Hoima Sugar has agreed to restore land at Kyangwali which was damaged by encroachers especially charcoal sellers, Chimp Corps report.
This followed a letter from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) informing the sugar company of the findings of a recent site visit to the Kyangwali Mixed Land Use project.
“We would like to state clearly that all clearing activities carried out by the company for the establishment of the sugar cane estate have been done with adherence to the coordinates in the ESIA license. The company has not undertaken any clearing in any areas outside of the permitted coordinates,” said Hoima Sugar in a statement issued on Tuesday morning.
“However, we have been struggling with illegal trespassers on the land who have engaged in logging and charcoal burning ever since the project began.”
A 2020 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) showed that both host and refugee households rely almost entirely on woodfuel to meet their energy needs.
“Firewood is dominant at Kyangwali settlement, where it is the primary fuel for 75.5 percent of households, while charcoal dominates at Kyaka II (where it is the main fuel for 77.5 percent of households),” said FAO.
Hoima Sugar was allowed to set up a sugarcane plantation on 2,393 hectares, develop an urban center, an eco-tourism centre, a cultural site and a natural reserved forest and nature walk-ways.
However, NEMA says there was deforestation of the natural reserved forest areas contrary to approval conditions.
“As a result of this, the area of natural forests that was supposed to be protected has been severely degraded. There was deforestation of the eco-tourism site contrary to approval conditions, which has affected the quality of the site for eco-tourism purposes,” NEMA’s statement issued on Tuesday reads in part.
The company said the most recent of the challenges came about between September 2021 and April 2022 when thousands of people were ferried into the project area and began farming and burning charcoal in complete disregard for the conservation requirements that governed the activities which were permitted on various sections of the project land.
Some of the trees planted to restore the vegetation
“The trespassers were extremely hostile to our staff and we were advised by security officials to withdraw from the area in order to avoid any violence. We followed this advice and took up the matter in writing with the appropriate authorities to take action against these illegal trespassers. It was only in April 2022 that we were able to regain access to these areas,” said the sugar company.
“This process was witnessed by the authorities and the media at the time. It is evident that there has indeed been partial damage to the buffer zones and green zones of our project area.”
NEMA blocked what it described as deforestation of the natural reserve forest area, eco-tourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for urban centre.
“No sugar cane should be planted in the natural reserved forest area, ecotourism area, cultural sites area and land reserved for urban center. The sugar cane must be restrict-ed to the area permitted in the certificate. The 312.3ha earlier approved for the urban centre is halted to be kept as a natural forest in view of the country’s efforts to recover forest cover loss. Restore all degraded areas of the natural reserved forest area, ecotourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for urban center,” NEMA said.
Hoima sugar said the project, despite being on private land, had been designed by the company to encompass these zones in order to preserve the ecologically sensitive areas of the project land.
“The company therefore expresses its deep regret that these areas have been partially damaged by illegal trespassers,” said the Sugar company which has created 3,000 jobs.
The factory said it has 3,700 outgrowers whom it supports from clearing of their land up to harvesting. Hoima Sugar also built over 450km of roads to access outgrowers.
The company has feeding programs in 5 schools and health camps in 7 villages.
NEMA said Hoima Sugar should prepare a restoration plan for the degraded areas in consultation with Forestry Sector Support Department of the Ministry of Water and Environment (FSSD), National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and submit the same to this Authority for approval within a period of not more than three months from the date of this order.
“Implement the Restoration Plan in 4 above at your cost with guidance from FSSD, NFA and UWA to the satisfaction of this Authority. Permit third parties approved by this Authority who may wish to participate in the restoration process of the degraded areas as appropriate,” said NEMA.
In response, Hoima Sugar observed: “… as the implementers of the project, we fully agree with the order from NEMA to undertake restoration of the damaged areas. We commit to restoring these damaged areas with strict adherence to a NEMA approved restoration plan.”