The proposed eviction of encroachers from wetlands has triggered panic among dairy farmers in Kabale and Rubanda districts. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has repeatedly emphasized the need to evict all wetland encroachers as a way of protecting the environment.
In Kabale and Rubanda district, the National Environment Management Authority–NEMA together with Enhancing the Resilience of Communities to Climate Change through Catchment-Based Integrated Management of Water and Related Resources in Uganda -EURECCCA, have already installed concrete marks gazetting wetlands with funding from the Adaptation Fund and Sahara and Sahel Observatory, a non-government organization.
In April last year, NEMA and officers from the Environmental Protection Police Unit -EPPU from Kampala conducted an impromptu operation and arrested over 50 farmers in Northern Division in Kabale municipality, Bubaare, and Hamurwa sub-counties in Rubanda district for encroaching on a wetland.
The operations to restore wetlands has triggered among dairy farmers, whose farms are found in wetlands in places such as Kitumba, Buhara, Kyanamira, Kamuganguzi and Katuna in Kabale district, Bubaare and Hamurwa in Rubanda district.
They argue that due to land fragmentation in Kigezi, they don’t have alternative land to relocate their animals to hilly areas where they are being advised to move to. Benjamin Turyahikayo, the Chairperson of Kigezi Dairy Farmers Association, says their cooperative comprises 152 members.
He, however, says that 122 out of the 152 members own livestock farms in wetlands. He says that the members are worried that they have nowhere to take their animals once evicted from the wetlands.
Hope Tukamushaba, a dairy farmer from Kyanamira sub-county in Kabale district, says that however much the government through NEMA is urging them to use the wetland to plant fodder for their animals since it is environment friendly, it is not applicable. Tukamushaba wants the government to allow them to keep using wetlands because dairy farming is their only source of income.
John Nyakiire, another dairy farmer from Kitumba sub-county also in Kabale district, and Edith Rubereti from Bubaare sub-county in Rubanda district say that once the government insists on evicting them, many of will have no choice but to sell off their cattle, which will affect their survival. They argue that due to land fragmentation and the bad terrain, many of them have no land in hilly areas for dairy farming.
Chris Baryomunsi, the Minister for Information Communication Technology (ICT) and National Guidance says that although the government stand is to see wetlands free from encroachers, the eviction process will be gradual to allow the people to appreciate the need to conserve the environment.