By Guest Writer
Opinion: On Friday, November 3,2023, the media reported about the police arresting three suspects over encroaching on Bajo Central Forest Reserve in Bbaale sub-County-Kayunga district. The police that arrested the suspects were working with the National Forest Authority (NFA).
More so, the National Forest Authority’s legal manager, noted that the three people that were put under arrest were part of a big gang of people who had cleared about 50 acres of the forest to grow sugarcane, a factor that prompted them to intervene.
In Uganda, there have been a number of cases of forests being cleared. For-instance the Mabira forest reserve which is located in Buikwe district between Lugazi and Jinja is one of the affected forests. In addition, the Bugoma forest reserve that is situated southwest of Hoima and northeast of Kyenjojo towns and east of lake albert in the western Uganda, has also not been spared.
The situation of Bugoma forest is worrying to the extent that the environmental activists and some Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had to advocate for the forest to be turned into a national park. This is because the Hoima Sugarcane Limited had cleared the big part of the forest to grow sugarcane.
Besides, the forests have been cleared to pave way for illegal activities such as charcoal burning and timber logging which have resulted into prolonged drought, floods, rampant human-wildlife conflicts and the abuse of community’s rights including right to food, right to life among others.
The effects are becoming drastic because the importance of forests have become underrated. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicates that the forestry cover has shrunk from 45% in 1980 to the present 20.3% of the total land area in Uganda.
Now that the minister of water and environment, Mr. Sam Cheptoris, has been tasked by National Forestry Authority (NFA) to make a report on all the districts with forest reserves, there are hopes that once the report is produced, the authority will use it effectively to deal with people who have stubbornly encroached on forests of national importance.
On behalf of Inclusive Green Economy Network-East Africa (IGEN-EA), a network of over 36 CSOs and private sector, we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the National Forestry Authority (NFA) office for its efforts towards conserving the forests.
More so, for supplying tree seedlings to communities most especially in the oil host communities including Kyakaboga village in Buseruka sub-county in Hoima district. There is no doubt that the planting of the tree seedlings by community members, will aid in provision of shade as well as in mitigating climate change effects.
The author is Hildah Nsimiire, a concerned citizen
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