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Gum Arabic farmers cry out to Museveni as land grabbers target land

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Women soarting out Guma Arabic which was harvested in Moroto gum arabic cooperative last month (photo by Steven Ariong) (2)
Women soarting out Guma Arabic which was harvested in Moroto gum arabic cooperative last month (photo by Steven Ariong) (2)
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Gum Arabic Farmers Appeal to President Museveni Amidst Land Dispute – A group of farmers registered to harvest gum arabic in Moroto have appealed to President Museveni to intervene and save the cooperative land, which is at the verge of being grabbed by some security personnel with the help of the NRM chairperson, Mr. Michael Lokawa.

Gum Arabic, a natural gum made from the hardened sap of trees native to the Middle East and parts of Western Asia, is widely used in the food industry as a stabilizer, among other applications. Despite its importance, the cooperative faces imminent threats to its land ownership.

Mr. Jimmy Lomokol, the chairperson of the Gum Arabic cooperative, emphasized the significance of Gum Arabic in various industries, including printing, paint production, cosmetics, and food. He outlined the cooperative’s pricing structure, indicating that they purchase gum from local harvesters at Shs1,700 per kilogram and sell to traders and companies within East Africa at $1.30 (approximately Shs2,552) per kilogram. However, the price rises for traders beyond East Africa, ranging from $2.30 (approximately Shs5,798) to $3.70 (approximately Shs9,328) per kilogram.

Despite President Museveni’s initiative to support the Gum Arabic project in 2002, providing funds for land acquisition and office construction, the cooperative now faces challenges to its land ownership. Land grabbers are attempting to change the land title, claiming it was community land, despite the cooperative possessing transaction documents with elders.

Last year, Mr. Andrew Keem Napaja, the former district chairperson of Moroto, was elected as the board chairman of the cooperative. However, security personnel guarding the offices of RISO South Karamoja have blocked access to gum arabic farmers, preventing them from entering the premises. Additionally, harvested gum has been destroyed, exacerbating the farmers’ plight.

Betty Ayo, a gum arabic farmer, urged President Museveni to intervene and reclaim the cooperative’s land and offices. John Lokut, another gum arabic farmer, highlighted the disruption caused by the blockade, which has prevented farmers from receiving training on new harvest handling methods.

Mr. Lomokol confirmed that efforts to seize the cooperative land were intensifying, underscoring the urgent need for intervention.

The farmers’ plea to President Museveni underscores the gravity of the situation, as they face threats to their livelihoods and the cooperative’s existence. Immediate action is required to protect their rights and preserve the integrity of the Gum Arabic industry in Moroto.

Story Source: The Ankole Times