Agriculture Ministry Officials Fault Sand Mining Companies
Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture have distanced themselves from issuance of fish farming permits to investors on the shores of Lake Victoria.
While appearing before Parliament’s Natural resources committee on October 27, 2016, the officials said they have not issued any permits, commonly known as aquaculture certificates, to large scale fish farmers in the Lwera wetland belt.
The committee, which has been investigating over ten companies on grounds of illegal sand mining fishing, learnt from Joyce Ikwiput Nyeko, the acting Commissioner Aquaculture Management in the Ministry of Agriculture that the companies which have been purporting to conduct fish farming, must stop their activities until their permits are sorted.
The Lwera wetland sits on an expanse on the shores of Lake Victoria cut across the districts of Kalungu and Mpigi.
Some of the companies which claimed to hold fish farming permits include Capital Estates Limited, owned by a businessman, John Ssebalamu and Aqua World Limited, linked to city pastor Samuel Kakande of Synagogue Church of All Nations in Kampala.
During a meeting with the MPs last week, lawyers of Capital Estates Limited claimed that they had a valid fish farming permit endorsing their activities.
However, Commissioner Nyeko disputed this. She further explained that Aqua World Limited, which is under probe over illegal sand mining activities, did not have a comprehensive cage fish farming plan, complete with structures to set up a recommended fish farm.
“The illegal fish farms must be closed and we expect our colleagues from NEMA to act urgently,” Nyeko said.
Committee chairman, Alex Byarugaba however wondered why the ministry has not been monitoring the fish farming projects around Lake Victoria, noting that degradation of the wetlands would have been avoided if they had visited the sites regularly.
Commissioner Nyeko explained that the ministry has been grappling with limited finances that have hampered their monitoring role. She said the ministry relies on district fisheries officers however this has also not helped due to finances.
The ministry is currently drafting regulations that will guide the fisheries sector, including guidelines on cage fish farming in wetlands.