Farmers from the Nakasongola district in Uganda are appealing to parliament to intervene in a case where they claim that the National Forest Authority (NFA) has blocked them from accessing nine public water dams.
The farmers, who presented their petition to the committee on environment and natural resources, say that the semi-arid district depends on these dams for livestock and household use.
Edward Butera, the group leader, said that the most affected sub-counties are Wabinyonyi and Kakooge, which neighbour Kasagala Forest Reserve. Butera revealed that the situation has left farmers with no other option but to hire water trucks or sell their livestock, while others have fled their homes for places with water.
He added that they have raised their petition to various offices and authorities, including the minister for lands, but think that Parliament is the top voice and advocate for the citizens.
The petitioners are also concerned that the NFA has planted eucalyptus trees on a large chunk of land, which they say has adverse effects on water, soil, and climate change. Butera accused the NFA of conniving with land grabbers to forcefully plant trees on land that originally belonged to the residents of the area.
He claimed that the NFA depleted the entire Kasagala native forest in favour of imported eucalyptus trees, despite the advice of environmental advocacy organisations that a ban on eucalyptus plantations on a large scale should be implemented in the cattle corridor district of Uganda.
Fred Kayondo, a member of parliament, sought to understand whether the local community had documentation on the land that has allegedly been grabbed. He stated that land ownership in Uganda is about documentation and that people cannot assume ownership of land simply because they live on it.
Benard Sekyanzi, a Budyebo County member of parliament, said that land in Nakasongola was initially customary, and the dams were constructed on both communal and government land. He added that there had been conflicts over land, with locals accusing the NFA of land grabbing.
Nakasongola district women representative, Victorious Zawedde, said that over 20 000 people have been denied access to water and prayed that the government would identify land and construct new dams. She said that from October 2022 until now, the district has not received any rainfall, and the farmers have been moving long distances.
She urged the government to open up the routes to water sources and relocate the dams to other areas.
The committee meeting was chaired by Emely Kugonza, who said that the committee is scheduled to meet with the NFA and visit the affected communities to ascertain the allegations. The farmers are hoping that parliament will address their concerns and provide a solution to the issue, which has left them with no access to the only source of water for survival.