In a bid to protect the Forest reserves across the country, conservationists have appealed to government to embark on boundary opening and marking for these Natural resources.
The National Forestry Authority (NFA) sector manager for Kagadi region that covers six central forest reserves in Kibaale district asked his superiors in government to ensure boundary marking in order to protect the forest reserves from being encroachers.
The forest reserves are currently under attack by neighboring communities for purposes of cultivation and timber harvesting.
The concern to protect the Uganda’s Forest reserves is very significant because it links with the ecology system and people’s right to clean environment, not to mention the adverse effects of the climate changes that can cause food insecurity.
Now the National Forest Authority sector manager for Kagadi, Charles Arian has pleaded with higher authorities to urgently provide funds for boundary marking of the six endangered forests.
According to Arian, the authority staffs have tried their best in enforcing the laws for the protection of forests but they are limited by the absence of forest boundaries. He said that the encroachers have taken advantage of the absence of these boundaries to cut down the gazette forests with impunity.
A well qualified surveyor should be attached to each gazetted forest to undertake boundary marking to serve forests across the country, Arian suggested.
The call comes as the Uganda joins the rest of the world to mark the World Forest Day (on Saturday 21st march 2015) under the theme Forests and Climate Change.
Arian said that currently the National Forestry Authority Officials are incapacitated because the forest reserves have no clear boundaries.
While on the guided tour to the depleted forest, Arian showed reporters the open area within the forest reserve that is cleared for cultivation, stressing that the hand of the NFA staff hands are tied.
“This boundary must be opened. And once it is opened we would know exactly where the boundary line passes and those who are on the reserve land would be told to go out but as of now the boundaries are not clear so our hands are tied”- Arian said .
He adds the when the encroachers are got into the area, they claim that they never knew that they were operating in government land since the forest reserve has no boundary. And in fact even the Forestry official him/herself can’t show them that this is the boundary because they also have no evidence, says Arian
Kagombe and Ruzaire the most deforested reserves in Kibaale district,
When asked the extent of the damage, Arian said that when you look at Kagombe forest Reserve, the damage is almost 50%, half of the forest is gone due to agriculture.
He explains that 50% of Kagombe Central forest has been cleared by encroachers for both timber harvesting and Cultivation.
Uganda loses 92,000 hectares of forest cover annually exposing the country to harsh climate change conditions hence the need for Environmental conservation.
It is reported that over 700 people have encroached on Kagombe Forest. Some of these encroachers are leaving in the forest reserve while others have slashed acres of Kagombe forest reserve for cultivation of crops.
Meanwhile during an on spot operation to stop such illegal activities in Kagombe forest, Vincent Byakaaka was arrested while clearing a section of the forest in preparation for the next planting season.
According to Arian, Byakaaka is one of the many who have abused the court order that stopped fresh clearance of the forest. Arian observes that many people have continued using the areas in the forest where they have always been cultivating from.
“And when we arrest such people who are cutting the forest, again it becomes a problem, there is a gentleman called Kinusu who interferes when he gets to know that we have arrested people for cultivating in Bujogolo area, he takes it to be that we are doing a wrong thing… yet they are the ones expanding agricultural activities into the forest”
Policy analysts in this sector have expressed dismay over how lack of coordinated efforts has frustrated forest protection.
The deputy Executive Director Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment ACODE Onesmus Mugyenyi said that the lack of coordination of efforts has also undermined the institutional capacity to manage the forest estate and ensure full implementation of the laws.
“we have this encroachment challenge and we have got mixed signals, today we are talking about eviction, then tomorrow there is another government voice which will say do not evict and, so that poor governance of the sector has continued to allow illegal activities taking place in the forest, this must be addressed.”- Mugyenyi