Refugees, host communities scramble for access to agricultural land in Obongi district

OBONGI – Host communities and South Sudanese refugees in Palorinya sub-county in Obongi district are scrambling for access to fertile land for agricultural practices.

Palorinya sub-county has a total of 47,297 South Sudanese Refugees and 8417 host refugees.

Mohamed Geriga, a resident of Ipakwe village in Palorinya sub-county, one of the refugee hosting areas says, the fertile land which they normally used, has all been given to the refugees for settlement, forcing them to the banks of river Nile.

Geriga says most of the land in the area is covered by hills to the North and River Nile to the South leaving a stretch not fully fertile yet thousands are living on it.

Susan Amviko, another resident of the area says, there have been some cases of conflicts and disputes over land between the refugees and host communities as a result of limited access fertile land.

Victoria Duite, the Refugee Welfare Committee 2 Chairperson says, some of the refugees who had rented land for agriculture have either been stopped from accessing the land or their crops destroyed over internal family disputes over land.

According to information obtained by our reporter, hiring a plot of land per season goes for Shs 50,000.

“In some incidents, when the refugees hire land for cultivation from the host communities, some of the members of the landowners tend to chase away our brothers and sisters under unclear circumstances. In some cases, there are family disputes over land ownership which in turn leaves our refugees in huge losses,” Duite explains.

Thomas Morudrole, Acting sub-county Chief of Palorinya sub-county said, the scramble for land has also been intensified by the unfavorable weather patterns and the massive tree destruction by both the host communities and refugees.

According to Modrule, as a result of lack of adequate land for cultivation, coupled with the reduced supply of food rations by the World Food Program (WFP), several refugees have joined the host communities in the fishing business.

United Nations Development Program’s Raymond Mukisa, the Uganda Host and Refugee Empowerment Project Manager says, whereas the disputes affect the refugees, under their 4-year project, they have engaged members of the community who own land to cooperate and share the land.

He further says, they have engaged the refugees and members of the community in income generating activities ranging from businesses to life skills projects in order to avoid disputes.

According to Mukisa, under the livelihood phase of their project, they have planted more than 1,112 acres of woodlots on land which is owned by the host communities yet maintained by the refugees.

“On these acres of land, we have planted Ticks, Pine and other trees which are monitored by the refugees and members of the community. Also, these refugees and host communities have planted crops as they manage the woodlots. This is in order to improve on nutrition as well as boost food security,” Mukisa said.

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