KAMPALA, Uganda–The Minister for Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries Vincent Bamulamgaki Ssempijja has asked both international and local conservationists to stop criticizing government for promoting the vegetable oil project especially in the districts of Kalangala and Buvuma where oil palm tree projects is being implemented.
Ssempijja said the oil being implemented across the country has supported the local people to increase on their earnings and also led to the development of infrastructures in the districts thus reducing pressure on the country’s natural resources such as fish and forest which were heavily being depleted before the project was introduced.
Speaking during the Launch of the second evaluation of the vegetable oil development project phase 2, the Minister noted that under the project, government has managed to construct about 250km of farm roads which now ease the movement of local people and also support the development of small business in the district.
“Under oil palm component 6,500 hectares have been planted by the nucleus estates in Kalangala which is 100% of the target. Small holder farmers have planted so far 4,424 hectares of palm oil trees which is 94%.This has enabled the net farm income from palm oil project to the farmers to go up to an average of US$1384 per hectare per year. The project has not only befitted farmers but the districts at large because of the infrastructure developments which are associated with the projects such as piped water, solar energy and construction of about 250KM of farm roads” The Minister explained.
He added that before the project, many islanders from Kalangala and Buvuma islands were depending on fishing and charcoal burning which depleted the country’s natural resources especially fish and forests but with the palm oil project, many islanders have left charcoal burning to growing palm oil trees and are earning more than charcoal burning.
Although the project has benefited the local people in Kalangala and Buvuma Districts, environmentalists such as Friends of the Earth, have been criticizing the government for implementing a project which is not environmentally friendly.
The conservationists urge that government allocated huge chunks of forest land to investors to grow palm oil trees especially in Kalangala, this they say destroyed the ecosystem in both districts
Despite the numerous achievements farmers have registered from the project , there are some standing bottlenecks which the government should address especially to the palm oil farmers these include limited access to quality pesticides by the farmers ,weeding of oil palm trees is also big challenge to some farmers due to the nature of the trees among other challenges .
Amos Lugolobi the district chairperson of Kalangala said the palm oil project has socially and economically transformed his people because the project has enabled parents to take their children to school because of the earning they get from farming palm oil trees.
The total cost of the project is US$147.2 million and its major objective is to increase the domestic production of vegetable oil and its by-products thus raising the farmers Income and also ensuring that there’s constant supply of affordable vegetable oil products to Ugandan consumers.