Encroachers on wetlands in Busia and neighbouring districts have equated government’s plan of suspending their activities in the restricted lands to rendering them unemployed.
Describing their wetland farm activities as an industry, the farmers implored the Government to reconsider its position, noting that the practice will deprive them of their only source of income.
Recently, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs, Rebecca Kadaga, said government had given a deadline of one season to farmers using the wetlands for various activities.
A wetland, according to National Environment Act, is defined as areas permanently or seasonally flooded with water, where plants and animals have become adapted. It is said that over 1728.5km of wetlands boundary have been demarcated by government as of February 2020.
Lumboka wetland that measures over 500 acres borders Busia with Namayingo and Bugiri districts, Sio wetland borders Busia with Kenya, and Malaba wetland borders Busia with Tororo district.
Farmers use the wetlands mainly for cultivating rice, yams and vegetables throughout the year.
Lumboka has attracted rice farmers from Mayuge, Iganga and Busembatya districts while Sio and Malaba are used by farmers from Kenya and Tororo district.
Francis Pamba, one of the farmers in Lumboka wetland, said their livelihood, including educating children and meeting other necessities, depends on proceeds earned from farming in the wetlands.
He feared that if government sticks to its plan, cases of food insecurity and theft will hit the area as residents would have been rendered jobless.
Vincent Taabu noted that farming on the mainland has become costly as it depends on unpredictable rains and requires buying fertilisers for the land, which they said is not the case with wetlands.
Bilari Kangarasi, another farmer, said wetlands have employed many people, including those who hire land and others provide casual labour during harvesting and weeding.
The farmers appealed to government to come up with a resettlement plan, like has been done elsewhere, and provide an appropriate alternative that will support those evicted from wetlands, to engage in income generation to fend for their families when they quit working on wetlands.