Encroachers Take over Several Wetlands as Rakai Abandons Reclamation

3106 Views Rakai town, Uganda

In short
Jamil Kiyingi, the Rakai district environment officer told Uganda Radio network that they have done their best but people keep returning to where they have been evicted.

Encroachers are cultivating several wetlands in Rakai district following the slowdown of the campaign by environmentalists to reclaim them. In 2012, the Rakai environmental officers embarked on a campaign to reclaim several wetlands that were facing depletion by encroachers. Backed with police, the environmental officers kicked out several families from the wetlands, with the purpose of reclaiming them. However, following the onset of the dry spell, the encroachers have raided the wetlands to cultivate food.
The most affected wetlands are those found in Kyebe and Kakuuto sub counties. The encroachers have also cultivated several hectares on the banks of River Kagera. Many farmers have moved away from the dry uphill lands and are busy cultivating the wetlands without any form of control. They have planted season crops such as maize, beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, green pepper, tomatoes and onion amongst others.

Charles Njuba, the LC V council Kyebe Sub County says there are more than 2000 encroachers cultivating along the banks of River Kagera and Bukoola. He says majority of the farmers have abandoned their gardens in preference to wetlands due to the dry spell. He explains that due to the persistent drought and over cultivation, their lands have lost nutrients forcing them to resort to wetlands, which are believed to be fertile.

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Florence Nakasiita is a resident of Saka village in Kyebe Sub County. Nakasiita says that she resorted to cultivating the wetland after the soils in her banana plantation on the mainland lost fertility. She says she planted maize and beans on this land but it all dried up.
Nakasiita says she now finds growing crops near River Kagera more paying. She says despite the fact that their crops have repeatedly been destroyed by Rakai environmental officers in the name of preserving the wetland, she keeps going back because it is the only alternative to get better yields.

Yasin Ssonko, another resident says he prefers cultivating in wetlands because they are very fertile. He explains that due to lack of funds to buy fertilizers to improve fertility of their lands, they find cultivating wetlands more viable because they do not need fertilizers.

Ssonko says although they are always in running battles with environmental police, they are committed to cultivating wetlands because they get more yields.

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Mathias Mulumba, the Vice Chairman Kakuuto Community Development Project, a local organization fighting for the restoration of wetlands says the ongoing cultivation on the river banks has resulted into silting. He claims that the vegetation along the Bukoola and Kagera rivers has been destroyed. Mulumba calls for sanitization of communities on the dangers of destroying wetlands saying forceful evictions have not helped.

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Jamil Kiyingi, the Rakai district environment officer told Uganda Radio network that they have done their best but people keep returning to where they have been evicted. He also says lack of enough man power and resources hampers their efforts to keep wetlands free from encroachers.

However in a bid to improve soil fertility in Kakuuto and Kyebe Sub County and discourage people from encroaching on wetlands, Food and Agricultural Organization has injected 2.5 million US dollars in training communities on soil conservation.

Sally Bunning, the Senior Land Soils Officer, Food and Agricultural Organization says the money will help local communities learn better ways to manage soils to keep them fertile.

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About the author

Edward Bindhe
Bindhe prides himself on being a part of the society he writes about. He believes there is no way a journalist can understand his society unless it considers him a part of it. This is why he is dedicated to investigating the challenges of the "little person."

Bindhe says, "My work reflects the Uganda Radio Network unique approach to news." Not many Ugandan journalists would consider or even notice the re-emergence of Water Hyacinth on a lake. Bindhe does.

Truant children will attract Bindhe's attention until he gets to the bottom of their truancy: poverty and the need to work to earn bread for their families. These are the kinds of stories Bindhe is often after.

Edward Bindhe is the Masaka URN bureau chief. Rakai, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Kalangala, Mpigi, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi and Sembabule districts fall under his docket. He has been a URN staff member since 2009.

A Mass Communication graduate from Uganda Christian University, Bindhe started practising journalism in 2008 as a reporter for Radio Buddu in Masaka district.