The government has embarked on fresh negotiations with land owners in Amuru District to secure land for the establishment of a Shs70 billion irrigation scheme.
On Monday, Ms Brenda Akao, the spokesperson of the Water and Environment ministry, said their officials are in Amuru trying to secure land for constructing the facility meant to boost farming in the district.
“It is true our team is on the ground to engage the community through their leaders so that they (the team) have access to the project area to come up with the design of the project. If the negotiations go on well, then work will kick off immediately,” Ms Akao said in an interview.
“We had resistance in the past because the majority of the population never wanted the project based on reasons they know best but the ministry has begun negotiations with the community for a large scale irrigation project to be constructed,” she added.
In September 2019, the proposal to build the irrigation project hit a dead end when residents labelled it a systematic plot to grab their land.
The project is meant to sit on a piece of land covering at least 2,000 hectares located on River Unyama in Pawel, Palukere and Pupwonya parishes in Atika Sub-county.
Once built, the project is expected to improve food security and ensure climate resilience through sustainable natural resources management and agricultural enterprise development, the Water and environment ministry said in a statement.
However, the land owners, who opposed the project, also argued that similar government ventures elsewhere such as Agoro Irrigation Scheme in Lamwo District have not had any impact on the agricultural productivity of the area since their establishment.
This newspaper established that early last month, a team of engineers from the Water and Environment ministry conducted feasibility studies in the project area but could not return to the area for boundary establishment following the disagreement.
According to the ministry’s 2019 joint sector review report, Cabinet approved funding for four large scale irrigation schemes under the Farm Income Enhancement and Forestry Conservation Programme-2 (FIEFOC-2), which include the Unyama project in Amuru.
During the 2019 State of the Nation Address, President Museveni disclosed that the feasibility studies for the Amuru-Pabbo irrigation scheme were complete.
In a recent interview, Mr Richard Aludi, a resident of Pawelkal Village, said unless the government processes titles for all the landlords in the project area, they will not surrender their land for the project.
However, Mr John Bosco Ocan, the former Atika Sub-county councillor, said resistance was met from Abongo Rwot A, Pawel kal, and Oloyo-mung villages due to lack of sensitisation about the project.
But Mr Micheal Lakony, the Amuru District chairperson, said the government has secured another team of surveyors to work with the district during the negotiations with the community.
“Two weeks ago, we took more than 200 farmers from the three sub-counties, which are to benefit from the project, to Butaleja District where an irrigation scheme has been established, to learn and see how it is working,” Mr Lakony said.
He said they are going to do everything to ensure that the residents embrace the project and offer land.
Mr Geoffrey Osborn Oceng, the Amuru RDC, said such projects meant to eradicate poverty should not be left to go to another district.