Government Officials explaining the benefits of the project to the community in Lamwo
The Nile Basin Discourse (NBD) represented CSOs on the regional multi-disciplinary technical task team to interface and provide guidance to the communities of the Nyimur-Aswa project catchment area. This was in collaboration with the Government of Uganda and other stakeholders during a community dialogue to enhance community participation in the on-going Nyimur-Aswa Multipurpose water project. The meeting took place in Lamwo District, Uganda from 18th to 23rd March 2018.
The Ugandan team from the Ministry of Waterand Environment, convened a three day meeting with various stakeholders from both Central and Local Governments together with Civil Society Organizations which included NBD and its national chapter, Uganda National Discourse Forum (UNDF) to sensitize the communities of Parcacele, Palabek Ogili and Ayu Alali parishes on the project facts, benefits, and to establish a sense of community ownership for the Nyimur-Aswa project. The meeting was also intended to provide a platform within which to discourse pertinent issues that are directly or indirectly affecting the project; but most importantly to dialogue and establish a relationship with stakeholders who will be involved in project preparation and implementation as well as those who will be impacted by the project.
Three important meetings were held during the visit in Lamwo district to sensitize various groups of different capacities on theNyimur-Aswa project. The first meeting was a leadershippre-planning meeting held on Monday March 19th 2018, whose participants included specific local leadership from the project-affected parishes, government representatives, women representatives, youthsand CSOs.This meeting, which was hosted by the Lamwo LCV Chairperson, aimed at sensitizing the participants on the overall benefits of the project to have a level-headed understanding on the processes that the project would undertake. The LCV Chairperson also used the moment to share the fears emanating from the community and the misrepresentation of information that has been going on in the communities such as land grabbing by government, suspicion that government is interested in minerals underground, over politicization of the project for selfish motives to lure voters, competition from Investors of sugarcane and cassava growers, the cultural sites likely to be destroyed. He believed that the meeting would help the district leaders and the community at large to appreciate and understand the benefits of the project but more so, to address all and more of the challenges being faced as a result of the project.This, in turn, needed to be disseminated to the respective communities in preparation for the subsequent meetings in those communities.
The second and third meetings were held in Ayu Alali parish and Palabek Ogili parishes were also aimed at sensitizing both communities on the project benefits generally but more importantly to create a platform to listen to their issues and regarding the project. The Permanent Secretary, in his steadfast approach to address those challenges, involved the leadership of a similar successful project in the neighbouring sub-county to share experiences of the project to-date. In his testimony during the meeting, the LC 1 Chairman, Agoro Sub-county, Mr. Denis Onyon, highlighted the initial rejection by the community towards a similar project in his area of jurisdiction. “With continuous sensitization, the project took off and to-date, community benefits are enormous which range from irrigated agriculture all year round to affected persons being compensated by the project to roads constructed within the scheme”, Denis mentioned. In his submission, he also emphasized the existence of a functional cooperative society in the sub-county which has united a greater number of members of the community. He highlighted that the biggest fear amongst people is that of land grabbing and on whether there is compensation done by government. Denis reiterated the fact that the government compensated every member of thecommunity that was affected and invited any one to visit Agoro sub-county to testify to the developments that have emanated as a result of the existing irrigation-dam project.
Generally the communities received the information with interest and a few teething issues were immediately addressed. In the end, the cultural leaders and elders of both communities, although requested for some time to digest the information just received from the government of Uganda, embraced the project and promised to work hand in hand with government for the good development of their communities and for the government at large. The cultural leaders promised to pronounce themselves on the decisions taken in the very near future.