With the continuous encroachment and other illegal activities carried out in and around Bugoma central forest reserve in Hoima district, NAPE has teamed up with National Forestry Authority (NFA) to harness sustainable management solutions to conserve the reserve.
NAPE facilitated a stakeholders’ meeting that was attended by the communities through Collaborative Forest Management groups to find out challenges, threats and sustainable solutions to the management of Bugoma forest reserve.
During the meeting between Collaborative Forest Management groups with NFA that was held in Kabwoya Sub County headquarters in Hoima district on Wednesday (31st. May), there were counteraccusations on who is fueling illegal activities in the reserve.
The communities were blaming some forest authorities for allegedly bowing to bribes from timber and charcoal dealers which leaves the role of reporting illegalities by communities irrelevant.
“We believe some NFA officials especially the patrols and forest supervisors have connections with those who carry out illegal activities. When we give information to them, they immediately alert the suspects to hide instead of taking action. This has demoralized us as communities," said Annet Agaba, a resident of Kidoma village in Buseruka Sub County.
Tabu John a resident of Kisaaru village in Kabwoya Sub-County also blamed some of the authorities of exposing whistleblowers which puts their life at risk.
“There is no coordination between communities and NFA. Some of our colleagues have been killed while others live under numerous threats in the name of protecting the forest because those whom we entrust with our information end up letting us down,” he noted
On the other hand, NFA faulted Collaborative Forest Management groups for allocating plots to cultivators in the forest reserve and cutting down trees in disguise of protecting them.
“Some individuals in the forest management groups have turned to be threats to the forest. Some allocate plots,” said Francis Madrama, the Kisindi Sector Manager.
However, the parties agreed to collaborate in managing the forest with the communities playing their role of reporting all the illegal activities and the authorities taking action on suspects.
The Range Manager for Budongo systems, Stuart Maniraguha urged the communities to jealously protect the forests adding that the impact is much felt by them. He also urged them to report NFA officials that are involved in the illegalities.
During the stakeholder meeting that was held at Hoima Resort Hotel on Thursday (1st June), the Hoima Chief Magistrate, Emma Sayekwo promised to prosecute whoever is brought to court on charges of destroying the environment for others to learn.
“Cases to do with environment, I prefer to take them on personally for my own satisfaction to achieve my role as a magistrate. Someone who is in conflict with the law, I have to make sure you are in prison for not less than one year so that by the time you come back; you will have known that depriving other people’s rights is not good. As stakeholders we all need to take action to ensure that the forests are conserved.”
Joan Akiiza, the NAPE legal and Advocacy officer said NAPE will collaborate with stakeholders on environment to find threats and ways of protecting the forest and if possible do petitions to parliament if the threats persist.
“Such interfaces with communities on ground as well as stakeholders help us to identify where the problem is as well as getting solutions. NAPE will work in a collaborative way to see the threats posed to the forest and how we can conserve it. We can even petition relevant authorities if the threats persist,” she said.
The reserve is threatened by high rate of agriculture, timber cutting and political interference according Mr. Madrama.
Early this year, the former Hoima Municipality Mayor, Francis Atugonza was arrested after clearing 239 hectares in Bugoma forest reserve claiming to be of the Ababyasi clan. Bunyoro Kingdom is also in court with NFA claiming to own 5777 hectares of land under Block 2 of the forest reserve in Kyanwali Sub County Hoima district.
Early last year, NFA opened the boundaries of the reserve that sits on 41,142 hectares to reduce on boundary conflicts and encroachers.
STORY COMPILED BY PRECIOUS NATURINDA