The Uganda National Farmers Federation says the ban would affect almost 40,000 Ugandans involved in rice-growing, processing, and trade.
Some rice varieties grow well on high ground. Afrii.com
directive by President Yoweri Museveni stopping rice growing in wetlands
threatens the livelihood of more than 40,000 Ugandans, mainly farmers, but also
processors and traders.
Museveni recently heightened his opposition to the practice with directives
issued as early as 2019, though they were hardly implemented. But in July 2021,
a cabinet resolution was passed and communicated to the Minister of State for
Environment Beatrice Anywar, to institute a ban on rice farming in wetlands, as
part of the ways to restore the environment.
The President has also demanded the cancellation of land titles issued to
Chinese companies in Lwera and other areas to grow rice in wetlands. He had
earlier directed the ministries of Lands and Environment to withdraw land
titles from Chinese companies growing rice in Lwera along the Kampala-Masaka
“No one should build or buy land in the road reserves or wetlands. You will
lose your money and we shall NOT compensate anyone. Your titles will be canceled. Tampering with wetlands is not a good practice for our environment.
Even those planting rice in swamps should desist,” said President Museveni in a
tweet earlier this month.
In line with the same directive, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja asked
the two ministers last month, to urgently prepare a Cabinet paper to facilitate
discussions and decisions of the government on this matter. In response State
Minister for Environment, Beatrice Anywar said that people holding titles for
land in wetlands are doing so illegally and will be made to pay for the removal
of their structures.
The Uganda National Farmers Federation says the ban would affect almost 40,000
Ugandans involved in rice-growing, processing, and trade, but agrees that there
is a need to protect the environment because that is the backbone of
Federation President Dick Nuwamanya says that the directive should be
implemented after sensitizing the farmers and empowering them on alternative
economic projects, adding that most of the rice is grown in wetlands.
Rice-growing in Uganda is dominated by small-scale farmers. The high growth in
the number of farmers from 4,000 to almost 40,000 in the last two decades,
according to estimates by the National Agriculture Research Organization, NARO,
was mainly because of the uptake of upland rice-growing, but also the opening
up of rice fields in swamps.
In 2011, the government of Japan also launched the Promotion of Rice
Development (PRiDe) project in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture,
Animal Industry and Fisheries and its agencies, and a program to increase rich
output by 20,000 tons.
In November 2018, the agriculture ministry launched a campaign to increase rice
output through the ‘Enhancing National Food Security through Increased Rice
Production Project.’ and Rice has been included in the vital subsectors under the
third National Development Plan, which must be supported to boost economic
development due to its growing importance.
The Ministry of Agriculture also says there is evident high demand for rice in
Uganda, in the region, and on the international market because of the increasing
populations, especially in the urban areas. The popularity of rice is also
attributed to the long shelf-life of between 3 and 6-months but can take up to
two years with adequate technology. Some rice varieties like NERICA 4 are also
more resistant to drought and disease than several crops, and this attracts farmers’
interest in it.
Rice is recognized by the government under the Agriculture Sector Strategic
Plan as a priority and strategic crop which aims to improve food security and
incomes of about 400,000 smallholder farmers.
a regional agriculture promotion charity, Kilimo Trust, Uganda is still
producing below capacity by up to 45 per cent. The output of rice has been
growing at an average rate of 10.3 per cent for paddy and 5.8 per cent for
milled rice annually.
“The increase is driven by population growth at a 3.2 per cent rate per annum,
increasing urbanization, changing eating habits and preferences with rice
considered a superior food, as well as the increasing, installed milling
capacity of new players and existing ones,’ says Kilimo.
Last month, the President also asked United Nations (UN) agencies in Uganda to
help promote fish farming and replace rice farming in wetlands, as the former
is more profitable, while the latter is more dangerous.