Agilis Partners, the largest company growing maize and oilseed in Uganda denies that it has displaced people in Kiryandongo District.
This follows a report released on 25 this month that three companies including Agilis, Kiryandongo Sugar and Great Season SMC evicted 35,000 from their land to pave way for the establishment of their farms.
The report released by GRAIN, Witness Radio and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty also states that in the course of eviction, many people were injured and arrested by the UPDF, police and private security firms.
But in its statement dated yesterday (Wednesday) 26 this month, Agilis-the leading exporter of grains from Uganda to the East African region says it has never ever evicted anybody from its land but it has focused on empowering the communities in which it invests.
The statement says the previous reporting contained lies that were an abomination to the Kiryandongo based company.
The company adds that in 2017, it purchased Ranch 20 and 21 in Kiryandongo from private individuals before developing it into maize and soya bean farms.
“Agilis has never purchased land from the Government of Uganda or received land from the Government of Uganda. Allegations to the contrary are false. Furthermore, Agilis has never evicted anyone. Agilis’s legal advisers, in consultation with the impacted community, local government and national government, determined that the occupants of the said land were living on it illegally,” the statement reads in part.
“Rather than evicting them, Agilis worked with community leaders to develop a humanitarian compensation and resettlement plan for all of the illegal occupants. Extensive consultations with the leaders of this community occurred between June and December 2017. The company generously compensated the individuals who voluntarily accepted to leave the property. Though Agilis was not legally mandated to compensate them, the company did not want to negatively impact the livelihoods of its community members,” it adds.
Agilis says to determine the compensation rates and ensure that the illegal occupants were leaving voluntarily and not forcefully, it undertook a digital census, registered all occupants of the land and the assets they owned before a legal counsel reviewed the census outputs and reconfirmed that no individual could claim legal ownership or access to the land.
The statement adds that a surveyor confirmed the assets that each individual owned, determined the valuation of the assets by referring to the Kiryandongo District Local Government Valuation Rates which set out the valuation for assets.
Agilis says if the individual agreed to the compensation proposed, an agreement for the compensation was executed between the occupant, the Local Government, an advocate, a representative of Agilis, and a translator, where necessary adding that if the individual did not agree to the proposed compensation, the individual could object through a formal redress process or choose to remain on the land.
“To this day, eleven households remain on the land because Agilis and those households have not agreed to a final compensation rate. As a company recognised internationally for sustainability and community empowerment, Agilis followed international standards for illegal occupant resettlement,” the statement adds.
Again, the company explains that given the scale of the project and the local and international scrutiny they receive, if the purported allegations were true, there would be evidence of violent evictions.
“The claims to the contrary are false. The land that Agilis has acquired pioneers conservation agriculture in Uganda including zero-tillage, multi-crop rotations, integrated weed management practices and integrated pest management practices, which are transferred to local smallholder farmers through trainings,” the company says, adding: “These practices help smallholder farmers increase their yield, preserve soil fertility and restore soil health.”