Beatrice Makune, a 52 year old small holder farmer from Kasomoro village in Hoima district has been relying on farming for all her life. Growing up from a peasantry family and missing out on education, Makune got married at 17 years.
To make matters worse, she was widowed at 38 years and left with less than an acre of land to raise her 10 children. As a subsistence farmer, Makune has been utilizing her small piece of land; growing different crops including millet to get income and food for the family.
However, she did not know that adding value to her drought resistant cereal crop would bring her abnormal profits until she attended a millet value addition training that was organized by National Association of professional environmentalists (NAPE) in March this year.
Makune is among the 60 women that were trained on access to better markets through millet value addition for improved livelihoods. The women were trained on how to plant millet, millet preparation, branding and marketing. Fast forward after the training, the women formed Kamu Kamu Women’s Group and are now supplying packed millet flour in their community.
“I was making losses! I would sometimes sell millet from the garden or immediately after harvesting. I would sell a kilogram of millet at 1,500 Uganda shillings. Right after the trained us, we could wait to make losses anymore! We contributed millet as members and started packing clean millet. Now our profits have doubled. We sell at 5000 shillings a kilogram of packed millet flour. We thank NAPE for opening our eyes,” said Makune, now the group chairperson of Kamu Kamu women’s group.
Under Participation and Opportunities for Women Economic Rights (POWER) project, NAPE has supported the group with a millet grinding mill to ease their work burden and also generate income as group.
The machine was handed over to the women by NAPE.
Ms.Makune, the group chairperson said the group was happy to receive the grinding machine. She said they have been having a challenge of taking their millet far for grinding which was time consuming. She said it will go a long way in improving women’s economic empowerment.
Kabahangi Monica, the area district woman councilor said the group was the first of its kind in the sub county to receive a grinding machine. She said some of the challenges affecting women in their community include violation of women’s rights due to limited income and violation of property rights.
Ms.Kabahangi appealed to women to use the project to improve women’s income and ensure that women start buying land on their own.
Women in Kasomoro are among the women that have been supported under POWER project implemented by NAPE and National Association of Women’s Action in Development (NAWAD) to actively promote and protect women’s land and economic rights in Hoima, Buliisa, Nwoya and Amuru districts.
Sostine Namanya, the Project Lead and Gender and Food Security Officer at NAPE said women bear the burden of feeding and supporting families yet compulsory land acquisition in these districts has left them without access to traditional livelihood resources.
She said women have been trained in different local alternative livelihoods like kitchen gardening, beekeeping and crafts making to improve their economic muscle while others have been supported to pursue their land related cases.
While handing over the milling machine, Namanya urged women to ensure that the operationalization of the machine is women-led.
Artisanal small scale gold miners in Kassanda district have blamed their leaders for not enforcing occupational safety and health measures which puts their life at risk.
The artisanal miners said Kayonza-Kitumbi Miners Association (KKMA) leaders have not taken action on the artisanal miners who access the mining area without personal protective equipment like gloves and helmets and allow children to access the mines; which exposes them to health risks associated with direct use of mercury in extracting gold.
“We use mercury with little knowledge on its effects on our health. Why can’t the leaders be strict in ensuring that before anyone accesses the mines, they have to be having gloves and helmets,” wondered Sophina Nakate, a gold miner.
This was during the awareness raising workshop on the effects of mercury and other chemicals in Kasanda district that was conducted by National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) on 4th May, 2021 in Kayonza mines.
However, Musa Nduga, the KKMA’s site supervisor says their call of putting on protective gears to miners has fallen in deaf ears.
Dr. Medih Kyakonye, the Kasanda District Environmental Officer, said women in mines in Kasanda take children to the mines; breast feed children and carry pregnancies while touching mercury, which is very dangerous on their health and children’s growth.
He said; “As a student pursuing PHD in Environmental Chemistry, I have found through research that mercury affects the central nervous system and causes reproductive errors like Mongolism and Down syndrome on children. And the problem with mercury is that it does not reduce and it increases through generations.”
He explained that protection of consumers against dangerous chemicals starts with an individual by ensuring responsible consumption, self-regulation against dangerous chemicals and knowing their consumer rights.
Peruth Atukwatse, the Project Manager for Chemicals management and climate change at NAPE said miners should always be mindful of the future generation while using mercury and ensure they embrace mercury-free methodology.
NAPE will continue sensitizing people on sound chemical use and management and possible alternatives of mercury in gold mining.
The miners said they use mercury without knowing its adverse effects and hailed NAPE for continued sensitization and their efforts to introduce Borax method. They formed a Community Green Radio listeners club dubbed “Kayonza mercury-free listeners club” to increase awareness on the dangers of mercury among the miners using the radio.
District leaders in greater Hoima district have promised to conduct a dialogue aimed at addressing the conflicts facing communities in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Kijayo and Refugee camp in Kyangwali.
During a validation workshop for a baseline survey on land/natural resources, tribal and Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) conflicts facing communities from Kyangwali Refugee Camp, Rwamutonga and Kijayo Internally Displaced People’s Camp in Kikuube, the affected communities decried continued human rights violations under the watch of district authorities.
The LCI chairman for Kijayo village, Edward Tumusiime said the internally displaced people in Kijayo camp have continued to conflict with Hoima Sugar workers over water, land and access roads despite reporting the matter to relevant authorities.
“Our access roads have been destroyed with molasses from Hoima sugar factory, the water sources are all contaminated with molasses. We have no access to water as women and girls have to walk long distances to find safe and clean water. We have dragged Hoima Sugar Ltd to court seeking for justice for our land but the courts haven’t given any ruling on the case. Why have leaders abandoned us?” said the Tumusiime.
Ms.Harriet Kemirembe, another resident of Kijayo camp asked the district leaders to reach on ground to understand the challenges people are going through.
In response, the Kikuube Chief Administrative Officer, Moses Kapoloni said he will call for a meeting involving the affected people, the district leaders and Hoima Sugar Limited to have a discussion on peaceful co-existence. He said natural resources should be shared equitably since they are for all.
“It is unfortunate that people in the camp are facing such violations. I had sent the Environmental Officer to discuss the water contamination issue with Hoima sugar limited and I thought the issues were resolved. But since it has persisted, we shall have a dialogue immediately after swearing in of district political leadership involving all the district leaders, Hoima Sugar Limited and Kijayo camp residents so that we can forge a way forward together. Meanwhile, the area chairperson should write to me officially over the contaminated water so that I handle this immediately,” he said
In Kyangwali, the refugees decried conflicts over land, sexual exploitation and corruption in accessing health services calling on the district leaders to meet the Officer of the Prime Minister over the matter.
“It’s hard to access health services or get employment opportunities without money. If you are a lady, they want to first sexually abuse you. Limited resources like money and land have also become the center of gender based violence. All these need redress with the intervention of the district authorities,” Ms. Margret Angelic a refugee in Kyangwali said while presenting issues of Kyangwali.
Kapoloni said he will investigate the issues and address them with OPM immediately.
“Issues of sexual exploitation and corruption should be reported, they are criminal matters that cannot go unpunished,” he responded.
Joan Akiza, the NAPE Lawyer and Project Officer for the 2 year project on conflict prevention said such interfaces with the authorities help the affected people to seek redress on issues affecting them. She said the approach of the project is dialogue and mediation to ensure peaceful co-existence of all persons in these camps.
She said NAPE will follow up and organize the dialogues so that the issues raised are addressed and communities continue to live peacefully.
Jeanette Ushanda 38, a refugee living in Maratatu village, Kyangwali resettlement camp in Greater Hoima district says collecting firewood has become a serious source of conflict between the host communities and the refugees.
Ushanda, the already traumatized refugee who ran from the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC three years back, narrates that she has to negotiate access to gather firewood in land surrounding the camp or else she risks assault and violence.
“Collecting firewood comes with tension, violence and insecurity. One time I was beaten by a Ugandan national because I had accessed his land to collect firewood without his permission. He even took away my firewood,” Ushanda narrated painfully.
Ushanda is among the people who experience human rights violations and still find themselves surrounded by conflicts within the displaced camps in Kijayo and Rwamutonga camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Kyangwali resettlement camp.
Edward Tumusiime, the Kijayo Village chairperson says that scarce resources and land shortages have resulted into conflicts among the internally displaced people in Kijayo both at household and community level.
“The displaced people lack resources like land, money and food. This brings conflicts in families as people struggle with poverty and breaks into gender based violence. At community level, these affected people conflict with the host communities in search for firewood, food and money because they are looked at as competitors. So conflicts are common” said Tumusiime.
Jolly Kebirungi, the Kyangwali resettlement commandant under the Office of the Prime Minister explains that the upsurge number of refugees has led to scarcity of resources as this has resulted into conflicts with in the camp.
“The number of refugees shot from 35,000 in 2013 to over 120,000 in 2017 due to influx of Congolese refugees. As the number increases, the land allocated to them reduces, the water points get crowded with long queues and even the food given to them by World Food Program in terms of money has been reducing. There is also much pressure on the forests so we limit them from accessing the forest reserve for firewood. So all these are causing conflicts here,” Kebirungi noted.
These issues were raised during the baseline study that was conducted by National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) to determine the nature and magnitude of conflicts in Kijayo and Rwamutonga camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Kyangwali resettlement camp in February.
Joan Akiiza, the NAPE Lawyer says the survey is aimed at guiding NAPE on intervening in peace keeping efforts in the camps by formation of community-based institutions known as Local Peace Committees (LPCs).
“Local Peace Committees will help in negotiations and mediations to reduce conflicts and promote peaceful reconciliation, and also train community members on peace and conflict management in order to solve their own conflicts,” Akiiza said.
She also noted that NAPE plans to empower communities especially women in the camps with knowledge and skills of improving their livelihoods to reduce poverty and maintain peace.
The two year project dubbed, “Enhancing the role and capacity of grassroots women to promote peaceful co-existence and prevent conflicts” will be operating in Kijayo , Kyangwali, Rwamutonga camps in Kikuube districts. The project is funded by Women Peace Humanitarian Fund with technical support from UN WOMEN.
Over 60 women affected by land grabs in Northern Uganda and Oil region spent the big part of International Women’s day on 8th March in a bicycle caravan aimed at raising awareness on the women struggles against land injustices in Buliisa district western Uganda.
The cycling event comprised of people with disabilities, victims of land evictions, internally displaced persons, people living with HIV/AIDS, grassroots women and women activists from Buliisa, Hoima, Amuru and Nwoya districts. It was organized by National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and National Association of Women Action in Development (NAWAD) with support from Kakindo Women’s Integration Development Association (KAWIDA).
The women raced a 4- kilometer distance from Albertine Nile Hotel to Buliisa district local government to hand over a petition to government officials to address land injustices and promote women’s rights on land.
The petition was handed over to the Buliisa District Member of Parliament, Nora Bigirwa Nyendwooha.
In the petition, women say compulsory land acquisition for government projects have made women more vulnerable due to challenges arising from delayed and poor compensation.
“ Women particularly those from Buliisa district feel left out of the land acquisition and compensation processes even though they are principle land users in their communities,” the petition reads part.
They also raised a concern that cultural norms and values have made women to be regarded as land users not owners which limits their efforts to get empowered economically.
“Discriminatory cultural practices and norms, poverty, ignorance of laws and policies at national and district levels are some of the key factors which contribute to sidelining women in the land acquisition and compensation process,” the petition further reads.
The women, among other demands, want government to make a deliberate action to sensitize women about land rights and women-alone capacity, sensitization and consultation meetings to allow them have a safe space to speak freely and express themselves.
While receiving a copy of the petition, Bigirwa said she will address the issues before the speaker of Parliament of Uganda. She said women are indeed struggling with land injustices by their families and clans yet they are the bread winners.
She urged women to start saving money so that they can buy their own land.
“As women, we continue to be discriminated. Why should women be land users not owners yet we are the bread winners? Most of us are paying school fees when men are not doing anything; and when it comes to decisions, men think we are less important. I will ensure that these demands reach the table of the speaker of parliament,” she noted.
Sostine Namanya, the Gender and Food Security Officer at NAPE said NAPE will supporting women through sensitization, economic empowerment and legal aid support to ensure that they access to justice and protect women’s rights on land.
Christine Bwailisa from NAWAD noted that leaders should actively support women to advocate for their land rights.
The two winners of the bicycle race were awarded with local alternative start-up kit geared towards promoting economic empowerment.
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) has condemned the human rights violations inflicted on Kijayo camp residents waiting justice for their land by Hoima sugar limited.
NAPE Executive Director, Frank Muramuzi who visited Kijayo Camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP) on February 07, said investors grab land for their own benefits without considering the fate of affected people. He asked the residents not to lose hope and to continue pushing until they get justice.
“These investors who take people’s land mind much about profits without considering the needs of the local people. That’s why these people who have taken away your land have proceeded to destroy Bugoma Central Forest Reserve. However, you should not give up on seeking justice,” Muramuzi said.
This is was after the evicted residents decried harassment by Hoima Sugar company workers and contamination of their sources of water with sugar molasses.
The residents say Hoima Sugar Limited discharges sugar molasses to the existing water sources used by the residents and because of this, the water has changed its color to foul black with a stench smell which leaves them in fear of causing any water-related health issues.
They also noted that the Hoima Sugar factory workers are harassing the residents with impunity. They say these issues combined with poor living conditions in the camp and food insecurity have driven affected residents out of the camp to look for survival elsewhere even before justice for their land is delivered.
“The molasses from the sugar factory ends up in our water sources. We are forced to use and drink contaminated water because we have no choice. In addition, Hoima sugar workers look at people from the camp as useless with no future. They knock us with their vehicles-some have been maimed and others lost children. Women and children fear to go through the sugarcane plantation alone because they risk rape. Because of this, people have started running away from the camp,” said Esther Turyaheebwa, a resident of Kijayo camp.
Joan Akiza, the NAPE Lawyer says NAPE intends to start a project of conflict resolution and peace building among the affected residents and is optimistic that the issues will be addressed through mediation and improving women’s livelihoods.
“It is very unfortunate that communities continues to lose their land and be illegally evicted without following the due process when the government that is supposed to protect the people is the one witch-hunting them. Government should be able to balance the interests of local communities and multinational companies. Whereas people should give away their land, it should be in free and fair manner. Compensation should not be demanded for years by those affected to reach at a point of giving up. That’s why we are coming in to ensure peaceful co-existence through mediation and dialogue,” Ms.Akiiza explained.
The project dubbed, “Enhancing the role of women to promote peaceful co-existance and prevent conflicts,” will be operating in Kijayo and Kyangwali in Kikuube and Rwamutonga in Hoima districts.
Kijayo residents, who have been in the camp for about 6 years after being evicted by Hoima Sugar Limited to pave way for sugarcane growing, have waited for court to decide their fate for close to two years in vain.
Despite the continuous clearance of Bugoma Forest Reserve for sugarcane growing by Hoima Sugar Limited, Bunyoro kingdom parliament and the kingdom subjects have maintained their stand against the giveaway.
Moses Ssemahunge, the Vice Chairperson of Bunyoro Kingdom Natural Resources committee who doubles as the Representative of Nalweyo Sub County to Bunyoro Parliament says the issue of Bugoma forest giveaway has remained a contentious issue in the kingdom.
This was during a talk show on Community Green Radio about the current status of Bugoma Forest that was held on January 6, 2021
Ssemahunge explained that much as parliament is against the giveaway, they have been let down by the Kingdom administration led by the Prime Minister Andrew Byakutaga and his cabinet.
He says the next parliamentary sitting is ready to impeach some of the Kingdom administrators or force the Prime Minister to resign if their demand of saving Bugoma forest is not adhered to.
“Recently we were supposed to have a parliament meeting but it was called off for unknown reasons. The issue of Bugoma was on order paper. Rukurato(Parliament) is against the giveaway, but some of the administrators give a go ahead. But they will not skip the next meeting; we are demanding that Bugoma be saved or the Omuhikirwa(Kingdom Prime Minister) resigns. We are also ready to impeach some of administrators. As we talk, Hoima sugar has gone ahead with clearing of the forest but we are sure it can still be saved before sugarcane is planted. Since it’s a natural forest, it can sprout and get back to its shape. We are sure, the local people will back us,” Ssemahunge explained.
Ssemahunge also noted that the Bugoma forest has a great attachment to the kingdom’s culture besides; its protection will save the oil-rich region from carbon emissions.
“Culture and environment are highly related. Ebinyege(rattles) that we use in our traditional Runyege dance are got from the forest and any kingdom devoid of its culture is a dead one! Besides, Bunyoro being an oil rich region, we need trees more than never before because of carbon emissions,” he expounded further.
He calls upon locals to boycott Hoima sugar as a way of showing resistance.
“It doesn’t matter whether the forest belongs to the kingdom or the central government, it should stay! We can put it into other use other than sugarcane growing; actually we are calling on locals to boycott Hoima sugar.
What subjects say
Desire Mulenzi, the Chairperson of Nyairongo Village in Kabwoya Sub County in Kikuube District says the forest has become a hotspot for illegal loggers and charcoal burners as National Forestry Authority, NFA officials look on.
He says NFA officials and the military guarding the forest have backed nature destroyers instead of supporting the locals in protecting the forest.
“Around November 2020 when I tried to inquire about why Hoima Sugar Limited were clearing the forest, soldiers intercepted and arrested me. We shall continue fighting for our forest,” Mulenzi noted.
Alice Asimire, the female councillor for Kaseeta in Buseruraka Sub county Hoima District says Bugoma is the source 0f rain, which in turn supports agriculture- the major source of livelihood for women. She also pointed out that it is a source of mushrooms and herbal medicine.
Save Bugoma Campaign insists
Joan Akiza, the Legal and Gender officer at National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE says the forest should be protected due to prevailing climate change effects.
She says Save Bugoma Campaign will continue to push for forest protection until Hoima Sigar limited backs off completely.
Ms. Beitwamasa Jenifer, another advocate of the Save Bugoma Forest campaign said the rate of forest degradation is alarming and women need climate justice. She said women to become change agents by joining movements with shared vision to fight land grabbers- who disguise as investors and at the end push local communities in untold suffering. She also advised women to form climate change centres to work as a learning Centre and spreading the gospel of climate justice.
Hoima Sugar Limited leased 5,779 hectares or 22 square miles of land from Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom in August 4, 2016 after the Omukama(King) Solomon Gafabusa Iguru obtained the title for the land in August 1, 2016.
In 2020, National Environmental Management Authority, NEMA cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to cultivate sugarcane on grassland covering 9.24 square miles in Kyangwali, Kikuube district western Uganda.
During a briefing of the European Union Delegation that had visited the area on 2nd November 2020, the Environment Minister, Beatrice Anywar said that all activities in the forest had been stopped pending resurvey of the boundaries of the forest that had been put on halt until after the presidential elections held on January 14, 2021.
However, this is contrary to what is ground according to Desire Mulenzi, a neighbour to the forest. Mulenzi says Hoima Sugar limited has continued with clearance and illegal logging and charcoal burning are the order of the day.
Artisanal gold miners in Kassanda district in central Uganda are actively embracing Borax use as National Association of Professional Environmentalists(NAPE) steps up efforts to promote mercury free Gold mining.
Ssempala Herbert Edward, the Manager for Kitumbi-Kayonza Miners Association (KKMA) says with several trainings from NAPE on the dangers of mercury, the miners have started changing the mindset to Borax use.
“Miners are now willing to switch to the use of borax an alternative to mercury but we want a permanent trainer here. If NAPE can recommend a trainer who is an expert in Borax use, the association will be able to employ him for a month to acquaint our miners with mercury free methodology skills,” Ssempala said.
Ssempala was speaking at the official launch of the mercury free demonstration site and at the same time receiving a ball mill machine and accessories on behalf of the miners in Kassanda District. The items were delivered by NAPE to be used as a training center for artisanal miners in Borax use in gold mining that is less harmful to human health and the environment on 7th December.
While handing over the machine, Mrs. Carol Aguti, the NAPE Board Member, who represented NAPE said the miners should intensively change their attitude from use of mercury since NAPE has helped to put up a demonstration site.
She said they should use the site to train all the miners on gravity concentration technology and using Borax now that the government is already in the process of phasing out mercury.
“The problem with miners is change of attitude, but what you should know is that it is expensive to treat yourselves but cheap to protect yourselves. So NAPE is here to sensitize you, please sieve this opportunity,” she said.
The Kassanda district Natural Resources Officer, Clare Kamagara said miners should adopt the use of Borax for the good of their health and the environment since its safe and also asked KKMA to emphasize use of protective gears.
She said the miners should consider safety first and work hand in hand with government and NAPE to ensure mercury free gold mining.
The Kassanda District Community Development Officer, Ssebulime Gozanga said he was happy to visit the mines upon invitation by NAPE since they lack enough facilitation as a district to do spot checks.
He said he had observed the miners are working without safety equipment like gloves, overall, gumboots, and helmets which puts them at a risk of touching and inhaling mercury that is dangerous to their health. He said the miners should put their lives into consideration and work with NAPE to ensure that mercury is slowly phased out.
Peruth Atukwatse, the Program Officer in Charge of Chemicals Management at NAPE said mercury use among Kayonza miners is still high which prompted NAPE to put a demonstration site where the miners have been trained in an alternative where Borax is added to the concentrate at the final stage after gravity concentration through direct smelting.
She said in addition to several trainings on the impacts of mercury and the need to shift from its use, the demonstration site will act as a learning centre for the miners but also to demonstrate to government that there are alternatives to mercury that should be promoted.
Severe hunger and food insecurity experienced by Kalangala Islanders during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has pushed the communities to rescind the decision of converting their land from palm oil growing to food growing.
Communities say the introduction of palm oil growing in the area persuaded many households to switch from fishing and subsistence farming to growing palm oil trees and there is no enough land to grow food for local consumption.
Dorah Gwosekera, says COVID-19 preventive measures have exposed the extent of food insecurity at households as many families were depending on one meal a day. She says food shortage has been worsened by COVID-19 since people were caught unprepared to save food and money yet there was increased number of people at households.
“Many households were not secure enough in terms of food apart from a few that are engaged in food growing yet the children were at home and everyone was not working. Communities largely depend on fish for their livelihood and a few are in subsistence farming. Some had abandoned fishing to palm oil growing. This has rendered people into untold suffering fending food for their families,” she said.
Prossy Nalubuye, the Vice Chairperson for Bujumba Sustainability Development Association(BUSDA) says COVID-19 has taught the communities the importance of embracing food production. She urged the government and palm companies to stop persuade people to give away their land for palm oil and instead focus on sensitizing them on large scale food production.
“Palm oil companies have been persuading people that this monoculture cash crop will get them out of poverty. But the story is different, people are poorer. Therefore, government should come up to support food security programs.
She says the association has supported many households with vegetable seeds to embrace kitchen gardening so that they can get what to eat.
The large plantations of palm oil in areas previously covered by natural forest has not only impacted severely on food insecurity but robbed them of forest resources like mushrooms, medicinal herbs and firewood.
“Now I have to walk deep in the forest to look for mushrooms yet they were everywhere. I used to sell 20kg tin of mushrooms at 130,000 shillings. This is good money. But these days they are hardly seen,” said Frida Namusoke.
Allan Kalangi, the Sustainability School Manager at National Association of Professional Environmentalists(NAPE) says its high time the islanders embraced the idea of increasing food security at households.
“The population is growing yet you are giving away your land for palm oil growing. What will you feed the next generation? You need to start now to think beyond palm oil growing,” he said.
When Moses Byarufu, a resident of Kasenyi village lost his two pieces of land to oil developments in Buliisa district, he used his 58 million shillings compensation money to construct an 8-roomed permanent house at Wanseko landing site.
Wanseko being a busy place, Byarufu had strategically constructed a house for both residential and commercial purposes. And indeed, it had started fetching him more than 400,000 shillings per month from rentals and this had prompted him to resign on his job as a potter at Kigwera Health Centre 11 to cater for this and other businesses.
“My land was taken away by government to pave way Central Processing Unit Project Kigwera village and road construction under Uganda National Revenue Authority in Buliisa Town Council. I bought a plot and constructed a house at Wanseko. I then resigned on my job that was earning me 90,000 Uganda shillings,” he narrated.
However, hardly a year after construction, the dreams of a 38-year-old father of 7 were shuttered after the overflowing water of Lake Albert submerged the business premises at Wanseko. This brought him back on the knees and struggles of what to feed the family.
“I put in 75 million shillings to finish that house which is far beyond the compensation. I have now resorted to riding a motorcycle to feed my family which is also in a rented house. Life has become hard. One may think this oil money is cursed,” he narrated.
Byarufu is one the business community members at Wanseko landing site that are crying foul as the lake continues to submerge their business premises.
The area now looks isolated with boats floating on top of water weed in front of abandoned buildings. Shops, restaurants and a fish market are among the business premises that have been submerged by rising water levels.
Grace Katusabe, a fishmonger at the landing site says the rising water and COVID-19 pandemic have affected her business leaving her with no source of income and heavily indebted.
“Early this year during a market day, we were chased by security officers saying they don’t want people to gather due to COVID-19 pandemic. I had just got a loan to put in my business. When the businesses were put to halt, my business was affected and my money wasted. The rising water levels at Lake Albert have also displaced me so life is not easy. We now eat one meal a day because COVID-19 got me when I had just got a loan and I had not saved money,” she narrated.
The case is no different from Kaiso landing site. The beach management unit house has also been submerged and other houses that were constructed near the lake.
Kyamanywa Alfred, one of the former beach managers says when they were constructing the beach, it was not anticipated that it would at one time be submerged. The beach was used for cleaning fish before taken to other markets and it was used by community members as a meeting place.
The houses of some of the members of Kaiso Women’s Group, which is supported by National Association of Professional Environmentalists(NAPE), have already been affected. Constance Nyamisana whose house is a metre away from the water levels says she is worried of losing her shop to the water levels and is pondering the next move.
“The water is submerging our houses slowly but the conditions are not good. People have made makeshift houses in the upland where they are sleeping with the whole family. Prices for small poles have increased to Uganda shillings 5000 per pole. They lack water and other basics needs,” she said.
Most of the affected persons and facilities are within the 200-meter buffer zone recommended by National Environmental Management Authority(NEMA) Act for lakes. Though this time the rising water levels are going beyond the buffer zones, encroachment has happened as mandated authorities like NEMA and the respective district environment offices and land boards look on.
While visiting the area, Allan Kalangi, the Sustainability School Manager at NAPE, said the government should have sensitized the communities and forewarned them on the need to protect the buffer zones. He, however, urged the communities to learn from this disaster and spearhead the fight against environmental destruction.
“This time I don’t put a blame on the communities. The government should have protected the buffer zones and forewarned the communities. But even the beach management unit shelter was constructed with in the buffer zones with support from government,” Kalangi said.
Thousands of people have been turned into climate change refugees by rising water levels on Lake Albert, Lake Kyoga and Lake Victoria.
Frank Muramuzi, the Executive Director National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE says people residing and working close to environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas to vacate voluntarily.