“We are moving systematically. If we had resources we would have completed our work in less than two years."
PIC: National Forestry Authority officials and others inspecting Mabira forest reserve to assess the enchroachment at the closure of celebrations to mark the Water and Environmental Week.(Credit: Noah Jagwe)
An official from the National Forestry Authority (NFA) has said the people's concern theat the Mabira forest reserve faces extinction are genuine.
Levi Etwodu, the director of natural forests at NFA, said Uganda cannot afford to lose a natural resource as important as Mabira.
The natural area is being encroached on by people.
Etwodu said NFA is running on a budget of sh30bn yet the optimum amount of money needed would be sh100bn for operations to restore the depleted 4,500-hectare Mabira forest reserve.
Part of the budget would cater for staff recruitment and purchase of patrol vehicles.
Etwodu said that at 300, the number of staff, as well as logistics, is too low to manage the task at hand to the desired level.
“We are moving systematically. If we had resources, we would have completed our work in less than two years,” Etwodu said of the ongoing efforts to restore the degraded Mabira forest reserve.
This was during activities marking the Water and Environment Week that included Meteorological Day, Forest Day and Water Day.
Etwodu said the rate at which the country is replanting trees is very minimal compared to the domestic requirement.
“We are planting not more than 2,000 hectares of forest. As a country, we need 200,000 hectares of forest cover," he said.
The need for timber is still high, Uganda needs 6,000 cubic metres of sawn wood for various purposes. "All thise is expected from trees," Etwodu said.
NFA manages 506 forest reserves countrywide. There are still other reserves that have not been managed.
Mabira sector manager Ojja Michael (right) reading the mabira forest reserve map to NFA officials. (Credit: Noah Jagwe)
Meanwhile, the World Bank has funded the process of restoring about 1,500 hectares.
Mabira forest, which covers an area of about 74, 000 acres, is said to be the only natural forest in central Uganda.
Alternatives are important for Mabira's survival.
"Without alternative livelihoods for those living within and closer to the forest reserve, even if we put soldiers in place, we would be wasting time. We need to make sure we have private plantations to secure Mabira," the NFA official said, adding that the programme to protect the forest is very comprehensive.
He promised to cancel illegal land titles that have been acquired in the forest land.
So far, NFA has established beekeeping as an alternative source of livelihood to the communities in the area to benefit from the conservation of the forest.
Paul Buyerah Musamali, NFA's acting executive director, said the incursion on Mabira reserve is not as wide as the media portrays.
He said culprits are interested in the parts on the edge and not the central area.
Musamali, however, admitted that sensitising the communities about the importance of keeping the natural resource intact remains a challenge.
NFA is opening up the boundaries of about 300km and replanting trees along after demarcation following consultative meetings with local leaders and residents.
The forest has 58 villages as private property and 15 enclaves.