21 February 2019

Uganda: Fire Destroys 600 Acres of Atiak Sugarcane Plantation

AMURU/GULU. An estimated 600 acres of sugarcane at Atiak Sugar Factory plantation in Amuru District have been burnt down.

The sugarcane plantation located in Gem Village, Pachilo East Parish, Atiak Sub-county, reportedly caught fire on Monday afternoon, according to local leaders.

The company is owned by Horyal Investment Holdings Company Ltd belonging to businesswoman Amina Hersi, in partnership with the local community and the government.

Mr Dan Kidega, a former East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) speaker, who is the board chairperson for the committee that oversees the sugar project, told Daily Monitor yesterday that the fire is suspected to have been started by hunters.

"Our society is still engaging in ancient activities of burning bushes while hunting edible rats (locally known as Anyeri) and burning of bushes to clear grounds for new vegetation," Mr Kidega said.

He added that some locals, with permission from the farm management, are carrying out charcoal burning in the middle of the plantation and they suspect the fire could also have been started by them.

According to Mr Kidega, they cannot also rule out acts of arson by people or competitors "opposed to the success of the project".

Mr Kidega noted fires that have been burning down sugarcane plantations have caused the company great loss and estimated that the Monday inferno cost the company about Shs2 billion.

Mr Jimmy Patrick Okema, the Aswa River Region police spokesperson, said they are investigating the cause of the fire.

The Amuru District chairperson, Mr Michael Lakony, emphasised the need to sensitise the locals on the dangers of bush burning and the factory's benefit.

Mr Lakony alleged that there could also be possibilities of revenge by some people who might not have been satisfied with the land acquisition process for the sugar project.

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