Rice farmers along the Komorototo wetland in Butebo district have unanimously agreed to vacate the wetland with an appeal to the government not to harshly evict them.
The farmers said through rice growing, they have been able to educate their children and providing family basic needs and when they are forced out they will be left with no option than to resort to dubious ways of survival.
Ibrahim Okurut, a farmer and resident of Akoboi village Butebo sub-county said the government should give them a grace period of two years to cultivate rice that will enable them to service their bank loans.
He said the majority of farmers lost bumper harvest in the first season due to changes in weather patterns.
Magret Asio another farmer said the government should prioritize giving them viable alternative livelihood projects to enable them to cope up with the adverse effects of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Other farmers requested the government to provide them with capital to begin small businesses on top of compensation.
The farmers made these remarks on Wednesday while witnessing the launch of the demarcation exercise by the ministry of water and environment officials.
The exercise went on smoothly amidst heavy security deployment, especially anti-riot police.
Mr. Micheal Nantulya the district vice chairperson while witnessing the demarcation exercise appealed to residents not to raze down the mark stones saying the district is already experiencing adverse weather changes.
‘’My people we have already started experiencing adverse weather changes and it will be bad if you come and uproot these mark stones let’s leave them here for our own good’’ he said.
Mr. Deo Kabaalu senior wetlands officer said the threat being imposed by human activities especially rice farming on the wetland has forced them to demarcate its boundaries
He said the demarcation exercise which is ongoing involves retracing wetland boundaries and placing mark stones basing on three parameters such as water, vegetation, and soil.
The project covers 12 districts of butebo, pallisa ,ngora,tororo butaleja, namutumba, others are kaliro kibuku, budaka, bukedea, kumi and mbale.
The information available indicates that at least 75 percent of the wetlands have been encroached and degraded by human activity.
He said farmers who have been depending on the wetland will be registered at their respective sub-counties for them to benefit from government projects.
Hon. Micheal Okurut the district chairperson requested the government to come up with alternative sources of livelihood for farmers who have mainly been depending on the swamp since time immemorial.
He said as leaders they will embark on mindset change and sensitization of communities to appreciate government projects.