RESIDENTS DECLARE FORCEFUL RECOVERY OF FORESTLAND FROM FORMER DISTRICT CHAIRMAN
By Mulengera Reporters
Tension is mounting between residents of Kulubbi village, Katosi town council in Mukono district and the former Mukono LCV Chairperson, Andrew Ssenyonga over Buwuka Central Forest Reserve land. The residents who have declared forceful takeover measures to retain the land say that they acquired it lawfully after mobilizing themselves in their group, Tukolele Wamu Agro Farmers Association and were given 600 acres of land by National Forestry Authority- NFA in 2015 to practice agroforestry. They were shocked upon hearing that they are going to be evicted by Chairman Ssenyonga.
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Robert Kasolo one of the affected people says they mobilized themselves to acquire the land from NFA so that they can practice agroforestry, which they were given.
Moses Baguma recounts that they obtained the land after being chased from the lake where they practiced fishing and have since then resorted to agriculture. “We were chased from the lake and had to look for other means of survival. We approached NFA in 2015 to get some land and we were given about 666 acres where we started practicing agriculture, we also added tree planting for environmental protection and extra money,” he says.
Tadeo Kisekka claims that Ssenyonga like many other powerful people is after oppressing the common man. He says after losing the election, he has decided to claim the land and evict them.
“All the time he has been the district chairperson, he never thought of claiming the land and now out of the blue he is claiming the land is his which we have been on for the last 7 years.” We visited the forest, and found that some of the crops had been cut down leaving only the trees. We also established that the biggest percentage of the foodstuff sold in Katosi market is from Buwuka village.
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The Chairperson Tukolele Wamu Agro Farmers Association, Walakira Bagali confirms that their crops have been destroyed. “In some areas of the forest, people found their food cut down and we worry about the trees as well,” he said. “We bought trees and planted them. Now they see that they are soon going to be harvested, we are receiving threats of being evicted so that they keep the trees for themselves.”
He says that if Ssenyonga keeps sending his men to the land, then they will be forced to use violent measures to fight for their land.
Although a councilor Katosi town council, tried to incite the people into violence to retain the land, the Mukono South Member of Parliament Fred Kayondo advised them to follow the right means and ask the National Forest Authority to review the land details and establish the rightful occupant.
Kayondo also appeals to the government to compensate farmers of Buwuka. According to him, the government is putting billions of money into re-afforestation; instead of repaying back those with such good initiatives. Meanwhile Ssenyonga dismisses the accusations of him issuing any eviction threats or sending men to the land. He reveals that he is only an agent of NFA preparing the land for tree planting.
Julie Mubi, the NFA Communications and Public Relations Manager says that each of both parties were given part of the forest land.
She says that the entire forest reserve land measures 308 hectares and Ssenyonga was given 20 hectares. While the farmers were given 50 hectares under the Collaborative Forest Management -CFM arrangement with the farmers.
“In 2018 we advertised for people interested in making agriculture-related developments on the forest reserve and Ssenyonga was one of the applicants who went through,” she explains. “The farmers as well applied and we also agreed to give them part of the forest reserve land. They should not be operating on it as yet as we are currently sensitizing them on how they will operate on the land and thereafter we shall allocate each farmer their area to use.”-URN (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at email@example.com).