Field trip opens doors to improvements in oil palm plantations in Uganda

Field trip opens doors to improvements in oil palm plantations in Uganda

Uganda - 30 June, 2020

At the beginning of this century the Government of Uganda established oil palm plantations on the island of Kalangala, in Lake Victoria. This caused many problems to local communities. In the case of new oil palm plantations to be set up in Buvuma, the question is whether these negative impacts can be avoided.

The oil palm project in Kalangala came with problems of irregular land acquisition, forest replacement, encroachment, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, disregard of the 200-metre free lake buffer zone, food insecurity, migration and immigration, disruption in social services and gender-based violence. It is crucial to acknowledge and better understand these impacts, mitigate them, and prevent them from recurring in other oil palm expansion hubs.

Ecological Trends Alliance (ETA), the Ugandan partner of TBI, undertook research into these problems which resulted in six policy briefs and supporting full research papers spanning land cover, womens’ empowerment through economic initiatives, and land deals, among other issues. The Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) partner, the National Association for Professional Environmentalists, used these studies for advocacy to prevent irresponsible expansion of plantations to other islands.

A fact-finding and learning field trip was organized by the GLA to Kalangala in 2019. It brought together northern partners, the Dutch Embassy and the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP), as well as Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF). The participation of the Dutch embassy attracted high-level officials and offered the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of oil palm development, and to consult the local communities who were directly involved.

The field trip resulted in several outcomes. An immediate VODP mission was sent off to Kalangala and Buvuma to discuss measures to better protect forest reserves, wetlands and coastal buffers. Delayed payments for land compensation to communities that sold land to oil palm developers in Buvuma were fast-tracked. The Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust (the lead implementing agency) was accepted as part of studies on intercropping as an alternative to oil palm mono-cropping. And some of the ETA/TBI policy briefs’ recommendations were adopted in National Oil Palm Project implementation.

The research work by the GLA programme on oil palm impacts also resulted in the approval of a work plan and budget submitted by Kalangala District Natural Resources Department to MAAIF. The work plan focuses on monitoring the impacts of oil palm in Kalangala by the district on behalf of MAAIF. As a result of the research and advocacy by GLA, the district technical leadership of Buvuma and the new hub districts of Mayuge and Buikwe on Uganda’s mainland have requested exchange visits to Kalangala to learn about oil palm and its impacts before making major contractual decisions with MAAIF.

Published in the Annual Report 2019 

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