultural sites.
The authority has further instructed that no sugar cane should be planted in the natural reserved forest area, Eco-tourism area, cultural sites area and land reserved for urban center and that sugar cane “must “be restricted to area permitted in the certificate. It further demanded that the 312.3hectares earlier approved for the urban center is halted, to be kept as a natural forest in view of the country’s efforts to recover forest cover loss.
NEMA in the report directed that the sugar company restores all the degraded areas of the natural reserved forest, eco-tourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for an urban center adding that the company should prepare a restoration plan for the degraded areas in consultation with Forestry sector support department of the ministry of water and Environment, National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda wildlife Authority-UWA and submit the same to the Authority (NEMA) among other guidelines.
According to NEMA, failure to comply with the given instructions will result in NEMA canceling the ESIA certificate and further legal actions against Hoima Sugar limited.