Palm oil producers backed by the UN taken to court by evicted farmers who say they have received little compensation
Before the bulldozers came, Magdalena Nakamya harvested coffee, cassava, avocado and jackfruit on her three-hectare (seven-acre) plot on Kalangala, an island in Lake Victoria.
But on a July morning in 2011, Nakamya, 64, awoke to find yellow machines churning up her land and razing the crops she had grown in a bid to make way for palm oil plantations.
“No one came to talk to me before they destroyed my crops,” says Nakamya. “I heard that some people were given money, but I didn’t receive anything.”
Oil Palm Uganda Limited (Opul) was launched in 2002, following an agreement signed between the government and Bidco Uganda, a food producer, with the aim of increasing palm oil production in the country.
The environment activists also opposed the palm oil project that was aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on imported vegetable oil saying the project would destroy forests with no regard for environmental regulations
Kampala. Lands minister Daudi Migereko has told conservationists that protecting forest cover alone does not bring about development in the country unless such natural resources are put to proper use.
Environmentalists and conservationists remain locked in a debate with the government over proposals aimed at cutting down natural forests for plantations or sugarcane growing with arguments that this will disrupt rainfall patterns. They argue that forests are also homes to precious wildlife and key eco-tourism attractions.
But the minister said yesterday the debate should be opened to discuss the advantages of preserving the forest reserves vis-à-vis putting up more developmental projects where they exist.
Speaking at the closure of a three-day awareness workshop on the voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of lands, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security in Kampala, Mr Migereko argued that while forests are God-given, they should be turned into income generating resources.
The World Bank group has said decline in global oil prices should not discourage the development of the oil industry in Uganda as the resource will be pivotal in economic development.
The World Bank says the reason why Uganda and the oil companies exploring oil should not lose hope is because there is hope that global oil prices will pick up and stabilise in the near future.
The oil prices have now fallen by more than half since June 2014, when the prices stood at $110 (about Shs314,000) per barrel to the current price of under $50 (about Shs143,000) per barrel.
Speaking during a meeting to disseminate the findings of a study on the National Content Development in the oil and gas industry in Uganda yesterday at FairWay Hotel, the World Bank country programme coordinator for Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, Mr Sajjad Ali Shah said even before oil production commences and oil revenues start coming in, there are benefits to be reaped from the sector.
The current dry spell is significantly affecting the forest cover in parts of Bunyoro sub region where forests are being used as a tool of heritage conservation.
Hundred of trees recently planted as part of a campaign to conserve the 12-pet names ( empaako) of Bunyoro and Toro are drying up as a result of extreme weather conditions.
The situation is expected to stretch till the end of March 2015 according to a recent report by the department of meteorology.
Ten forests each sitting on 2 acres of land had successfully been planted as part of the drive initiated by Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom in partnership with Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda. But many of them have dried up with limited chances of survival because of the too much sunshine.
Mbarara deputy Resident District Commissioner Moses Mwebesa and residents of Nyamitanga Division have faulted authorities charged with environmental protection of giving up the campaign to save River Rwizi from unfriendly human activities.
Sand mining in the river at Kirehe in Nyamitanga Division has made the river come close to changing course.
The residents say environmentalists focus on reclaiming and protecting sections of the river which are easily noticeable, neglecting sections deep in rural and hard to reach areas.
“Every now and again I hear that National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) is reclaiming catchment areas of the river and protecting its zones but sand mining has been here for years yet the miners have never been stopped,” said Mr Badru Kateba, a resident.