Cattle Rustling Derails Farming In Lamwo

LAMWO – Cattle rustling has soared in Agoro Sub County, Lamwo District. It has diminished the oxen herd and subsequently frustrated commercial farming in the area.

Francis Todwong, the LC-I chairman of Tumanun village in Agoro Sub County, said several farmers are unable to plough their land because there are very few oxen and tractors.

“People used to rely a lot on oxen to plough their land but the animals have now been stolen by rustlers who invade villages in Agoro Sub County nearly every week,” he said recently.

Todwong said farmers in his village now use one tractor from the neighboring Palabek Gem Sub County.

“Due to the high demand for the tractor, the owner has also increased the rental fees from Shs 80,000 to Shs 100,000 per acre. We need more tractors to help us open land,” he said.

But members of Agoro Self-Help Irrigation Cooperative Society in Agoro Sub County are lucky. In 2020, they were given a tractor by the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS), a statutory semi-autonomous body under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).

Allan Ocaya, the chairperson of the cooperative, said members hire the tractor at Shs 80,000 while none-members get it at Shs 90,000 to plough an acre of land.

Ocaya, a victim of cattle rustling, said he lost two oxen and a dairy cow three years ago to rustlers. He said one ox was recovered by security personnel who pursued the thieves.

“People fear using oxen to plough their land because it’s no longer safe to use them. You have to get security men to guard you as you plough, otherwise, the South Sudanese rustlers who are always armed come and grab them in broad daylight,” he said.

Ocaya said the entire sub county is served by four tractors, which according to him, are not enough to meet the demand of over 6,000 farmers spread out in four parishes.

Cyrus Komakech, the Lamwo District agriculture officer, told theCooperator that cattle rustling has greatly affected land opening, multiplication of cattle and traditional marriage.

“Cattle rustlers do not discriminate during their raids. They take any animal they find including bulls and heifers. This has made it difficult for farmers to open large acres of land for cultivation,” he said.

“The heifers, which farmers would have used to multiply animals, are also targeted by the rustlers,” he said.

Statistics provided by the Lamwo Resident District Commissioner, James Nabinson Kidega Nok, show that over 3,200 cattle were stolen in 2020 from Lamwo District by Karimojong and South Sudanese.

The animals were stolen from the two sub counties of Agoro and Madi-Opei, which border South Sudan and Karamoja.

Kidega said 3,000 cattle were recovered while 200 are yet to be recovered.

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Heavy Rains Worry Cassava Farmers

PADER – The unrelenting heavy rains battering Pader District are threatening to wipe out the livelihoods of cassava farmers in the northern district.

Cassava farmers allied to Acholi- bur Cooperative Society in Pader district are worried their crop will rot in the ground.

Farmers say when the rains started many had not uprooted their cassava from the farmlands.

“We cannot uproot now, the rains are too much and we have no better provisions for drying it so that it is sold,” Robert Okumu, the chairman of Acholi Bur Cooperative society, told theCooperator in a recent interview.

There are cassava varieties that last for only one and half years under the ground and if not uprooted in time, they rot, Okumu said.

Cassava is the biggest income earner for the cooperative farmers and if it’s not harvested in time, Okumu says, his people will lose millions of shillings.

The 600-member cooperative also grows soya-beans and groundnuts.

David Ogutu, a member of the cooperative, said the seasonal market is partly to blame.

“Imagine we are depending on only one buyer, that is Bukona Agro Processors, but if we had other factories in the region, we would have a choice. ” he said.

“The rains are too much and we do not have better technology for drying cassava at the moment. Some farmers got loans and one wonders how they will be able to pay back,” he said.

“We have reached out to the district leadership and discussed how best they can lobby and get for us drying machines that can help in the rainy season but we haven’t gotten any positive response,” he added.

Alfred Abaloker, the District Commercial Officer, said his office has lobbied but failed to get the Ministry of Agricultural and Animal Industry to help the farmers.

“It’s a big challenge to the farmers but my office cannot handle it alone. We requested for a machine that can help them (farmers) have their cassava dried during the rainy season so that they don’t incur losses but we have never been helped.” he said.

“We were given only tractors so that farmers can open big chunks of land,” he said.

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Agoro Cooperative members decry delayed repair of Irrigation scheme

Members of the Agoro Self-Help Irrigation Cooperative Society have denounced the delayed rehabilitation of the Agoro Irrigation Scheme in Lawmo district, saying the delay has robbed them of the livelihood they earned from growing rice.

The 187 members of the cooperative used to depend on rice growing as their main source of earning. But last year a team from the Ministry of Water and Environment stopped rice growers from using the irrigation scheme until it has been rehabilitated.

The Scheme was last rehabilitated between 2012-2013 to a tune of Shs 27bn, but a few years after, the water pipes got damaged and parts of the canal silted.

In 2019, the government, through the Ministry of Water and Environment said it would embark on repairs to the said scheme, with the project expected to cost Shs 6bn, after it was abandoned by many farmers because of its poor state.

In March 2020, officials from the ministry delivered over 1000 water pipes to the site but, farmers say, the pipes have been lying idle at the office premises of Agoro cooperative since then.

Affected livelihoods

Teopista Atim says it has been growing rice since the year 2000. She used the proceeds from rice to buy land, build a house and educate her four children.

She said in the early 2000s, her annual earnings from growing rice ranged from Shs 10-12m from 17 acres.

“At the time, the price of rice per kilogram was still low,” she quips.

However, the last time she planted 10 acres of rice in 2019, she earned Shs 16 million.

With the deterioration of the irrigation scheme, however, her source of income has been adversely affected.

“I used to grow rice which could give me a lot of money. But my production level started going down in 2013 because the irrigation scheme was poorly rehabilitated.”

Atim says the irrigation was poorly done, such that the water channels are below the gardens, thus farmers have to set up obstructions by piling sacks of sand to have water flow into their gardens.

“They [Ministry of Water and Environment] promised to start repairing the irrigation scheme in 2020 but they are yet to show up,“ she narrates.

Unable to grow rice, as usual, she tried other crops. It would end in disaster.

“Last year, I planted 10 acres of maize, which was destroyed by floods. I only harvested 3 bags of sorghum, which I used to brew malwa,” Atim said.

Margaret Oryema, another rice farmer, says she started growing rice before the irrigation scheme was rehabilitated, and used the proceeds to pay school fees for her three children up to university level, single-handedly. She also completed constructing a house which her husband started and failed to complete.

Oryema said she used to raise between Shs 7-10m from growing rice on her 8-acre farm before the rehabilitation of the irrigation scheme went awry.

However, last year she did not plant rice and does not expect to earn much this year if repair of the scheme is not expedited.

“Last year we never planted rice. And we are not sure of this year because work on the irrigation scheme has not even started. I no longer have money in my account because rice was my main source of income,” Oryema said.

Denis Ocan, another member of the cooperative, expressed disappointment with the fact that the affected farmers have received no update on the start date of the planned repairs despite a delay of almost a year so far.

No funds

Brenda Akao, the Communications Officer in the Ministry of Water and Environment in Northern Uganda, admitted that the ministry had delivered pipes for rehabilitating the irrigation scheme, but they are awaiting some funds before the repair works can start.

“Yes, I can confirm that we delivered pipes there. But we are now waiting for funding. Our commencement of work there will depend on the availability of funds,” Akao said.

The government adopted an irrigation policy in 2018 to improve agricultural production, with one of the implementation strategies being to construct 70,000 small irrigation schemes countrywide- one for each parish.

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Lango Cooperative Union leases 11-square kilometre land to German investor

Leaders of Lango Cooperative Union have leased out a sizeable chunk of its land assets to Smax-Group, a German investor, in a five-year deal that will see the investors develop the redundant land.

The land that measures about 1,165 hectares (about 11.65 square kilometers) is located in Angayiki village, Chawente Sub County, Kwania District.

Formed in the 1950s by cotton farmers in the greater Lango sub-region, Lango Cooperative Union lost all its assets in the early 1980s to commercial banks and some unscrupulous individuals.

However, the union later reclaimed its land in Angayiki in the ongoing struggle to repossess its prime assets.

Maxwell Akora, the Lango Cooperative Union Chairperson, who doubles as Maruzi County MP, says the union has leased out the recovered Angayiki land, a move aimed at generating funds for the operationalization of its primary societies.

“The long-term lease of the land will see the investor pay 1.1 million shillings per acre to the union. I believe this will secure the land from encroachers and bring benefits to all our primary cooperatives,” he said in an interview.

“The land has not been sold, but leased out for a period of five years, to raise money to help the 144 primary societies under Lango Cooperative Union, “Akora said. He said the move will generate Shs 1.3 bn in seed capital for farmers, to be recycled every season to run the union’s activities.

He noted that while the union had received Shs 2 bn from the government out of the Shs 17 bn owed to it in compensation for losses made during the 1981-1986 guerrilla war that brought the NRM/A into power, that money alone is not sufficient to run the union’s activities.

According to Akora, the German Investor will develop infrastructure, set up irrigation systems, process and distribute quality seeds to farmers and later buy from them at good prices for export.

“After the lease period elapses, the assets built by the investor will remain in the possession of the Union,” he said.

The Union Chairperson further revealed that according to an MoU signed with the union, the German investor will build a technical school for training farmers, and 15% of profit gained by the investor will be shared by Lango Cooperative Union.

“They have already surveyed the land; they will rent the land for growing soya beans and cereals like maize, beans and support farmers in all the 144 primary societies.”

Tom Neo, one of the prominent farmers in the district and a member of Alira Primary Society commented, “The Union leadership needs to be transparent and accountable. Leasing out the land to an investor is a good move only if they can be transparent about it to members.”

Another farmer, Brenda Akidi of Aninolal Primary Cooperative Society, welcomed with excitement the move to lease out the land to an investor, saying it will not only save the land from encroachers but also provide jobs to farmers.

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