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MPs oppose ban on rice growing in Butaleja wetlands

Mbale, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament from Butaleja district have opposed a proposal by government to ban rice farming in swamps saying that there must be alternatives put in place before people are evicted from the swamps.

They also say that the government should have consulted both the leaders and farmers in the rice growing districts before coming up with such directives arguing that the decision will cripple their livelihood and drive people into poverty.

In a resolution passed by Cabinet and communicated early this month by the Minister of State for Water and Environment, Beatrice Anywar, government said the move is aimed at restoring the environment that has been degraded by farming activities.

According to Anwar, Uganda’s wetland coverage has dropped from 17.5 per cent in the early 1990s to 8.5 per cent, while forest coverage has dropped from 24 per cent to 12.4 per cent due to farming especially in wetlands.

Yusuf Mutembuli, the Bunyole East MP said that the government should delay their decision for the next 20 years to prepare the affected farmers for another source of livelihood.

Mutembuli said the people of Butaleja have lived and survived on rice growing and the ban by government on the use of wetlands is unfair since they have not been given any alternatives.

Florence Andiru Nebanda, the Butaleja District Woman MP said that the people of Butaleja have not taken the government decision positively because this is their source of livelihood. She reasoned that since Butaleja is almost 70% covered with wetlands, the people will be evicted if the move by government is implemented.

She said that the government should work with the area leaders to teach and sensitize the people on how to safely use the wetlands but not evicting them. She called for  government to reconsider the decision.

Geofrey Mutiwa, the Bunyole West MP and Michael Higenyi, the Butaleja district LCV Chairperson, said that they plan to convene a meeting with the local leaders in the district to forge a way forward before they meet the president over the matter.

James Hamya, a resident of Kasuleta cell in Busaba town council says that the takeover of the wetlands may mean putting an end to his four children’s’ education.

Yokana Were, a farmer in Himutu sub county said that they needed some sensitization before the government takes over the wetlands.

Yazi Tabo, the Youth Councilor of Butaleja Town Council said that government should put up factories in the rural areas to give people jobs before chasing them from the wetlands because many of them are employed in the rice growing wetlands.

Butaleja Resident District Commissioner Stanely Bayoole argues that the ban will save the people in the district from the recurrent floods that occur every year which he said are caused by the poor usage of wetlands.

He said that if government comes up with alternative economic activities like fish farming and poultry it will help people to gradually adopt the activities and voluntarily leave the swamps.

Butaleja district has many swamps including Doho rice scheme, Lwoba irrigation scheme, Nakwasi swamp, Hijjinji, wampala, Namatala, Mpologoma, Nakwiga, Nahinghande, Doho-hibira, Namatala, and Hisega swamps among others.

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