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Experts fault NEMA on Bugoma Forest



Rwera-Kaseeta road through Bugoma Forest

The report also points out that 80% of Bugoma is tropical high forest and that the grasslands are sitting on hill tops, where there are frequent fires.

The Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) on the conversion of part of Bugoma forest reserve is flawed, regarding its methodology and lack of public consultation, according to a report by a US environment expert.

The report containing the critique of The Proposed Kyangwali Mixed Land Use was prepared by Dr Mark Chernaik and staff scientists under the US’ Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), which was contacted by the Africa Institute for Energy and Governance.

The Proposed Kyangwali Mixed Land Use is under Hoima Sugar Limited’s project to turn part of Bugoma forest into a sugar plantation.

“The species of plants and animals found in the proposed project area, contained in the ESIA, is far short of detail and is inadequate in comparison to international best practices,” Chernaik said.

He pointed out that the information about biodiversity of the project relied on the vegetation types of the area, described only in reference to a publication that was produced 56 years ago.

The report states that it is inadequate to rely on a 1964 publication, about the vegetation of Uganda in general, to characterise the vegetation of a project in 2020.

The report also points out that 80% of Bugoma is tropical high forest and that the grasslands are sitting on hill tops, where there are frequent fires.

“There are grasslands which tend to be on hilltops and ridges. They are frequently burnt by fire in dry seasons,” Chernaik stated.

Birds assessment inadequate

Regarding the identity of birds and mammals within the project area, the US expert points out that the ESIA, cleared by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), relied on field studies. However, the duration and intensity of field studies fall far short of international best practices.

“First, a four-day or five-day period is inherently inadequate to characterise bird and mammal populations of a project area, considering the large seasonal variations in animal behaviour. For example, many bird species are migratory and inhabit an area for a limited duration,” the report stated.

Sugarcane plantations close to Bugoma forest reserve

“Second, the methodology could not possibly cover the 22 squaremile extent of the project area. This is vividly presented in the ESIA report, pointing out Walked Through Areas of Interest comprise a small fraction of the project area.”

He adds: “The surveys were conducted through reconnaissance walks along routes already existent in the forests, hereafter referred to as the transects. These traversed through five general areas of the forest section of interest, with transects ranging from two to seven kilometres or just a few 100 metres. The routes are those used by members of the local community to access parts of the forest or used by herdsmen for cattle to different grazing points.”

Bugoma’s hydrological functions

“The only major river is Nkuse (Nguse) flowing along the southern boundary of Bugoma CFR, towards Lake Albert. The Kyangwali ancestral land and Bugoma CFR are poorly provided with permanent streams since most of the small ones dry up in the dry season. The only one which carries a permanent flow is Rutowa. However, Hohwa and Rwemiseke, which used to be permanent, are now seasonal.”

The ESIA frequently mentions wetlands within the project area. Regarding rivers and streams, the ESIA contains no information about the hydrological functions performed by these wetlands within the project area.

Without such information, the correct impact of the project on the environment could not be arrived at.

Climate change

The ESIA contains no information about the ecological functions of the proposed site in mitigating climate change. It also does not propose measures to enhance such functions for the purpose of ensuring long term adaptation to climate change.

The proposed project site is predominantly vegetated. As such, it mitigates the adverse impacts of climate change by taking up and storing carbon in above and below ground biomass. When cleared, such biomass results in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

This failure of the ESIA is compounded by the problem that sugarcane plantations have adverse impacts on the climate as sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

The US expert’s report points out that “considering climate change is an existential threat to the environment and societies, without information required by the terms of reference, stakeholders and decisionmakers are unable to rationally decide whether the proposed project is acceptable from an environmental and social standpoint”.

“Knowing that this is a water-stressed area, with the existing population already having water supply issues, it is likely to bring about conflicts when an additional workforce in thousands comes to the area,” he adds.

The expert also said no maps nor GPS co-ordinates for the project site are provided in the body of the ESIA. On the contrary, the body of the ESIA contains vague information about the location of project components.

“The proposed sugarcane plantation will be established on approximately 12-square-miles of the 22, while the remaining 10 acres will be under a natural reserve forest, planted forest, ecotourism, river and streams buffers and the planned urban centre,” Chernaik said.

Also, the Certificate of Approval of the ESIA seems to contain GPS co-ordinates of “natural forest cover for conservation and eco-tourism purposes” and “boundaries of the sugarcane plantation”.

However, being issued later in time, the Certificate of Approval of the ESIA was not a part of the assessment and, thus, any information in the Certificate of Approval was not shared with stakeholders during the ESIA process.

Poor assessment of impacts

Chernaik observed that the ESIA did not carry out a comprehensive evaluation of negative environmental and social impacts associated with project activities.

First, because the ESIA poorly characterised the existing baseline distribution of wildlife, including birds and mammals. It also lacked any data about existing baseline distribution of reptiles and pollinators.

The document is inherently incapable of comprehensive evaluation of negative impacts to wildlife.

In fact, the evaluation of negative impacts to wildlife is confined to a single sentence in ESIA.

This reads: “Loss of habitats for wildlife is another negative attribute that will arise.”

Chernaik argued that it is unreasonable to consider that the information above is a comprehensive evaluation of the negative environmental impacts to wildlife by a project that would alter the landscape of 22 square miles, adjacent to the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve.

The information contains no assessment or analysis of how the project would disturb threatened and endangered species and other keystone species that are the foundation of the biodiversity of the area.

The environment expert criticised the ESIA for not providing detailed mitigation, environmental management and monitoring plans relating to identified environmental impact of the project.


The local workers and people awarded contracts will contribute to the economy through the appropriate payment of taxes and local expenditure, according to the ESIA.

However, Chernaik points out that this statement does not quantify the number of jobs that will be created as a result of the project, as required by the terms of reference.

This, according to him, is the essential information for stakeholders and decision-makers that is missing from the ESIA.

Chernaik also noted that there will be some difficulty in accessing forestry resources neighbouring the proposed site for the mixed land use project.

“Most of these resources are being obtained from the woodland section earmarked for cane growing, hence its development will lead to total inability to access them,” he stated.

Ecotrust comments on ESIA

In a related development, the Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST), on behalf of a group of stakeholders, said the assessment has several defects and does meet the required considerations for an ESIA.

According to the ESIA, the study is based on the National Environment Management Act, 1995, which has been repealed and replaced.

This scenario implies that the report did not cover a large proportion of what is expected by Uganda’s environmental legislation on which the ESIA is anchored.

Notably, the report is lacking in critical aspects, such as potential impact on soil characteristics, wildlife behaviour, wildlife corridors, as well as the critical environmental services of provisioning regulating, cultural and supporting services.


On behalf of their partners, Pauline Nantongo, the director of Environmental Conservation Trust Uganda, said the critique of the ESIA for the Proposed Kyangwali Mixed Land Use was sent to NEMA’s Dr Tom Okurut.

“Your comments and conclusion are well received; I note you never saw anything positive on the requested investment,” Okurut said.

“The comments shall be matrix analysed together with input from others, then ranked to inform final decision.”

**New Vision

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Special Reports And Projects

Farmland values hit record highs, pricing out farmers



Joel Gindo thought he could finally own and operate the farm of his dreams when a neighbor put up 160 acres of cropland for sale in Brookings County, S.D., two years ago. Five thousand or six thousand dollars an acre should do the trick, Mr. Gindo estimated.
But at auction, Mr. Gindo watched helplessly as the price continued to climb until it hit $11,000 an acre, double what he had budgeted for.
“I just couldn’t compete with how much people are paying, with people paying 10 grand,” he said. “And for someone like me who doesn’t have an inheritance somewhere sitting around, a lump sum of money sitting around, everything has to be financed.”
What is happening in South Dakota is playing out in farming communities across the nation as the value of farmland soars, hitting record highs this year and often pricing out small or beginning farmers. In the state, farmland values surged by 18.7 percent from 2021 to 2022, one of the highest increases in the country, according to the most recent figures from the Agriculture Department. Nationwide, values increased by 12.4 percent and reached $3,800 an acre, the highest on record since 1970, with cropland at $5,050 an acre and pastureland at $1,650 an acre.
A series of economic forces — high prices for commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat; a robust housing market; low interest rates until recently; and an abundance of government subsidies — have converged to create a “perfect storm” for farmland values, said Jason Henderson, a dean at the College of Agriculture at Purdue University and a former official at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
As a result, small farmers like Mr. Gindo are now going up against deep-pocketed investors, including private equity firms and real estate developers, prompting some experts to warn of far-reaching consequences for the farming sector.
Young farmers named finding affordable land for purchase the top challenge in 2022 in a September survey by the National Young Farmers Coalition, a nonprofit group.
Already, the supply of land is limited. About 40 percent of farmland in the United States is rented, most of it owned by landlords who are not actively involved in farming. And the amount of land available for purchase is extremely scant, with less than 1 percent of farmland sold on the open market annually.
The booming housing market, among a number of factors, has bolstered the value of farmland, particularly in areas close to growing city centers.
“What we have seen over the past year or two was, when housing starts to go up with new building construction, that puts pressure on farmland, especially on those urban fringes,” Professor Henderson explained. “And that leads to a cascading ripple effect into land values even farther and farther away.”
Government subsidies to farmers have also soared in recent years, amounting to nearly 39 percent of net farm income in 2020. On top of traditional programs like crop insurance payments, the Agriculture Department distributed $23 billion to farmers hurt by President Donald J. Trump’s trade war from 2018 to 2020 and $45.3 billion in pandemic-related assistance in 2020 and 2021. (The government’s contribution to farm income decreased to 20 percent in 2021 and is forecast to be about 8 percent in 2022.)
Those payments, or even the very promise of additional assistance, increase farmland values as they create a safety net and signal that agricultural land is a safe bet, research shows.
“There’s an expectation in the market that the government’s going to play a role when farm incomes drop, so that definitely affects investment behavior,” said Jennifer Ifft, a professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University.
Eager investors are increasingly turning to farmland in the face of volatility in the stock and real estate markets. Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and a billionaire, is the biggest private farmland owner in the country and recently won approval to buy 2,100 acres in North Dakota for $13.5 million.
The number of private equity funds seeking to buy stakes in farmland has ticked higher, said Tim Koch, a vice president at an agricultural financial cooperative in the Midwest, Farm Credit Services of America. Pension funds also consider farmland a stable investment, Professor Ifft said.
Farmers, too, have witnessed an influx of outside interest. Nathaniel Bankhead, who runs a farm and garden consulting business in Chattanooga, Tenn., has banded with a group of other agricultural workers to save up to $500,000 to buy about 60 acres of land. For months, the collective has been repeatedly outbid by real estate developers, investors looking to diversify their portfolios and urban transplants with “delusional agrarian dreams,” he said.
“Places that I have looked at as potential farmland are being bought up in cash before I can even go through the process that a working-class person has to do to access land,” he said. “And the ironic thing is, those are my clients, like I get hired by them to do as a hobby what I’m trying to do as a livelihood. So it’s tough to watch.”
Mr. Bankhead characterized the current landscape as a form of “digital feudalism” for aspiring working farmers. Wealthy landowners drive up land prices, contract with agricultural designers like himself to enact their vision and then hire a caretaker to work the land — pricing out those very employees from becoming owners themselves.
“They kind of lock that person to this new flavor of serfdom where it’s, you might be decently paid, you’ve got access to it, but it will never be yours,” he said.
Unable to afford land in her native Florida, Tasha Trujillo recently moved her flower farm to South Carolina. Ms. Trujillo had grown cut flowers and kept bees on a parcel of her brother-in-law’s five-acre plant nursery in Redland, a historically agricultural region in the Miami area, about 20 miles south of downtown.
When she sought to expand her farm and buy her own land, she quickly found that prices were out of reach, with real estate developers driving up land values and pushing out agriculture producers.
A five-acre property in the Redlands now costs $500,000 to $700,000, Ms. Trujillo said. “So I essentially didn’t have a choice but to leave Miami and Florida as a whole.”
“Farming is a very stressful profession,” she added. “When you throw in land insecurity, it makes it 20 times worse. So there were many, many times where I thought: ‘Oh my God. I’m not going to be able to do this. This isn’t feasible.’”
As small and beginning farmers are shut out — the latest agricultural census said that the average age of farmers inched up to 57.5 — the prohibitively high land values may have ripple effects on the sector at large.
Brian Philpot, the chief executive of AgAmerica, an agricultural lending institution, said his firm’s average loan size had increased as farms consolidated, squeezing out family farms. This, he argued, could lead to a farm crisis.
“Do we have the skills and the next generation of people to farm it? And two, if the answer is going to be, we’re going to have passive owners own this land and lease it out, is that very sustainable?” he said.
Professor Henderson also warned that current farmers may face increased financial risk as they seek to leverage their high farmland values, essentially betting the farm to expand it.
“They’ll buy more land but they’ll use debt to do it,” he said. “They’ll stretch themselves out.”
Economists and lenders said farmland values appeared to have plateaued in recent months, as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates and the cost of fertilizer and diesel soared. But with high commodity prices forecast for next year, some believe values will remain high.
A native of Tanzania who moved to South Dakota about a decade ago, Mr. Gindo bought seven acres of land to raise livestock in 2019 and currently rents an additional 40 acres to grow corn and soybeans — all the while working full time as a comptroller to make ends meet.
For now, he has cooled off his search for a farm of his own even as he dreams of passing on that land to his son. The more immediate concern, he said, was whether his landlord would raise his rent. So far, the landlord has refrained because Mr. Gindo helps him out around the farm.
“He really doesn’t have to lend me his land,” Mr. Gindo said. “He can make double that with someone else.”
In Florida, Ms. Trujillo said, the owner of the land where her brother-in-law’s nursery sits has spoken of selling the plot while prices remain high, so he too has begun looking for his own property.
“That’s a big fear for a lot of these farmers and nursery owners who are renting land, because you just never know when the owner’s just going to say: ‘You know what? This year, I’m selling and you’ve got to go,’” she said.
In Tennessee, Mr. Bankhead said he considered giving up on owning a farm “multiple times a day” as friends who have been longtime farmers leave the profession.
But so far, he remains committed to staying in the field and doing “the work of trying to keep land in families’ hands and showing there’s more to do with this land than to sell it to real estate developers,” he said. “But the pain of not having my own garden and not being able to have my animals where I live, it never stings any less.”
Original Source: Farmlandgrab

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Anti-tick vaccine drive gives hope to farmers



Dairy farmers in Ankole Sub-region are optimistic that the anti-tick vaccine launched by the government will solve their problem of tick resistance to acaricides.
For the last 10 years, dairy farmers across the country have decried tick resistance to acaricides, which has been ravaging the livestock sector.

Mr Emmanuel Kyeishe, a resident of Rushere in Kiruhura District and dairy farmer with more than 100 head of cattle, says dairy farmers in the cattle corridor have battled the problem of tick resistance for a long time.
“The issue of ticks has been rampant in the cattle corridor to the extent of losing our cows. We spend a lot on treating them because of ticks since they infect animals with several diseases,”  he said.

Mr Kyeishe said he loses at least two cows every month to tick-borne diseases like East Coast Fever and heart water.
“I have lost 180 cows in the last five years due to ticks and tick-borne diseases. If they do not die, they get blind and some lose their skin. But if we get a vaccine, it will have saved us a lot,” he said.
Mr Kyeishe added that he has resorted to mixing agrochemicals with acaricides since the available ones on the market are failing.

Mr Jackson Bells Katongole, a dairy farmer in Kashari, Mbarara District, said if the government’s move to have anti-tick vaccine is successful, quality of dairy products would improve.
“A farmer loses at least two to five cows every month and we have resorted to using different concoctions from Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya because the problem of ticks has made us helpless,” he said.
He added: “We had reached the point of mixing pesticides with acaricides because of tick resistance and in the process our cows have gone blind, lost skin and others died.”

Mr Katongole further said each cow that dies is valued at around Shs2.5 million, which means that a farmer loses Shs5 million every month.
The Mbarara City Veterinary Officer, Dr Andrew Akashaba, said in Mbarara alone, there are about 60,000 head of cattle, mostly exotic breeds which are prone to ticks.
“Most of the exotic breeds of cattle are at a high risk of acquiring ticks and tick borne diseases, which are a major hindrance to livestock development in the cattle corridor,” he said.
Mr Akashaba added that between 2,000 and 3,000 cows die annually in Mbarara alone due to tick-related diseases.

While launching the final clinical trial of anti-tick vaccine manufactured by National Agriculture Research Organisation at Mbarara Zardi on Thursday, the deputy director general and research coordinator, Dr Yona Baguma, assured the farmers that once the vaccine is approved, they will be spraying their cattle against ticks twice in six months as opposed to twice a week.

Original source: Monitor

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farm news

Farmers fail to access farm inputs on Ministry e-platform



About 3,640 model farmers in Nebbi District, who were registered under the Agricultural Cluster Development Programme (ACDP) to access agricultural inputs on E-voucher, are stuck after failure of the system.

The farmers say the system has affected their planting patterns.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry under the Agriculture cluster Development Programme (ACDP) introduced the e-voucher system five years ago to enable farmers access agricultural inputs electronically.

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