Efforts by the Government to scale up irrigation schemes in a move to encourage people to appreciate the importance of conserving wetlands in Bushenyi district have hit a snag over a conflict on land.
The misunderstandings between the district leadership and the administration of Bushenyi Primary Teachers College have rendered a Green Climate Fund and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project to remain a white elephant near Nyakabirizi playground, Nyakabirizi division in Bushenyi/ Ishaka municipality.
At the beginning of the project, the district negotiated with the college to allocate the land to enable the project start, a request the college authorities had agreed to and allowed the excavation of water reservoirs.
However, to the surprise of many, there is neither irrigation nor a garden to be irrigated at the site.
The Government, through the water ministry, in collaboration with the agriculture ministry, launched the eight-year project in 2019.
The project dubbed Building Resilient Communities, Wetland Eco Systems and Associated Catchments in Uganda, is being implemented with financial support from the Green Climate Fund and UNDP in 24 districts, including Bushenyi.
The wetland restoration project aims at enhancing the resilience of communities and ecosystems to climate change-related impacts through wetland and catchment restoration.
On the Bushenyi project signpost, the scope of works included fish ponds, small scale irrigation schemes, livestock watering troughs and a water retention facility.
“We are surprised there has been no implementation of the things which we were told to expect from this project. We are wondering what happened,” Naboth Kansiime, a local leader, said.
“How can you spend huge amounts of money on digging reservoirs and fencing off the place and later fail to open up a garden to be irrigated?” he said.
Sources say the fight between the Bushenyi district local government and the college for the land where the irrigation infrastructure was to be set up has caused the project to hit a dead end.
The college has reportedly refused to release land under contention on the grounds that it is the education ministry to do so.
This has left the water ministry, which is the implementing agency, to remain stuck on the project’s way forward.
A source said initially, everything was going on well to the extent that a memorandum of understanding was signed between Bushenyi district and the ministry.
However, midway the implementation, the principal of the college, who was in support of the project, was transferred.
“The new principal said the land doesn’t belong to Bushenyi district, but is rather fully owned by the college, which is under the education ministry,” the source added.
“The matter was brought to the attention of the education ministry permanent secretary for remedy in vain,” a source said.
What other people say
Some members of the community have questioned the manner in which the district leadership selected the site.
They say the project was intended to benefit the locals whose livelihoods depend on the wetland and not the college.
“Why did the district fail to allocate the project to the community? Why did they donate it to an institution?” Winfred Gumisiriza, a resident, said.
Bushenyi district environment officer Vincent Katate said they are still negotiating with the college.
The college principal, Harriet Akampa, said: “As a college, we are waiting for guidance from the education ministry permanent secretary.”
Sources indicate that the ministry is struggling to identify another place where the project can be relocated.
In the neighbouring district of Sheema, a similar project was set up and is operational