Friday, December 4th, 2020 | By

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.