By Innocent Atuganyira

BULIISA: Buliisa district which is located along the shores of Lake Albert in Bunyoro sub region Western Uganda was in March 2020 hit by the rising water levels of the Lake. Fishermen who depend on fishing have been forced to resort to cultivating for survival.

In the same year, over 10,000 families in the district were displaced by floods, most of whom  depended on fishing as the main economic activity, the most affected sub counties being Butiaba, Kigwera and Butiaba town council plus Wanseko, Katanga, Masaka, Kawaibanda, Butiaba, Boma, Walukuba among  landing sites.

The floods which claimed over 10 kilometres from the lake also affected some government institutions including Butiaba health centre, Butiaba primary school in Butiaba town council and others.

The floods also displaced several fishermen within Buliisa and the neighbouring districts of Nebbi, Hoima and Masindi. The rising water levels hinders fishing which was exacerbated by the burning of the fishermen’s fishing gear by the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) leaving a good number of them without.

These drove the fishermen into growing crops such as cassava, millet, sorghum, cotton, pumpkin, maize and others.

Maize plantation hit by prolonged drought in Walukuba village. Photo by Innocent Atuganyira

Traversing through the sandy feeder paths of Walukuba village, Butiaba Sub County, our reporter came across Mr. Ijok Pithwa 49, a fisherman turned farmer resting on the veranda of his grass thatched house. Pithwa who looked so exhausted explained how he is passing through valleys and thorns to feed his family.

‘’Since the floods hit our area in 2020, we decided to reallocate and started cultivating crops for survival, we hardly have food, sometimes we have a single meal in a day or don’t have,’’ He said. Pithwa also told that the floods and the burning of their fishing gear left them totally helpless.

‘’We are hardly surviving; the crops we planted were hit by sun, my fishing gears were also burnt. I have over seven children, they need school fees, food and others but have nowhere to get food since the other small business I had was also affected by the  floods,’’ he added.

In December last year, the office of prime minister donated relief items to the flood victims in Buliisa district. These included maize flour, beans, jerry cans, cups, mosquito nets and others. However, Pithwa told that the 5kg of maize flour they got didn’t sustain his family for long.

Some of the relief items donated by the office of prime minister/ Courtesy Photo

‘’We were used to  getting daily income from fishing, since floods displaced us, and also the  ban on  fishing on the lake by the government  has greatly affected us, we usually  have one meal a day and sometimes none ,’’Ms. Akello Aikani asserted.

The mother of five children also contended that due to the prolonged dry season, she resorted to selling firewood to get bread for her family. ‘’We were given only one day {Saturday} in a week to collect  firewood from  the Murchison Falls National Park, which isn’t favouring us, when they get you in the park on the other days, they arrest and take  you to courts of law,’’ Akello explained.

Akello also told that she gets less money from selling  firewood  which can’t sustain her family adding that this forced her family to have a single meal in a day or sometimes doing without. She is appealing to the government to intervene and get a permanent solution and save them from the suffering they are going through.

Akello Aikani from Walukuba market to look for food. Photo by Innocent Atuganyira

‘’Due to the situation, we resorted to cultivation and we get little money from the crops grown, however, we don’t have hoes and our crops are hardly hit by prolonged sunshine,’’ Ujiko Odongo, another former fisherman narrated. He added that he doesn’t have food to feed his family since the crops were hit by sunshine adding sometimes they go without food.

Richard Onen, the area chairperson Kisinja village Walukuba parish in Butiaba Sub County says his people are suffering after quitting fishing and he appealed for government intervention. ‘’There is a need for the government to get a long term solution since we are suffering,’’ he said.

‘’Last year, the office of prime minister donated relief items including maize flour, however, some families didn’t get, and those who got  them didn’t sustain them for long,’’ Onen added.

Bernard Barugahara, the District Community Development Officer (DCDO) Buliisa said there were two categories of people who were affected by floods, those who had reallocated to the lake shores and those from other districts. ‘’Those within the district vacated the lake shores while those from other districts, most of them went back , some bought land in other areas like Biiso, Masindi, Kigorobya and others,’’ he explained.

Barugahara also added that the few who are struggling to survive at the lake shores have been settling on the disputed land. When asked about the available plans to help the fishermen turned farmers who have been hit by prolonged sunshine, Barugahara said that the situation is affecting everyone since it is the dry season.

The DCDO revealed some of the plans the government intends to undertake to help the flood victims which include relocating them by acquiring land for them.  ‘’The district and land ministry in partnership with UNICEF is trying to get a permanent solution, however, they are still studying those who vacated the lakeshores, those who are still at the lakeshores and the support they need,’’ Barugahara noted.

Barugahara further noted that they are ascertaining the number of people who vacated the lakeshores, and they will ascertain the details of those who are still at the lakeshores according to their categories. ‘’Government is ascertaining the number affected by floods according to their categories, and they will be helped,’’ he said.

When approached by in his office, Fred Lukumu, the Buliisa district chairperson said that they are not sure whether the situation will normalize since flooding had taken long without affecting people.

The district chairperson advised the victims to reallocate to safer places citing Biiso, Masindi, Kigorobya, Hoima, Nebbi and others since government is still studying the situation.

Hon. Allan Atugonza, the Member of Parliament for Buliisa constituency told that the government is coming up with a number of interventions aimed at helping the flood victims in the area. ‘’There will be a need to create a special budget for the flood victims in Buliisa district to ensure they are helped,’’ he said.

The Member of Parliament who last year donated relief items to flood victims last year added that they have been lobbying the office of prime minister to ensure the flood victims are helped, and last year the office donated relief items to them.

He also told this website that since fishermen are copying up with cultivation, they will lobby for high yielding seeds to improve their production.

Reporting for this story was supported by Ultimate Media Consult

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