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Tension as NFA surveys forest boundaries

By: Ronald Tumusiime

Kibaale: The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has started a survey to ascertain the boundary of all forest reserves in Kibaale District amidst protests from some encroachers.

The exercise was approved by the High Court.

Late last year, the High Court in Kampala, directed NFA to halt all evictions of encroachers before boundaries of the forest reserves are surveyed to ascertain claims by sections of the people that NFA wanted to irregularly include their land in the forests.

“We have sensitised all encroachers about the ongoing exercise of opening boundaries and there is hope that they will maintain peace and order so that our surveyors do their work since it benefits both government and the encroachers,” said the Kibaale Resident District Commissioner, Mr Adrian Mbabazi.

While addressing encroachers in Kangombe Forest Reserve recently, Mr Mbabazi said government had provided sufficient security to the surveyors deployed for the exercise.

Kibaale District has 16 central forest reserves with a total area of 25,511 hectares.

Both the protected forests and private natural forests are under immense pressure from people who are harvesting timber, opening fields for farming and settlement while others make charcoal.

Mr Bruce Amanya, the NFA sector manager, Kagadi, said they had stopped opening of new fields by farmers since it would jeopardise the exercise of surveying the forest boundaries.

NFA recently completed survey of boundaries of forest reserves in Kyegegwa and Kyenjojo districts.

Mr Amanya urged residents and leaders to support the exercise if it is to be completed in time.

He is optimistic that the exercise will last not more than four months. Most forest reserves in Kibaale are reportedly occupied by Rwandan and Congolese nationals.

The indigenous residents also encroached on the forests, accusing government of failure to evict immigrants. Degradation and extinction are threatening Uganda’s forests.

The NFA Executive Director, Mr Michael Mugisa, recently told district councillors that Kangombe has lost more than 70 per cent of its forest cover. Environmentalists estimate that Kibaale lost approximately half of its forest cover from 1990 to 2005.

CONCERN OVER DEFORESTATION

Kibaale has over 16 forest reserves. According to NFA, all the protected forests have been encroached on.

Bunyoro loses about 700 hectares of forest cover annually according to NFA. According to the 2009 National Environmental Management Authority’s (Nema) report, in 1990 Uganda had more than five million hectares of forest cover but by 2005, only 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) remained.

Nema warned that If deforestation continues at the present rate Uganda will have lost all its forested land by 2050.

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