By Geoffrey Mutegeki
The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has signed a conservation agreement with the communities living around Budongo forest.
Budongo is one of the largest forests in Uganda with an area of 82,500 sq/km. It covers parts of Masindi, Buliisa and Hoima districts. Illegal logging is particularly rife in Rwengabi in Masindi district, while charcoal burning is spread across the three districts.
A collaborative forest management (CFM) agreement was signed between NFA and four groups around Budongo Central Forest Reserve (BCFR) on Tuesday, at Nyabyeya Forestry College, Budongo sub-county in Masindi.
The groups include Kapeeke Intergrated Community Development Association (KICODA), North Budongo Forest Community Association (NOBUFOCA), Nyakaseke Environmental Conservation and Development Association (NECODA) and Budongo Good Neighbours Conservation Association (BUNCA).
Reuben Arinaitwe, the NFA natural forests co-ordinator, said the agreement is aimed at getting these groups to plant more trees on the boundaries of the forest, promote tourism, conduct joint patrols and fight illegal timber harvesting.
“The importance of CFM is to solve conflicts and this gives ownership of the forest to the community. These forests are yours not for NFA manage them properly. They are helping you and your future children. Conserve them,” Arinaitwe said.
Rennie Naguti, the Budongo forest range manager, said illegal logging was still a big problem.
“Illegal timber cutting remains a big challenge. And without the support of stakeholders, we may not do much,” said Naguti during the meeting.
He said a lot of encroachment has taken place.