By Moses Bikala
The Government has commissioned the construction of a sh200b rice project at Igongero swamp in Bugiri district.
Over 10,000 people from Bugiri, Bugweri and Namutumba districts are expected to benefit from the project.
The project, which will be co-funded by the Islamic Development Bank, the Government of Uganda, Busowa Rice Growers’ Association and Pearl Rice, had earlier stalled as a result of political interference.
The chairperson of Bugiri district, Davidson Kasaija, urged the residents to support the project to ensure that it becomes a reality.
Kasaija said the project will involve the construction of two dams on the 430 acres of land to supply water to rice fields, besides practising modern rice growing to ensure increased yields.
The district production officer, Paul Isiko, said most rice farmers have been getting low yields due to a lack of expertise in modern farming practices.
“Farmers have been harvesting about 1,500 bags of rice per harvest from the swamp, but this is expected to rise to over 50,000 bags due to good farming practices,” he said.
The state minister for agriculture, Bwino Kyakulanga, assured farmers who have been surviving on the swamp of compensation from the Government so that they can secure alternative areas to carry on with agriculture.
“Some politicians with selfish interests went around deceiving people that Government was going to take over the swamp without giving them compensation,” he said.
The agriculture minister, Frank Tumwebaze, said valuation of land by government surveyors has been concluded, adding that construction work is expected to commence in May this year and will last one-and-a-half years.
He said landowners should possess a national identity card and a land sale agreement in order to get compensation.
“In case one does not have the land agreement, he or she should be identified by the area LCI chairpersons,” he said.
Tumwebaze promised to talk to President Yoweri Museveni to ensure that he meets leaders from the districts covering the swamp to sensitise them about the benefits of having the multi-billion project in the area.
“The aim of government is not to chase away people who have been surviving on the swamp as has been alleged by some people,” he said.
Bottles thrown at Tumwebaze
Security personnel were deployed heavily during the meeting after a group of angry locals, mainly youths, threw water bottles towards Tumwebaze as he stood up to address the crowd.
Amina Mutesi, one of the landowners, expressed fears that some people are likely to take advantage of lack of documentation pertaining ownership of their land to claim compensation, leaving them without anything.
However, the LCI chairman of Igogero village, a one Mohamed, assured the locals that they were not ready to recommend anyone who is not a genuine landowner in the swamp.