By Umaru Kashaka
THE National Forestry Authority (NFA) has requested government to provide it with sh32b to re-survey forest boundaries and mark them with permanent pillars to stop forest degradation.
The call was made by the NFA executive director Michael Mugisa during a meeting with the parliamentary committee on natural resources over the 2014/15 budget.
Mugisa said that in terms of forestry management there are approximately 1,200,000 hectares gazetted forest reserves managed by NFA, but a significant portion of these reserves estimated at 30% are degraded.
“This money will help us to target 12, 000km of boundary cutline. NFA strives to invest in plantation of 2,500 hectares per year while maintaining the existing and subsequent young forest crops. Notwithstanding the current non tax revenue can support establishing of only 1,000 hectares of new plantations per year,” he explained.
Mugisa stressed that they will continue to implement a phased approach to sustainable forest management through improving low stocked and degraded natural forests using the landscape approach.
“We will also strengthen the policing to protect forest reserves against illegal activities and ensue that people vacate forest reserves,” he told the committee chaired by Bungokho South MP, Michael Werikhe.
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.
The MPs heard that both the protected forests and private natural forests continue to face immense pressure from people who are harvesting timber, opening fields for farming and settlement.
NFA proposed to step up the supply of free and/or susbsidised tree seedlings, support private initiatives in production of tree seedlings, sensitise land owners to plant trees as a means to generate income and promote afforestation on bare hills.
The MPs said where forest boundaries have been altered, they should be restored through negotiation with the concerned communities to avoid conflict and hostility that have continued to characterize the work of government agencies charged with conservation of natural resources.
“A lot of encroachment is a result of failure to appreciate the role of forestry in the social, economic, and environmental spheres. Therefore a lot of effort is needed to sensitize encroachers and all other stakeholders,” the Kaberamaido Woman MP Florence Ekwau said.
The Kitgum Woman MP and shadow minister for water and environment Beatrice Anywar asked the Solicitor General to gazette the forestry regulations which will improve forestry planting, forestry research, collaborative forest management, regulation of private and community forest reserves and trade in forest products in Uganda.
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.