Mayuge farmers visit Kalangala

By Davis Buyondo

Added 22nd June 2018 05:02 PM

The exposure visit was organised by Vegetable Oil Department Project 2 (VODP2) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.

Kalangalaprominentoilpalmgrowersamuelkiggunduaddressingthevisitingdelegation 703x422

The exposure visit was organised by Vegetable Oil Department Project 2 (VODP2) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.

PIC: Kalangala prominent oil palm grower Samuel Kiggundu addressing the visiting delegation. (Credit: Davis Buyondo)
KALANGALA - A delegation of 70 farmers and councilors from Mayuge district on Tuesday concluded a Two-day study tour around Kalangala for a more understanding of how to embark and sustain a new multi-billion oil palm expansion project.
The exposure visit was organised by Vegetable Oil Department Project 2 (VODP2) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to prepare the farmers for oil palm growing.
According to Anthony William Wanyoto, the Communications Officer; this was meant for the participants to share ideas, success stories and challenges involved in the oil palm project as well as the techniques and appropriate technologies used in Kalangala.
The district has been in the large-scale oil palm business since 2006 especially on Bugala, Bubembe and Bunyama. The perennial crop takes four years to have the first harvest.
In March this year, government secured a tune of shs729b for oil palm expansion to other parts of the country including Mayuge, Buvuma, Buikwe, Mukono, Namayingo, Masaka and Bunyoro Sub-region.
Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, the Minister of Agriculture, further instructed researchers at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) to take soil samples from the earmarked districts before the project rolls out. However, the results were affirmative.
Led by Ruth Kibowa, the Mayuge Local Council (LC5) Vice Chairperson, the farmers said they learnt various agricultural practices i.e using suitable fertilizers, process and benefits of the cash crop.
Kibowa explained that farmers were initially hesitant about oil palm growing because they lacked the knowledge, proper understanding and exposure.
She further explained that Mayuge district council could not pass a resolution allocating land for the project before understanding it.
But shortly after visiting Oil Palm Uganda Limited/BIDCO plantations, and sharing lessons with out-growers, the farmers said they were ready to start planting adding that the project was long overdue.
Fred Mugabi, one of the participants, said he’s convinced to pledge over four acres of land in Mayuge to plant oil palm. He added that the project will be his retirement plan.
He added that they are convinced that oil palm plantation can also accommodate other food crops such as maize, sweet potatoes, beans which can sustain them until oil palm matures.
According to Kibowa, they have seen and understood the project and it will be easy to explain to other farmers.
Although most of the farmers in Mayuge grow sugarcane, Kibowa is convinced majority will switch to oil palm after witnessing its benefits.
She further said that out-growers will avail 8000 acres while Mayuge district local government 2000 acres to support the project.
In the next council sitting, she added, they will pass a resolution and allocate the land for the project.
“What we have seen on ground and learnt from the technical people as well as other farmers is encouraging and we are ready to begin no later than June this year,” she noted, adding that there will be hesitation from sugarcane growers in the first place but after the first oil palm harvest, several will join the project.
Word From Kalangala
Josephine Nakawesi, one of the oil palm growers in Kizira village, welcomed the delegation and thanked them for sharing their experiences and fear which were addressed.
Samuel Kiggundu, the Chairperson Kizira oil palm-Unit, advised participants to look at other external sources of income before the first harvest.
During the tour, David Balilonda Mukasa, the General Manager-Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust (KOPGT) appealed to Mayuge delegation to always remain focused and patient in order to realise better results from the project.
He further advised them to ensure environment assessment before they start planting since it may interfere the project.
Vincent Olwa, a senior staff at OPUL/BIDCO, said vegetable oil is on high demand in Uganda and outside countries yet Kalangala alone cannot sustain the market. 
He explained that if Mayuge factory can produce 20 tons per hour then it will give millage to the project.
Since its inception in Kalangala, Oil palm growing has suffered criticism by different groups of conservationists who claim it affects the environment. 
However, Mukasa, the KOPGT General Manager, argued the plantations replaced grasslands and not forests as alleged.

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