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Close to 120 land rights defenders, lawyers, and PAPs leaders have been arbitrarily arrested during the COVID-19 lockdown…

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Close to 120 land rights defenders and lawyers representing PAPs have been arbitrarily arrested by security forces facilitating land grabs for investors during COVID-19 lockdown.

A special report by witnessradio.org Team

12th/04/2021 – Kampala – Uganda – as Uganda struggles to strengthen measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, security agencies working for multinational companies and local investors are resorting to the use of criminal charges to criminalize the work of community land rights defenders and farming activities of local communities to fasten land grabs in Uganda.

When Uganda entered into a total COVID-19 lockdown on 31st March 2020, access to justice was constrained as courts remained closed and administrative units of police were inaccessible as well as public transport nonfunctional, which worsened the situations for land grab victims.

Since late last 2020, Uganda has eased the lockdown where some sectors including public transport, public courts, higher institutions of learning, and shopping malls have been allowed to re-open under strict orders to adhere to COVID-19 Standing Operating Procedures.

According to documented figures by Witness Radio – Uganda, lawyers representing project-affected persons, community land rights defenders, and project-affected persons’ leaders have suffered the wrath of the army, police, and private security guards protecting plantations where most victims have been tortured and mistreated while in detention.

In some cases, victims were way-laid while others were kidnapped from their homes by men cladding army uniforms and kept in incommunicado for several days.

A handful of victims have been taken to court while others are on police bond and routinely required to report on their bonds. The commonest criminal charges slapped to land rights defenders and landowners range from criminal trespass, threatening violence, and setting fire on crops.

In the case of Kiryandongo district where several multinational companies are grabbing communities’ land for several agribusinesses, more than 50 people have either been kidnapped or illegally arrested. Some of the victims are lawyers representing land grab victims including, Nafula Elizabeth, Kaijuka Ezron, Tuwayenga Brian, Buryelali Joan, Muhindo Morgan, Koloa Eric, and Marunga Christine.

The seven lawyers were rounded up by police while in the process of collecting evidence to support the human rights enforcement applications that had been filed at the Masindi High Court in order to strengthen the eviction case. On orders from the former Kiryandongo DPC Joseph Bakaleke, they were arbitrarily arrested and detained at Kiryandongo central police and charged with holding unlawful assembly and neglect to spread harmful diseases (COVID-19)

Kiryandongo, which has several multinationals including Great Seasons SMC Limited, owned by Sudan’s investor based in Dubai, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, owned by an Indian family (RAI Dynasty), and Agilis Partners Limited which is owned by American twin brothers (Benjamin Prinz and Phillip Prinz) experienced a high level of impunity before and during COVID period as affected communities are blocked from opening criminal cases against individual police officers or individual workers of multinational companies.

On the long list of community land rights defenders from Kiryandongo district, it has Atyaluk David Richard, Akiteng Stella, Sipiriano Baluma, Mwawula Fred, Ndahimana Ramu, Kusiima Samuel, Martin Munyansia, Martin Haweka, Wafula Amos, Talemwa Eliot, Pamela Mulongo, Byaruhanga John, Namanya Samwiri Paulo, Tumusiime Sylvester, Sanyu Eriya, Byaruhanga Rogers, Nsubuga Ahmada, Zironda Simon, Aliganyira Francis, Karangwa Frank, Kaliisa Giliigoli, Emmanuel Mulyanasaka and many others.

“We are witnessing the rise of criminalization of farming activities of poor smallholder farmers and the work of community land/environmental rights defenders because security agencies working for multinationals took advantage of COVID-19 lockdown to weaken voices of affected communities from demanding access to justice. We COVID period witnessed project affected persons being sent to prison without appearing before any magistrate or judge” Said Wokulira Geoffrey Ssebaggala, Team Leader Witness Radio – Uganda.

He further explained that guards from the multinational companies accompanied by the area police in broad daylight to attack families, whisk away family heads or defenders who usually amplify voices of the affected poor families, take them to their military detach, severely beaten and tortured before being transferred to Kiryandongo district police for detention.

Ever since 2021 started, about ten (10) community land rights defenders and PAPs leaders have experienced arbitrary arrests. On the list, Olupot James and Martin Haweka, both community land rights defenders are the latest victims. Each of the victims was kidnapped from his homes by unidentified men donning Uganda People Defense Forces (UPDF) uniform.

According to eyewitnesses, when soldiers saw the smoke in Olupot’s garden, they came and asked who had set the fire, Olupot positively responded that it was him who did so trying to clear his garden for the ongoing planting season. They ordered him to sit down and started beating him. His two neighbors (Kaliisa Giligoli and Emmanuel Mulyanasaka) came to his rescue when they heard him screaming. When they tried to take photos of what was happening, when the security guard who saw them, they were manhandled before the arrest. However, the two were later released by police on their way to Kamusenene barracks. Olupot was however taken to Kiryandongo police station

For Martin Haweka, he was picked from his home by a police patrol with 10 armed men before being taken to Kimogola police post and later transferred to Kiryandongo central police station. Haweka who was found in his garden was charged with criminal trespass.

So, much as international human rights organizations such as the UN and many others have also condemned the violent arrests and evictions of the poor families from their land especially during the covid period, the three multinational companies, government, and Kiryandongo police station, evictions are still ongoing.

In a letter dated 8 December 2020 to the government of Uganda from the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the two were extremely concerned by the continued oppressing of land rights defenders in the Kiryandongo district.

They expressed their grave concerns on how local communities in Uganda are being forcefully displaced from their territory and their rights are not being upheld in line with international human rights law.

Despite a ministerial directive not to evict any land occupants during the lockdown, the companies have still intensified pressure on the locals to leave.

On 16th April 2020, the minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Mrs. Beti Kamya, announced as the government had halted all land transactions for all citizens to comply with the Presidential directive of staying at home to save their lives from COVID-19.

Among other people arrested in land eviction exercises, in other parts of the country during lockdown include; Namasiko Herbert, Namisi John, Kikenyi Anthony, Wagohoko Amuza, Wakoko Moses, Madaba Paul, Nasinge Thomas, Wanyenya Robert, Mukutte Godfrey, Wakoba Stephen, Wamukunyu Julius, Wandera Godfrey, Magobi sam, Wabuyaka Ivan, Serenyi Robert, Misaj Nasuba, Ongom Kasim, Muwayafu Kenneth, Mugisa Moses, and Nasiyo Rose were illegally arrested and charged with arson, assault, criminal trespass, and malicious damage.

Paul Buzaale, Peter Sserwanga, Francis Ssenyange, Harima Nakalema Namwandu Byarugaba, Lwanga Butenza, Alex Muddu, John Mukaku, John Mukiga, and Adam Bakku were arrested and charged with criminal trespass on a 300 acres piece of land that one Joseph Bukenya claims ownership in Masaka district.

Peter Mukiibi, Mulindwa Henry, Lukyamuzi Moses, Remegious Matovu in Mityana district and charged with threatening violence.

Edward Ssengendo, Beatrice Nabaggala, Silvia Nakaweesa, Fred Ssebakka, and Robinah Luyiga arrested by Mityana police on orders of Afande Kasooga and charged with threatening violence.

Environment

UN seeks increased public finance to protect forests.

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UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres

Antonio Gutteres, the Secretary-General of the UN, made this call on Monday, May 2, 2022, at the opening of the 15th World Forestry Congress (WFC) in Seoul, South Korea.

The increase in the finance, he said, should include source-based payments and a dearth of environmental swaps to achieve a deforestation-free world.

Gutteres, who spoke through his Deputy, Amina Mohammed, also called for a budget and policy for forestry commitment among global communities.

He said it was unfortunate that about 4.7 billion hectares of forest were being lost annually to deforestation and environmental degradation in the last decade.

The UN chief called for concerted efforts toward achieving deforestation-free supply chains.

“Since the last congress in 2015, recognition of the critical role of forests of all types play in meeting the sustainable development goals and achieving the past agreements has gained much attention.

“The recent classical degradation on forest and land use has further underlined key transform to actions needed to save all forest and advance the 2030 agenda.

“This congress takes place right over the latest report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change.

“The panel warns that the world is dangerously close to irreversible topping point for forestry section, for the health of people, and for the planet,” he said.

According to him, this supports resilient livelihood, biodiversity consideration, sustainable economy and climate mitigation and adaptation.

“Forest remained under threat and in the last decade alone, the world has lost 4.7 billion hectares a year.

“We must specially recognise and act on the value of the forest hence the theme of the congress, ‘Building a Green, Healthy and Resilient Future with Forest.

“We need all stakeholders to come up with ideas and commitment that can be put into action,” he said.

Gutteres explained that forests could also be protected by expanding indigenous governance for forests in the perspectives of youth and women and using the latest scientific evidence and catchy head technology.

“I look forward to the outcome of this congress feeding into climate change and biodiversity negotiation and other policies.

“Together, I believe we can build a green, healthy and resilient future by realising the true value of the forest,” the UN scribe said.

In her remark, Princess Sasma Ali, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, canvassed a diversified approach to achieving success in building a green, healthy and resilient future with forest.

Ali is also Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Ali said that 30 per cent of the world’s forest had been cleared with another 20 per cent degraded.

She said it would require dedicated political will and the development of policy measures to reverse the tide.

The FAO ambassador also called for the mobilisation of funds in addition to engaging all stakeholders to achieve the target.

“Accordingly, there is no to engage all stakeholders more importantly indigenous people, and local communities’ members.

“They possess the knowledge, and the custody of this ecosystem coupled with scientific experts who can monitor the system,” she said.

Qu Dongyu, Director-General, FAO, acknowledged some progress in reforestation, particularly in Asia including countries like South Korea, Japan and India.

Dongyu said the congress was an opportunity to make further commitment toward achieving the 2030 deforestation-free world in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By Usman Aliyu

Source: Enviro News Nigeria

 

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Uganda’s coffee industry eyes new markets, value addition

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But the country still has a lot of coffee that is still being dried on the ground

Kampala, Uganda  Uganda’s coffee industry will seek new international market for their products to reduce over concentration on traditional buyers to boost farmer’s income.

Coffee is the country’s second biggest source of foreign exchange after tourism and provides a living for around 8 million people or about 19% of the population.

“In 2017, stakeholders in the coffee industry discussed the coffee road map on how to accelerate production but also increase income to the farmers,” said Emmanuel Niyibigira, managing director of the regulator, Uganda Coffee Development Authority.

“They were concerned that we need to have value addition for our coffee but also have the demand. We are looking at some markets such as China which has 1.4billion people and it is an emerging market. We are also looking at Middle East, Maghreb region, Eastern Europe though now we have this conflict (between Russia and Urkaine) and also the Balkan states.”

Uganda exports most of its coffee to Italy, Germany, Algeria, India and Sudan.

Niyibigira, who was speaking during the Agribusiness Mkutano 2022 at Mestil Hotel in Kampala on April.28, said the regulator is looking forward to supporting   local coffee businesses for value addition including soluble coffee processing plants.

He said the government aims to ensure that the country has at least two soluble coffee plants in the next five years. He said UCDA and the Uganda Development Corporation, a government investment arm, are carrying out a feasibility study to ascertain its viability.

The country has 38 registered coffee roasters although the government’s plan to have a soluble coffee plant has been on the table since 1994.

“We are also looking at branding our coffee. Most of our coffee is being exported and blended with other coffees due to its good aroma. We need to be recognized as an origin of Ugandan coffee,” Niyibigira said, adding that it is unacceptable that countries including  India, Vietnam and others in Latin America, which also produce huge volumes of coffee, import Ugandan coffee beans especially Robusta  only to blend with their coffees to boost  aroma and  fetch premium prices on the international market.

Niyibigira, however, noted that the industry still faces some challenges.

“We still have a lot of coffee that is still being dried on the ground,” he said, adding that low bean sizes, low productivity as well as pests and diseases are being addressed with new coffee varieties.

Tony Mugoya, the executive director at the Uganda Coffee Farmers Alliance said as the country pursues value addition in the coffee industry, farmers should be able to sale their products to the highest bidder.

“Uganda is a free market economy and us as farmers, we shall give our coffee to anyone who offers the highest price. That is all we want,” he said. “So the more the people or companies in the market, the more competition and the better for us.”

The government has in past weeks faced opposition over its move to exclusively grant Enrica Pinetti-owned Uganda Vinci Coffee Company to purchase and export the country’s coffee.

Mugoya said as the country embrace value addition, they should be aware of the existing tariff and non-tariff barriers in the international market.

Joseph Nkandu, the executive director of the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe) said value addition in coffee need to be in the entire value chain.

“Farmers need to own the value addition component beyond the farm level as it enhances their income,” he said.

Nkandu said countries such as Uganda striving to embrace value addition need to enter into partnerships in targeted markets so that the product is easily accepted.

Martha Wandera, managing director at Kimco Coffee Ltd said the government should probably consider setting up a production plant for production of packaging materials for processed coffee to lower coffee prices  stimulate local demand.

She said also suggests that the costs of accessing quality mark be reduced to encourage coffee producers to access the services.

Uganda’s coffee export volumes and earnings has consistently grown over the past 20 years and accounts for 7% of the world’s production.

Last year, farmers exported 6.49million 60 kg bags of coffee worth US$629.8million compared to 5.36million 60kg bags in the 2019/2020 season worth US$512.22million in the previous year.

Source: The Independent 

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farm news

Uganda losing agricultural advantage to neighbours – UN.

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Although women are mostly involved in agricultural production, when it comes to marketing of produce, it is the men who dominate the decision-making.

What you need to know:

  • Speaking during the Agribusiness Mkutano (conference) in Kampala, Dr Dmitry Pozhidaev, the United Nations Capital Development Fund country and regional head, said before the 2000s, Uganda was ahead of all East African member states in terms of agriculture productivity, but Rwanda and Kenya have since become superior.

Uganda is losing its agricultural productivity advantage to neighboring countries due to lack of sufficient development in the sector, according to the United Nations Capital Development Fund.
Speaking during the Agribusiness Mkutano (conference) in Kampala, Dr Dmitry Pozhidaev, the United Nations Capital Development Fund country and regional head, said before the 2000s, Uganda was ahead of all East African member states in terms of agriculture productivity, but Rwanda and Kenya have since become superior.

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“Uganda has lost the agricultural productivity advantage [it held] over Rwanda in the early 2000s. It now lags behind Kenya and is much more behind South Africa,” he said, noting that because of low productivity, a number of people have moved to other sectors of economy yet they have low absorption capacity thus exacerbating unemployment.

Dr Pozhidaev also noted that since the 2000s, productivity in the services sector has doubled while that of manufacturing continues to fluctuate.
Under the National Development Plan II, government had sought to realise a 2.2 percent annual increase in agricultural productivity and increase in labour productivity by 40 percent.
However, this has not been achieved, thus frustrating the fight against unemployment in a country where 600,000 youth annually enter the job market.
Therefore, Dr Pozhidaev said, there is need to develop targeted policies, knowledge sharing, skill development and financing of improved agricultural productivity is to be achieved.

The Agribusiness Mkutano under the theme: Uganda@60: Fulfiling the agro-industrialisation agenda for Uganda seeks to reconginse the entire value addition chains as an important player in the fight against unemployment and industrialisation.
Ms Mona Muguma Ssebuliba, the aBi chief executive officer, said there is need to ensure that farmers access credit and grant to improve productivity.
For instance, she noted, aBi was playing a key role in supporting agribusinesses actors in coffee, dairy, cereals, horticulture, oil seeds and poultry value chain to increase their capacity to produce large quantities and quality commodities as well as supporting them with a number of processes to sufficiently supply both the local and international markets.

In the coffee value chain alone, Ms Ssebuliba said, aBi has in the last three years invested Shs17.7b to promote agro-industrialisation with specific interventions seeking to support establishment of coffee hurlers, coffee washing stations and capacity building to access international and niche markets.

Original Source: Monitor

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