Last Updated on: 16th March 2023, 04:45 pm
Local communities of Bardege- Layibi division in Gulu City has received funding support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN].
The support, TND News understands is a revolving fund worth shs202 million to help them undertake different farming ventures while conserving nature.
The fund will be shared among local farmers in over four wards among them Oitino, Paminano, For God cell, and Oturu Oloya cell.
Oitino ward was the first group in Bardege to pilot their project dubbed Oitino micro-catchment project. This has given them alternative ways of conserving the environment. They are doing beekeeping and commercial vegetable farming.
Ronald Okwii is a retired medical officer and resident of Paminano cell in Oitino ward Bardege-Layibi Division. He is thriving in beekeeping after getting the IUCN’s financial support.
Okwii, 62, served for 34 years; 20 years at Lacor hospital and 12 years with The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), and 2 years with Mola clinic. He tells TND News’ Lil Okot that he’s reaping big from beekeeping.
“I have been able to earn over shs20 million in a year from beekeeping (bee products), I have also planted fruit varieties such as Jackfruit, pawpaw, and avocado among others,” Okwii said.
Fruits like Jackfruit and pawpaw avocado have helped Okwii in boosting the production of honeycomb. “I usually sell my bee honey to retailers while fruits always supplement my income.”
Okwii has over one hundred beehives both in Gulu City and in Nowya district where his farm is. He encourages local farmers in Gulu city to venture into bee farming to protect our wetlands. “Many people are carrying out agriculture in the wetlands instead of conserving it, they are destroying it for agriculture.”
One of the problems he has been facing as a bee farmer is bush burning. He has had to deal with losses after his bee hives were blazed as a result of the fire. Also, he says there is a mindset (negative attitude) in some local communities around. “This year, unknown people burnt off all my apiary farm,” he reiterated.
Bongomin Dick, the chairperson of commercial vegetable farmers in Oturu Oloya cell in Oitino ward said there are over 16 members who practice vegetable farming to change the livelihood of the young generation in Gulu city.
He adds that they are conserving wetlands and fighting against food insecurity in the region, including creating alternative jobs for the young children around.
“For over 20 years, many people in this Division have been depending on bad activities like quarry works around Oitino dam, the distraction of wetland for agriculture,” Bongomin added.
Bongomin highlighted that in some two years to come their vision is set to start exporting their commodity to the outside country to earn more income and keep the environment of Gulu city green and clean in the country.
“We plant tomatoes, cabbage, eggplant, and onion under our project of Oitino micro catchment, we are as well fighting climate change in Gulu city,” according to Bongomin.
Gertrude Ogwok is the program manager assistant at IUCN who is working with the local community especially Oitino micro catchment project to restore water in Oitino dam and surrounding wetlands. She says they have secured over shs200 million as a revolving fund to support the locals who are in groups of 30 members each.
Ogwok notes that they have so far trained over 409 local people on financial inclusion in two wards in Bardege-Layibi Division. 10 groups, she said have received shs1 million each to support their businesses to change their livelihoods so that they do not get involved in the distraction of wetlands.
She also encourages farmers to plant organic crops and practice afforestation in their fight against climate change, while boosting up production of bee farming and minimizing environmental pollution to attract more bees.
The Uganda Beekeepers Association estimates that only 800-1,200 metric tons are produced per year due to (the current) lack of bee stock.
This year (2023), the approximate price range for Uganda Natural Honey is between US$ 9 and US$ 2 per kilogram or between US$ 4.08 and US$ 0.91 per pound, according to a web report. The price in Uganda Shilling is UGX 32142.86 per kg. The average price for a tonne is US$ 9000 in Jinja and Kampala, respectively.
Ocan Michael Christopher, an environmental officer of Gulu city revealed that over 300 people (16%) are encroaching on wetlands in Gulu city, adding that 9 people have acquired land titles in wetlands. The environmental officer reveals many activities like constructing washing bays, hotels, farming, and residential houses have eaten up some portions of the wetlands in the city.
“According to the NEMA Act, any removal of the original wetland forms is prohibited, he or she would be liable ad imprisoned for 12 years,” he said.
Dr. Irene Nansubuga is a senior manager at Water Quality Management, Gulu branch. She said there is water fluctuation, quantity, and quality in Gulu city as community activities continue to affect wetlands, and landscapes which cut off the supply of water into Oitino dam.
She expects that the intervention by Oitino micro catchment project could support and maintain the water supply.
Nansubuga, in an interview, advised different partners to sensitize the locals and bring all the stakeholders on board to support the current intervention measures aimed at conserving the environment in Gulu city.
In February 2023, the office of the RCC of Gulu and city authorities implemented a presidential directive on the wetland. An ultimatum was given to all those carrying out different activities in the wetland to vacate by March 2023.
There has been no significant response.