By Homeland Media Newsroom
Defense Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja has been accused by a host of farmers and employees at Oil Palm Uganda Limited, a subsidiary of Bidco Uganda Limited for diverting 50,000 palm oil seedlings from Kalangala to his private three square mile garden in Kalungu district.
Ssempijja has previously served as the Minister for Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, under which the Palm Oil project is being handled. He has also visited the project more than three times in the past two years.
Well as his Kalungu District had been earmarked for palm oil expansion, the government first decided to increase household farmer extension of the project in Kalangala and Buvuma District in the now National Oil Palm Program – NOPP.
Last year, the government and Oil Palm Uganda Limited declared that up to 100,000 palm oil seedlings would be available to palm oil outgrower farmers in Kalangala. The seedlings were brought and delivered to the Bwendero, nursery one for Oil Palm Uganda Limited.
A source at the Palm Oil growing company told this website that upon delivering the seedling for the March 2022 batch to start being planted, emissaries from Kampala told the company that the Minister needed the seedlings for immediate planting in his garden.
“Immediately, box body trucks supposedly meant to transport fish were brought and seedlings were packed and taken to Kalungu District. It is not clear whether the seedlings are at the Minister’s garden.” The source told this website.
A farmer in Bwendero who asked not to be named for fear of harassment told the Homeland Newspaper that the truck drivers declared upon reaching the Palm Oil nurseries that the seedlings were meant to be taken by the former Agriculture Minister.
A journalist in Kalungu district close to the Minister told this website that although he is not cognizant of the acreage being ploughed, a lot of land said to be owned by Minister Ssempijja has been prepared for plantation Agriculture.
Oil Palm Uganda Limited has ‘officially’ denied that it is the Minister who took the seedlings.
However, the team at Oil Palm Uganda Limited told this website that more than 50,000 palm oil seedlings were stolen from the nursery in Bwendero, Bujumba sub county, Kalangala District.
The diversion of the seedlings has created a crisis with the island district since many people were registered by the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust to plant palm oil seedlings in march this year and, only a handful of them can now be given the seedlings to start planting palm oil.
The crop has so far been grown on more than 12,000 hectares of land in the island district, providing an average of Ugx 5 billion to small holder farmers every month. It is upon such a background that more farmers want to plant the crop and start getting yields.
However, the diversion of 50,000 seedlings leaves many farmers unable to plant allegedly would make losses. “We were asked to prepare gardens and used a lot of money for the activities. Denying us a chance because one senior person wants to take over the seedling leaves us making losses that no one will pay,” Richard Lumera, one of the Kalangala farmers, told this website.
The Minister would not receive repeated calls by the Homeland Newspaper to clarify on the matter on Wednesday afternoon.