Tuesday, July 9th, 2024 | By

The rapid growth of extractive industry in Uganda’s Albertine graben is at the same time rapidly affecting the ecosystems. The activities of oil companies have displaced the fertile farmlands and green vegetation making agriculture increasingly unviable to the host communities.

In Hoima’s Kabaale Sub County where oil refinery is set to be constructed and where the East African Crude Oil Pipeline begins, it is visibly seen that the community land, rivers and ecosystems are being violated by extractive activities at an alarming rate with the construction of Kabaale International Airport, EACOP and expansion of Kizirafumbi-Kabaale oil road in addition to increase.

But raged against this is a network of small holder farmers who are rising against the destruction of natural resources. By reducing the amount of fertile land and destroying the ecosystems they heavily depend on for agriculture, the host communities are already envisaging reduction of capacity for food production and denying them hope of food sovereignty; which they are resisting.

A few kilometers from the oil refinery area, women small holder farmers organized under Tugarre Ebyobuhangwa women’s group literally meaning ‘Lets save the environment’ have been battling with the leaders and oil companies over the massive destruction of indigenous trees as a result of oil activities.

They accuse the government of fronting the needs of oil companies at the expense of community needs.

“Our group petitioned Hoima district local government over massive destruction of our natural resources due to infrastructural development for the oil industry like roads. We demanded that government should replace the indigenous trees that have been cut down due to oil activities, protect the communities’ land by issuing land titles and also protect the buffer zones of water bodies,” said Annet Kasolo the group chairperson.

Kasolo says the petition has yielded results. “After the petition, the government is now distributing indigenous trees to farmers to promote agro ecology. So far, I have already received over 1000 indigenous tree species from Hoima district local government and SBC Company that is working on airport construction. The government has also promised to issue land certificates and people are currently being evicted from the buffer zones near major streams in this area and swamps,” said Kasolo.

The residents living along the East Africa Crude Oil pipeline say they have witnessed massive environmental destruction which they attribute to drying up of water sources in the area.

In Kigaaga village, which is in the outskirts of the refinery area and also affected by EACOP, women under Kigaaga Oil Refinery Women Development Association (KORECWODA) are engaged in establishment of indigenous tree nurseries to reforest the area currently destructed by oil developments.

Penina Ruhindi, the group chairperson says over 2,000 indigenous seeds have so far been distributed and planted by community members especially those along the EACOP.

According to the farmers, the continued forest destruction has contributed to change in seasons, which is already affecting farmers. Jesca Buteraba, a member of Butimba Sustainability Conservation Association (BUSUCA) says the farmers are already affected by the long dry spells and heavy rain fall which has threatened food security. According to Buteraba indigenous seeds still prove to be resistant to climate change effects and promoting them would promote food security.

Women are generally the primary custodians of seed diversity and wild biodiversity and therefore play a critical role in maintaining the health and resilience of local ecosystems. She says they are using traditional approaches of indigenous seed storage and multiplication to ensure that the seeds are protected.

Experts warn of looming scarcity

According to a report quoted by The Daily Monitor on August 17, 2023, a rapidly growing population and expanding human and industrial activities have led to significant strain on both underground and surface water sources in the Albertine Graben.