Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Residents of Bulyasi village Najjembe sub county in Buikwe district have rejected Operation Wealth Creation-OWC inputs in preference to growing khat .
OWC had prepared to supply two truckloads of coffee seedlings and pineapple suckers to residents of Bulyasi, which is about 4 kilometers off Kampala-Jinja highway.
However, residents rejected the inputs and instead advised OWC officials to supply the seedlings to other local councils in the district.
Bulyasi is full of khat gardens, which are inter-cropped with bananas.
Sulait Mudooba, a resident of Bulyasi village explains that they give priority to khat growing because it is more productive compared to any other crop including coffee.
He reveals that residents have been cutting their coffee plantations in the past ten years while replacing them with khat.
“Its yields are compared to coffee, the difference is that harvesting in khat plantation is not bound to seasons, at least every month you can do harvesting three times and at this time one pockets between shillings 500,000 to 1 million. Whoever has eaten money from khat it becomes easy for him to put down coffee plant in favor of growing khat since the more you harvest from it the more it yields,” he said.
Annet Namugga, a single mother grows khat on four acres of land. She says coffee is none-resistant to diseases unlike khat, which is rarely affected by diseases.
Namugga wonders how she would be in position to take her children to school by growing coffee and pineapples whose harvest is seasonal.
“At six months you begin pruning and by the time they get to two years one is already earning real money. During the dry season khat is more expensive than in the wet season. People take it since it heals dozing and fatigue,” she said.
The area LC I Chairperson, John Lubega, says over 300 families are involved in growing khat and are proud of its benefits.
“So many people are gaining wealth through khat growing, educated their children, bought land and succeeded in setting up real estates in big towns. It has contributed to less crime among youths who spend most of their time working in khat gardens as casual labourers to get money,” he said.
Lt. Colonel Sulaiman Kabambali, the Cordinator OWC in Buikwe district condemns residents for rejecting the inputs, saying coffee and pineapples are trusted crops, which every farmer would wish to grow.
He says Khart is a narcotic plant, which the government can prohibit farmers from growing anytime.
Helen Butoto, the Ssezibwa region police spokesperson notes that a number of people are involved in khat growing in the district.
She says they always sensitize local leaders to ensure the plant is handled responsibly to avoid causing criminality in the area.
Khat is grown in different parts of the country including Kasenge in Wakiso district, Butambala and Karamoja.
Its leaves are chewed by mainly youths. About two years ago, parliament tried to outlaw the growth of khat in vain.
The Butambala county MP, Muwanga Kivumbi put up a spirited fight forcing parliament to leave the regulation of the parliament in the hands of the Internal Affairs Minister.