- Published on Wednesday, 28 December 2011 11:45
- Written by FINNIGAN WA SIMBEYE
- Hits: 16501
FRUSTRATED Rufiji Delta paddy rice farmers whose huts and coconut trees were destroyed by Mangrove Management Project officers last October in a bid to evict them from a forest reserve can continue farming but the issue of getting compensation is unsettled.
“What I know is that they have been allowed to continue with cultivation of rice while also replanting mangroves on their rice fields,” Coast Regional Commissioner, Mwantumu Mahiza told ‘Daily News’.
The RC however said if there is any talk of compensation for the 390 plus farm huts torched by MMP employed youths during the violent evictions of the farmers, she was unaware. “I don’t think there will be any compensation,” the former Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training, said.
100 coconut trees were also chopped down in the brutal exercise which was supervised by armed policemen. MMP Project Director, Zawadi Mbwambo declined to comment anything saying he is on holiday. “You better get in touch with the Project Manager at Kibiti,” Mr Mbwambo said.
Last week ‘Daily News’ visited the delta and found farmers registering their names and size of their farms with village authorities in a bid to allow organized cultivation of rice. The impoverished farmers whose staple food is rice said they will need food handouts next season as their farming activities have been disrupted by the torching of their farm huts used for sleeping and guarding against wild animals and birds which destroy their rice.
“They have disrupted our farming activities for next season, we will need government food handout to survive,” said 76 year old Swalehe Jongo Nkwela whose house is hardly 50 metres away from his 2.5 hectare paddy rice field which MMP claims in mangrove reserve forest.
He said he spent a lot of energy plus not less than 300,000/- cash to construct his hut off the wet ground over three years ago but now that he is frail and old, putting up a similar structure is impossible. With a population of 10,000 people, Salale ward which comprises of three villages of Nyamisati, Kiomboni and Mchinga-Mfisini, Rufiji delta has the largest mangrove forest in the country.
Authorities argue that the residents have invaded the forest reserve conducting rice farming unabated since 1970s but the
villagers argue that they have been living and farming in the area since time in memorial. “We have been living here since German colonial days, my grand father lived here and used to farm at Paje in 1920s,” argued 65 year old Muhisin Mohammed Mapande.
Mr Mapande said he acquired his four hectares farm in 1983 after relocating from Paje because of erratic rain fall and salty soils. Nyamisati village which is squeezed in between two forest reserves of the delta, was registered as a socialist village number 305 in 1972.
But conservation experts argue that over the past 20-30 years human activities have destroyed 5,000 hectares of mangrove forests. “We are evicting them from the forest reserve which they invaded, we have not torched anybody’s house at the village,” Mr Mbwambo said last October when the forceful eviction took place. Paddy rice farmers use farm huts between March and June when they plant, weed and protect their fields from destructive animals.