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Destroying Bugoma will block wildlife migration corridor

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As the forest thinned, Elephants that used to move back and forth from Queen Elizabeth National Park stopped passing through Bugoma; next will be the chimpanzees if the forest is wiped out.

To appreciate the Save Bugoma Forest campaign , one needs to get its history to know that it is gradually diminishing. Animals are losing their habitat as precious species of trees are felled. Rare bird species have been displaced as the flora and fauna is destroyed. A Vision Group team was on the ground two weeks ago and continues to report what was discovered. 

There is infrastructure (road) for wild animals like elephants moving between Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park. The migratory corridor is the infrastructure (road) for wild animals like elephants moving between Queen’s Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park. It has existed for centuries. But now the remaining part of it  between Bugoma  and Budongo forests is being destroyed.

To appreciate the Save Bugoma campaign one needs to get the  forest’s history to see it is being depleted. Consequently, animals are losing their habitat, precious species of trees are felled and rare bird species displaced.

The  cutting the forest is also impacting on the environs, triggering climate change. As the Vision Group team moved in the Kisinde sector of the forest near Kabwoya in Kikuube district, dry leaves on the ground made cracking sound, betraying the journalists’ presence.

To avoid being detected by charcoal burners, members of the team had to stealthily walk for a few steps, stop look around before taking the next steps. The smell of burning charcoal wafted through the forest and the mowing sound of power saws echoed deeper in the forest.

The team came across logs left behind by loggers. Probably, they were being prepared for charcoal burning or use as timber. There were also several sites showing evidence of  charcoal burning with mounds  of ash left  after the perpetrators harvesting their loot.  There were no chimpanzees in sight yet this is their home.

Back in time, Kyejonjo, which is now a district, was named after elephants that used to roam in parts of western Uganda from Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kasese district to Bugoma forest in Hoima and Kikuube districts. Moses Adyeri, a resident, says Kyejonjo means ‘a passage for elephants.’

“The elephants do not come to Kyejonjo anymore because it has become a town,” he says, adding that they have been scared away by human activity.

The noise caused by cars prevents some birds and marsh-nesting birds from locating mates and undermines the rearing of young ones.

Sam Mwandah, the executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), says elephants used to move back and forth from Queen Elizabeth National Park through Kibaale to Kyejonjo, which used to have a chain of forests. The elephants would cross into Kagombe and other forest reserves in Bugoma.

Another migratory corridor from Semliki National Park in the western arm of the East African Rift Valley (Albertine Rift) was previously connected to Bugoma. This was a meeting place for elephants and other large mammals, including chimpanzees. As charcoal burning, expansive farmland and human settlement take a toll on the environment, the migratory corridors are shrinking and becoming undesirable routes for animals.

It is going to get worse as Bugoma gets cut down to plant sugarcane.  First, the elephants have been blocked as the forest thinned over the years; next will be the chimpanzees if the forest is wiped out.

Yafesi Kaahwa, a resident of Kabwoya sub-county in Kikuube district, says Bugoma means a place where animals are highly concentrated. From Bugoma, wild animals used to continue moving to Budongo Forest Reserve, which is about 60km away.

The elephants and chimps would continue to Murchison Falls National Park, which is Uganda’s largest protected area. In most cases, big mammals, including the elephants, would make the return journey to Budongo, Bugoma, Kagombe and Kyejonjo to Kibaale and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Unfortunately, Mwandha says, the migratory corridors have been blocked. Mwandha says this poses danger to wildlife because when animals are cut off from larger habitats, inbreeding sets in.

With the corridors blocked, small populations of chimps cannot easily move to the larger forests such as Bugoma, where their relatives stay.  The constriction also results in the “unwelcome stay of the chimps in the villages” sparking off conflicts between the chimps and the human population.

The chimps that are stuck in the forests are facing two threats. Firstly, the chimps have to turn to farmland and fruits on private land for  food. Secondly, the chimps in smaller communities of less than 200 could suffer from inbreeding and become wiped out in case of a disease outbreak.

HUMAN-WILDLIFE CONFLICTS

As a result of chimps foraging on private land, conflicts with people have escalated, Kasozi Atuhura, the conservation programme officer under Chimpanzee Trust in Hoima, says.

“We have to create awareness among the local communities so we understand chimp behaviour in order to reduce conflicts and fatalities that could occur as a result of attacks,” Atuhura tells the Vision Group team.

He says they are encouraging communities to grow crops that are not palatable to chimpanzees. The crops being promoted include Irish potatoes and soya beans.

Sadly, Atuhura says, the chimps are making attempts to eat the new crops and in some areas, Irish and soya beans have failed to bail out the farmers. An adult chimp requires a minimum of 2sq.km of forest to get enough food, Peter Apell, who works with the Jane Goodall Institute, which promotes understanding and protection of great apes, says.

THREAT OF INBREEDING

Atuhura says the restricted movement of chimps is leading to a slow genetic death. This means chimps mate with their close relatives and end up producing weak offspring. The forest patches that used to shelter the big mammals during their migrations have been wiped out of the landscape.

“It is only a few chimps that make an attempt to use them and in many cases, they do not make it to Bugoma,” Atuhura says. Stephen Nyakojo, a resident of  Kabwoya, says the last elephant in the migratory corridor was seen in the 1970s.

“Our parents were fearful of the elephants and used to escort us to the crossing points of the animals,” Nyakojo says.

In Kibaale district, the last attempts by elephants to migrate through parts of Muhoro were in 1978, Yusuf Kasumba, a resident of Muhoro, says. “The elephants attempted to cross from Kyejonjo but they could not proceed as they lost their way, probably because of the human settlements,” he says.

 DISAPPEARING WILDLIFE ROAD

In addition, there was an arm of the migratory corridor that was linking Semliki via Bugoma to Budongo, according to Simon Nampindo, the director of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society in Uganda.

This is what government agencies, including UWA and NGOs, Wildlife Conservation Society, Jane Goodall Institute, Flora and Fauna International and Chimpanzee Trust are trying to restore.

The land where the migratory corridors were previously sitting belongs to individuals and not the Government. This means that farmers have to be compensated to leave the land for the animals or they have to be persuaded to live with the wild animals.

Apart from unsustainable agriculture and charcoal burning, the forests are being threatened by illegal extraction of timber and mining.

**New Vision

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Livelihood

How politically connected individuals abuse their powers to grab land for poor communities; a case of a Ugandan presidential aide

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Mrs. Grace Majoro Kabayo, (standing in the middle) in a meeting that was blocked by residents.

By witnessradio.org Team

As the demand for land for land based investments soars, the middleman’s role in the unlawful land transactions between investors and government agencies remains crucial in the broader scheme. The middleman business has become a lucrative venture in Uganda; more people are being recruited into it. For a public servant with access to vital information from land registries, the business is a goldmine. Middlemen are grabbing land for investors.

From the stage of land grabbing to investing, middlemen resort to the use of violence orchestrated by both police and other security agencies; at this point, high levels of impunity are exhibited, land rights defenders and land owners who demand for justice are then arrested for non-existent offences.

Witness Radio – Uganda records show that a reasonable percentage of grabbed land from poor communities in the country have for instance remained undeveloped.

In Mubende District, Central Uganda, residents accuse Mrs. Grace Majoro Kabayo a Senior Presidential Advisor for using her position to fraudulently acquire their land using police and officials from the Ministry of Lands. Ironically, Kabayo advises the President of Uganda on Pan-Africanism, and doubles as the Executive Secretary of the Pan African Women Organization’s PAWO Eastern Africa chapter, where she oversees the organization’s day-to-day activities.

Mubende District according to Witness Radio – Uganda figures, is ranked as one of the districts with the highest incidents of forced and illegal evictions and has registered with more than five cases since the year 2021 started.

Mubende District is bordered by Kyankwanzi District to the north, Kiboga District, Kassanda to the northeast and Mityana District to the east. Gomba district and Sembabule District lie to the south, whereas Kyegegwa District to the southwest and Kibaale District to the northwest.

Mrs. Kabayo with her political influence is allegedly using survey and boundary opening tactics to grab 625 Ha of land for thousands of inhabitants, which she has never lived on or owned.

According to locals, this is not the first time for the presidential advisor to engage into land grabbing, in 2017 while accompanied by the police in Mubende, she forcefully surveyed and grabbed 20 square miles and now wants to expand.

It is anticipated if Kabayo succeeds with the land grab, more than 5000 people on five villages comprising Kattambogo A, Kattambogo B, Rwobushumi, Rwonkubi and Nyaruteete, in Kigando-Buwekula Sub County in Mubende district, will lose their livelihood.

A letter dated 29th March, 2021, signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Docus Okalanyi which Witness Radio – Uganda obtained a copy, okayed the move by the president’s advisor to open boundaries on land located at block 379 and all adjacent blocks which include: 378, 380 and 381 a process which the residents opposed.

Without any prior notice to the residents, Kabayo accompanied by the officers from Ministry of Lands, State House officials, and security personnel for the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police had planned to conduct a rally at Nyarutete, one of the 5 villages, but was blocked by the angry residents.

Mr. Ruzhoga Laurent, 53, a resident of the village from birth, said, they have been facing threats of forced evictions for the last three years by Kaboyo. He asserted that his family would not leave the land for an imposter. Ruzhoga added that he would only leave as a corpse.

Jordan Byakatonda, an area land committee, chairperson said, the land targeted is public land with people on living on it.

He said, any person who wishes to get a leasehold on public land must first show his or her interest in the land before picking application Form 8 from the District Land Office or Area Land Committee, fill it, and attach 4 passport photos. He stated that the area land committee’s mandate involves receiving applications and issuing notices for public hearings concerning land ownership using Form 10, Byakatonda observed that Kaboyo had not engaged the committee during the process.

Information Sources from Mubende district preferring anonymity for security reasons accused some government officials of manipulating the stated legal procedures and guidelines. “Everything is coming from the center (ministry) instead of starting from an area where the land is located”, said the source.

“The first time we saw her, she was grabbing land and now she has come back to take ours. When she was asked by the land probe committee headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire why she had surveyed the land forcibly, she replied that she never surveyed any land and did not know those people,” another villager who preferred anonymity said.

According to guidelines of Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Planning Act, 2010 and Land Act, Cap 227, state that;

Any applicant for a leasehold on the public land must have in his/her possession fully completed form 4,10,19 23, a set of 3 authentic deed plans, 3 passport photographs, receipts of payment and a forwarding letter requesting for a freehold title signed by the District Land officer of the respective district where the land is located.

Step 2

The applicant presents the full set of original documents in duplicate and a photocopy of the same to the department of land administration for checking.

The photocopy is stamped received and returned to the applicant. The applicant checks with the department of land administration after 10 working days to confirm their approval or rejection.

Step 3

Once approved the documents are forwarded to the department of the land registration for issuance of a freehold land title. The applicant checks after 20 working days.

Step 4

The applicant presents the photocopy given to him/her by the department of land administration stamped, received and identification documents on collecting the freehold Title. The applicant signs for the title and the photocopy is stamped returned on completion.

Documents required include; Deed plans, set of passport photographs, general receipts of payment and a requesting letter. Fees paid at the ministry. Registration fees-10,000#, Assurance of the title- 20,000#, issuance of the title-20,000#.

The preliminary steps that involve the Area Land Committee were not complied with by Mrs. Grace Majoro Kabayo as she acquired land that accommodates thousands of people.

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Livelihood

Witness Radio welcomes the World Bank’s intervention into Kawaala drainage channel project affected persons…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda – Witness Radio Uganda has welcomed the World Bank’s decision to intervene into its funded project which is dispossessing poor urban dweller at Kawaala Zone II, Lubaga division, Kampala district.

On March 4th, 2021, the World Bank Team held its first ever virtual meeting with other stakeholders including the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) over a forceful implementation Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP 2) project.

On top of running to court to stop an illegal eviction, the residents through Witness Radio – Uganda lawyers raised a complaint to the World Bank to restrain its grantee (KCCA) from imposing a project they (residents) never participated in from the start.

In 2015, KCCA acquired USD 175 million loan from the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) for Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP) project. However, part of the money (USD 17.5 million, which is 63 billion Uganda shillings) was earmarked to construct Lubigi Primary Channel.

Without following business and human rights standards, KCCA started using tricks aimed dispossessing the poor urban community at Kawaala including; hiding under section 72(1) cap 281 of the Public Health Act, and issued a notice to dwellers to pull down what it termed illegal structures erected on their land or otherwise, KCCA would do so at the cost of residents, just to cause a property loss to them.

In a meeting chaired by Martin Onyach-Olaa, a Task Team Leader, Senior Urban Specialist at the World Bank, faulted KCCA for failing to engage community including taking the contractor to the ground without their notice.

“The project affected community have valid grievances, which must be attended to in the interest of Kawaala project” Said Onyach-Olaa

The representatives from the affected community accused KCCA of intimidation, undertaking a forceful survey, sidelining and usurping powers of elected local leaders, extortion and undermining business and human rights standards before and during the implementation of the World Bank project.

“I was threatened and forced to participate in KCCA valuation exercise of my properties and I never understood what was done. I was even lured to sign on certain documents that were in a language they never explained and no copy was left with me. I am opposed to the KCCA’s working and I will not allow them to come back on my property: Said Segue Abbas.

He added that when he sought wise counsel from his lawyers, he just realized that he had been duped.

Among other recommendations, KCCA was advised to embark on an inclusive exercise to identity project affected persons, properties to be affected by the project and ensure that surveys and property valuation exercises are undertaken in accordance within the law.

About the Grievance Redress Committee the KCCA claims they elected, the World Bank saw it important that the Grievance Redress Committee be put in place with a complaint book and functional internal appeal mechanism.

It was further emphasized that no Kawaala resident will be forcefully lose his/her under a project being funded by the World Bank.

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Livelihood

Oil palm growing threatening food security in Buvuma

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Some of the banana plantation gardens abandoned by farmers after they were compansented at Busamuzi sub county.

Buvuma, Uganda | Several people in Buvuma district have taken to oil palm growing at the expense of food growing. Fishing and subsistence farming were the mainstay of Buvuma residents prior to the introduction of oil palm growing.  

However, the residents have surrendered the biggest part of the land they used to plant food crops such as bananas, rice, cassava, maize and sweet potatoes on the main island to National Oil Palm Project-NOPP for the establishment of oil palm gardens. NOPP intends to operate on 10, 000 hectares of land.

The investor Buvuma – Oil Palm Uganda Limited-BOPUL, a subsidiary of Oil Palm Uganda Limited and Bidco Uganda Limited in Kalangala will use 6, 500 hectares of land while the out-growers will use the remaining 3, 500 hectares.

However, since their compensation in 2012, most of the residents have failed to secure alternative land for settlement and food production. Sarasino Namuyimba Ssekajjolo, the Buvuma District Council Speaker, says they have compiled enough information proving that most of the residents have not benefited in the first stages of the project.

He says they are considering tabling a motion halting further land acquisition in areas where NOPP has not concluded the exercise.  Ssekajjolo reveals that over 1000 residents have failed to make good use of the money they received as compensation for their land. 

A report compiled by Mary Namaganda, the Principal Assistant Curator at Makerere University Collage of Nature Sciences shows that land use change in Bugala [Kalangala] from natural vegetation to monoculture plantation has caused biodiversity loss due to the destruction of the natural habitat, soil degradation and pollution of soil and lake water resulting from the use of nitrate fertilizers, agrochemicals and effluents from the palm oil mill.  

BOPUL also intends to setup a mill. Godfrey Yiga, a resident of Kirongo says that he secured another piece of land in Jinja using the Shillings 59 million he received in compensation for his 5-acre piece of land containing a banana plantation, sweet plantains and mangoes. He, however, says that he couldn’t use the remaining balance to setup a new garden.   

Nasta Nantongo Kwagala, another resident and widow of the late Yosefu Kavamawanga who cares for seven children and three grandchildren, says NOPP compensated the tenants on her late husband’s land without her consent. She explains that by the time she applied for compensation, she was chased and stopped from farming on the land.   

George William Telebajo, another resident says the project took advantage of poverty in Buvuma to trick them into selling their land cheaply. He notes that several residents have ended up in jail for stealing food while others are now sleeping in wooden cubical at landing sites. 

Reports from the District Security Commit-DSC point to increased cases of food theft in different camps on landing sites and settlements in forest reserves. Juma Kigongo, the Buvuma Deputy Resident District Commissioner, says about 10 cases of food theft are reported at police and local councils-LCI every month in the four sub counties on the main island.  

These include Nairambi, Buwooya, Busamuzi and Buvuma town council. He, however, says most of the people involved in criminal activities are residents who accepted compensations but failed to put the money to good use. 

Wilson Sserunjogi, the Buvuma District Oil Palm Project Focal Person, says that many people have failed to put their compensation money to good use much as the project has tried to support them. He notes that for the past years they have been handling complaints and compensated thousands of residents fresh but they keep on coming back for more money after misusing it. 

“Residents and leaders are scared for nothing, Buvuma still has land for growing food and also NOPP is here to support them. We also compensated residents with land over 5 acres and above,” he said.         

Original Post: The Independent

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