Kalangala residents decry BIDCO land grabbing on islands

KALANGALA. A section of Kalangala District residents have accused the district officials of grabbing their land and allocate it to Oil Palm Uganda Limited to establish oil palm plantations.
Mr John Muyiisa, 53, a resident of Bumangi village, Mugoye Sub-county, Kalangala District, said he lost 41 acres of land to Oil Palm Uganda Limited in 2007 when the company started growing oil palm in the district.
“I had 41 acres of land where I used to grow coffee, banana and food crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes and yams to feed my family of eight members. I could also use that land to practice commercial farming where I was able to get school fees for my children and looking after my family. However, during the plantation of oil palm, a big portion of my land was taken and was left with only three acres,” Mr Muyiisa said.
With only three acres of land left, Mr Muyiisa cannot look after his family as he used to do.
“When I lost that land, I tried all the possible ways of getting it back including going to the office of the President,” he added.
Mr Richard Lubanga, another victim told Daily Monitor that they lost their land to the company with the help of the district land committees and natural resources department.
“We did not have land titles for the land we occupied, however, we approached the District Land Board to offer leases to each one of us but instead they connived with the rich people who were awarded ‘forged’ land titles so as to send us away from the land,” Mr Lubanga said.
District’s response
However, Kalangala District Natural Resources Officer, David Balironda denied the allegations of illegally sending people off their land to pave way for the oil palm plantations.
He said many people were not legal occupants on the public land. “We tried to negotiate with them, relocate them to other places to settle but they refused,” Mr Balironda said.

Seeking justice
With the help of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Nape) and Friends of the Earth Uganda, Kalangala community launched a legal challenge against all the parties involved in the said land grabbing.
Mr Frank Muramuzi, the director of Nape said many residents who lost their land used to depend on farming but since they were evicted, they should seek compensation for their land and lost crops.
According to Nape Programme Officer, David Kureeba, it is bad that people were not compensated for their and it is not clear whether the project will enable them grow food on their land on the islands.

Not the best crop
“Oil palm was not the best product for the island, especially when there is a water resource whose eco-system is at the shores of the lake. Apart from destroying the eco-system, many people cannot benefit from the remaining natural resources since the land was taken away from them and now have nothing to do,” Mr Kureeba said.

Oil Palm Uganda Limited is a subsidiary of Bidco Uganda. Bidco Uganda is a joint venture formed between Wilmar International, Josovina Commodities and Bidco Oil Refineries, a Kenya-based company.

Monitor Uganda 

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