Siaya residents oppose leasing of Yala swamp to an investor

Residents protest plans to lease Yala Swamp currently registered as a government trust land to a private developer.

Photo credit: Kassim Adinasi | Nation Media Group.

Residents of Gendro and Kadenge in Central Alego, Siaya County, have opposed plans to lease the Yala swamp for 99 years to Lake Agro Limited.

They have threatened to boycott the August 9 polls if their demands are not met.

They said the government had duped their forefathers to move from the swamp so it could be drained.

“Our fathers and grandfathers who lived in this land were tricked into leaving the swamp because the government wanted to drain it for them,” Ochieng Ajiki said.

“They left and immediately it was drained, it was no longer the community’s property. This is community land and we will resist all the efforts to lease this land to any investor before the whole community is involved.”

He added: “We filed a case in court as a community demanding that the swamp be registered as community land. Currently, the swamp is registered as a government trust land, but there are forces pushing us to withdraw the case from court but the case must be heard and concluded in court.”

Boycott the vote

The residents also threatened to boycott voting if the government fails to heed their calls.

“We shall not vote until the land is registered as community land. Denying us this land is like denying us food. How will we vote when we are hungry?” Mr Ajiki said.

Ms Margaret Oloo, who has been cultivating the land for four decades, said the community is not against any investor coming in but insisted that investors must agree to specific terms and conditions.

“The investor must sit with the community before beginning the activities in the swamp because we must all benefit. The swamp has been the source of our livelihood. We feed, educate and earn our daily bread from the swamp,” Ms Oloo said.

In the court case, the community sought to stop any activity in the swamp before the case was heard and determined.

In March, ODM leader Raila Odinga called on area MP Samuel Atandi to sit with community leaders and have the case withdrawn and settled out of court.

“We want to have serious investments in the Yala swamp. We want to have the land put under irrigation and this will offer employment that will empower the community,” Mr Odinga said.

“Therefore, even in the case that is in court, Mr Atandi should sit the people down and have it withdrawn. We need to develop our land.”

The Siaya County Assembly in 2019 adopted a land-use plan that would segment the swamp into three portions.

The first would be leased to investors in order to empower the community, the other would be used for wildlife conservation and the last would be left for the community to cultivate. The plan is gathering dust in the county offices.

The swamp was leased to Dominion Farms in 2002 for 25 years but the investor left before the time elapsed. Lake Agro is the new investor in the land.


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