Stop Land Grabbing in Uganda!

01 Jan 1970

All over the world, tens of millions of hectares have been sold off over the last few years at extremely low prices, to grow food crops for export or biofuel, to extract resources, or for shares on the financial market. This phenomenon is called “land grabbing” and it poses a serious threat to the environment, food sovereignty, and the wellbeing of local communities. Land grabbing is common in Uganda and this is why the Slow Food network, with the help of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and Intesa Sanpaolo, has started a campaign to raise awareness among the population.

 

I would rather die than become a refugee in my own country,” says Joseph Kkonde, one of the farmers from Nkakwa Masuga village in Uganda’s Central Region. “I was born here, just like my parents,” he continues, “and all my ancestors were buried here. I have always been a farmer, just like everyone else in the community. I farm cacao, vanilla, bananas, bogoya bananas, coffee, and other local produce. I don’t know how to do anything else and I don’t have anywhere else to go. The only thing I can do is resist forced evictions, ignore the threats I receive to stop defending our resources, and, most importantly, resist starvation. We have been in the same situation for many years now. Every month, private investigators come with local people, and they are often armed. They come to see our land and tell us that we aren’t allowed to farm or build houses because the land doesn’t belong to us.”

 

Uganda has been suffering the effects of land grabbing for over a decade. All of the areas hit are renowned for their rich, tropical biodiversity, but most of all for their fundamental role in sustaining the many communities that live in them. The people who come to snatch up the land are notorious for violating communities’ rights to the land, denying access to arable land, grazing land, water, forests, and other natural resources. Furthermore, there are areas that have already been taken over by monocultures of sugarcane or oil palm, and the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides presents a grave threat to the health of local crops and communities.

 

This is the context in which the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and the Intesa Sanpaolo Fund for Charitable, Social and Cultural Donations are working to further develop the Slow Food network in Uganda, creating gardens, Slow Food Presidia, and various other initiatives together with the farming community, and providing the population with unbiased information about the problem of land grabbing.

 

In January the Slow Food network officially launched the “Our Future is in Danger: Stop Land Grabbing!” campaign, in an attempt to raise awareness among the Ugandan people and stimulate political debate at all levels, from civil society to local government and within the parliament itself. The comic book Let’s Expose Land Grabbing tells the stories of many cases of land grabbing that involved Slow Food projects such as 10,000 Gardens in Africa, the Presidia, the Ark of Taste, and the Earth Markets.

 

Slow Food helped organize meetings between at-risk communities and local authorities, in an attempt to resolve conflicts. Last January Joseph Kkonde led a group of 65 farmers in a meeting with Residential District Commissioner Mr. Fred Bamwine, in Buikwe, to try to fight for people’s rights within their communities.

 

“With the help of the Slow Food project,” explain the two farmers Jannat Kyambadou and Fatuma Wamimbi, “we can learn to understand the value of our land and our culture, and to gain the tools to defend it and use it. We can also pass on all this knowledge to our children. It’s important not to wait any longer and to do it now so that we can ensure a dignified future for our country!”

 

The situation is still critical: Despite the progress made with governmental institutions and the promises that local governments were forced to make, just a few weeks ago the bulldozers began, yet again, tearing down trees in the forest around Bocovaco, to make way for the umpteenth sugarcane plantation.

 

“We will not stop, we will not be discouraged. The majority of Ugandans aren’t aware of the land grabbing problem until they become a victim of it,” explains Edie Mukiibi, agronomist and vice-president of Slow Food International. “It’s our job to raise awareness among the population about what is happening. Land grabbing poses a large-scale threat to the rights of people and to food sovereignty in our country. We cannot sit back and watch it happen!”

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