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Farmers in Kigezi, Ministry of Water in Fresh Dispute over Compensation

Last week, authorities from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Ministry of Water and Environment started evicting all farmers operating in wetlands in the districts of Kabale, Rubanda and Rukiga.
One of the marks EURECCA marks in Kiruruma wetland,Kabale Municipality (Photo Credit Samuel Amanya)

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A fresh dispute has erupted between farmers and the Ministry of Water and Environment over compensation.

Last week, authorities from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Ministry of Water and Environment started evicting all farmers operating in wetlands in the districts of Kabale, Rubanda and Rukiga.

In December 2020, the wetlands were demarcated and farmers warned against encroaching on the wetlands.  They argued that they are implementing  the April 2020 Presidential directive to evict all people who have encroached on wetlands, swamps, lakes, and rivers across the country.

On Thursday, Kabale Municipality Mayor Emmanuel Sentaro Byamugisha organized a meeting with farmers at Municipality hall to discuss the eviction. Byamugisha also invited officials from the Ministry of Water and Environment to provide technical guidance on the matter.

During the meeting, Louis Mugisha, the Director at Directorate of Water Resources Management- Ministry of Water and Environment revealed that the government is considering compensating only farmers who had land titles before the 1995 constitution was promulgated. Mugisha says that the rest will be evicted without any compensation.

According to Mugisha, the list of farmers who will be compensated was submitted to the ministry in 2017.

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Rukiga

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Mugisha wonders why Kigezi farmers are not considering the importance of conserving wetlands to act as a habitat for wildlife like birds and frogs.

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However, Mugisha’s statements angered farmers. Robert Katebarirwe, Anteli Twahirwa, Didas Kanyesigye, and Dr Ananious Muhunde told Mugisha that as farmers they don’t want any compensation but instead they want to retain the land in wetlands.  They fault the environment ministry for targeting to compensate a few rich individuals and leave the rest of the poor farmers suffering without any other option.

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Rukiga

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Patrick Tumwesigye, Gad Rukiramahe other concerned farmers, and Emmanuel Sentaro Byamugisha, Kabale Municipality Mayor faulted Environment Ministry officials for not consistently implementing the eviction order.

They demanded Mugisha explain why the Ministry has failed to evict Chinese trading under Zhong Industries Limited who are carrying out a large scale rice farming in Lwera swamp that stretches about 20kiometres on the Kampala–Masaka highway.