Kalangala palm oil managers fight to take farmer’s land over unpaid loans

Managers of the Kalangala Palm Oil out growers under the umbrella body, Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust have intensified quest to ‘illegally’ take over farmers land in a bid to save loans taken by farmers through the Trust to plant Palm oil.

At the inception of the Palm Oil Project in Kalangala, the International Fund for Agricultural Development lent Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture more than Ugx 200 billion to implement a small holder farmers project where, Islanders who poses land would be lent money to start growing Palm Oil.

The money according to a Tripartite Agreement where Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust acts as an intermediary between the funder, government, the investor (Oil Palm Uganda Limited) and the local out growers in the area, the subsidiary agreements between farmers and the Trust guaranteed that the loan shall expressly be repaid through the sharing of monthly dividends from Palm Oil upon maturity on a 33 – 67 percent, funder – out grower basis.

Under the arrangement, a farmer was given all inputs to cultivate Palm Oil on loan by the Trust including the garden maintenance fees. The Oil Palm Growers Trust was also given tasks to among others; advise farmers, monitor and do evaluation and due diligence for land usage before cultivation would be done.

However, the Trust approved cultivation of Palms by out growers without due diligence as many people planted palms in rocky and infertile areas without due diligence which in the end left several gardens unable to produce enough fruits to effect a loan repayment plan by orchestrated by the Vegetable Oil Development Project, the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust and the Oil Palm Uganda Limited.

Agriculture miniter Vincent Ssempijja, at a heep of harvested Oil palm fruits.

Currently more than 38 farmers under the project have failed on implementing the loan repayment strategy and the management of the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust led by the General Manager David Balironda and the Chairperson of the Trust Diamond Chanco.

Amongst those is Wilberforce Ssenyama, the Local Council chairperson for Kizzi, a village in Kalangala town.  In a meeting with Journalists on Thursday afternoon said, he is now being demanded up to Ugx 60 million from the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust.

“I have another meeting with the General Manager of the Trust. I expect to harmonize with him next week to clearly understand why I am being demanded,” Ssenyama says.

Ssenyama’s palm oil plantation is situated in Kizzi, close to Mwena Landing site. It is in a rocky area with limited soil content. The environment is not favorable for crop production. Most of the planted palm oil plantations are in a deplorable state which prompted Ssenyama to sell them off to different people.

He has now been ordered to immediately repay the loan taken from the Palm oil growers Trust, which he cannot ably pay. Diamond Chanchu the chairperson of the Trust in consultation with the General Manager of the Trust David Balironda, in disregard of the laws governing the Trust have decided to take over Ssenyama’s land in a bid to reclaim inputs used to cultivate.

“This is not what the law says and we cannot sit and watch. They have already taken to Police and court a list of people whose gardens they want to confiscate which isn’t stipulated in the tripartite agreement and subsidiary farmer small holder agreements that were enacted. Agriculture is like any other business where you expect profits and losses and that doesn’t mean someone’s land should be taken.” Says a source at the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust.  

Other gardens yet to be taken over include a more than one hundred acre Palm Oil farm situated at Kizira, close to Bumangi Township in Mugoye Sub County. The land is said to be owned by a family led by Entebbe Division A Chairperson Mike Kabwama Mutebi Nyamayaalwo.

Well as more than Ugx 20 billion has been recovered from the different farmer loans acquired during the inception of the project, the operators of the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust say, there is need to recover all loans as part of the efforts to improve repayment.

Currently, some of the farmers who have repayed loans to zero balance are still struggling to ensure that the trust’s system stops deducting monies from their accounts however; all efforts have met deaf ears from Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust and its mother company the Vegetable Oil Development Project.

Diamond Chanco, the Chairperson of the Oil Palm Grower’s Trust says the organization is currently ensuring recovery of all funds lent to the different farmers and measures are being put in place to ensure that remittances are made.

The incidences come after 10 months long complaints of embezzlement in the oil palm body. Audits done by the organization indicate that there was fraudulent procurement of fertilizers, and embezzlement in the different departments in the organization.

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