By Olav Bjella
In its editorial, New Vision on November 9, 2005 encouraged National Forestry Authority (NFA) to surrender some of the forest reserves on Bugala Island to BIDCO vegetable oil project, on condition that an equivalent amount of land elsewhere is regazzetted as a forest r
In its editorial, New Vision on November 9, 2005 encouraged National Forestry Authority (NFA) to surrender some of the forest reserves on Bugala Island to BIDCO vegetable oil project, on condition that an equivalent amount of land elsewhere is regazzetted as a forest reserve.
NFA, under S. 54 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act has an obligation to develop and manage all Central Forest Reserves (CFRs). All forests in Kalangala are natural forests (tropical moist) which S.13(3(a) bars us from destroying, damaging or disturbing except in course of sustainable management of the reserve.
There are 12 forest reserves on Bugala Island, totalling 6.449 hectares. These reserves have all been categorized as core conservation forests. They are critical sites for biodiversity conservation largely because of their physical isolation. Two of the largest reserves, Busowe and Mugoye CFRs have been zoned as strict nature reserves, due to their rich biodiversity with some species unique to Uganda. The reserves are largely intact and all agricultural encroachment has been eliminated and the grassland patches are quickly closing due to forest colonization.
All forests at the Ssese Islands serve functions of protecting the lakeshores and contribute to stabilization of climate which is important for the development of both agriculture and fisheries.
Reserves zoned for production have the potential for long-term sustainable supply of hardwood and other forest products.
Reserves for recreation can accommodate tourism development which is the fastest growing business worldwide.
It has been stated by many that the oil palm project is simply replacing one type of forests with another.
This is of course completely wrong. Palm oil plantations are by definition not forests. Itâ€™s an agricultural monoculture crop which hardly serves any of the functions of a natural forest.
As the editorial rightly states, the Board and Management of the NFA is concerned about the overall consequences of a possible degazettement, whether it is at the Ssese Islands or in Mabira forest which has also emerged as an issue. It becomes difficult to explain to communities adjacent to some of the 506 forest reserves in Uganda that they cannot access it for their own crop while large industrial agriculture development is allowed.
NFA has registered 180,000 encroachers in forest reserves and we are committed to ensure that forests are not depleted further. The BIDCO project has rightly been described as a project that will contribute to development. So does forestry.
Uganda has an outstanding opportunity to establish a viable forest industry to supply both domestic and a substantial export industry. Millions of dollars have already been invested in forestry development, giving employment to thousands of people countrywide.
There is land enough in Uganda to accommodate both forestry and industrial agriculture development given that a viable land use policy is put in place. We should avoid targeting protected areas whenever new industrial or agricultural developments are in need of land. NFA fully respects that there are situations where the government may wish to degazette forest reserves where all other options have been exhausted.
NFA has no mandate to surrender any forest reserves. Our mandate is to manage what at any time is gazetted as forest reserves and to advice the government. If the government finds it necessary to degazette, Section 8 of the Act defines the process. Among others, before the removal of a CFR, an area at least equivalent in size, and environmental value, to the reduction shall be simultaneously declared a CFR.
Section 8(5) states that an amendment to an order declaring a Central Forest Reserve shall be approved by Parliament.
The writer is Executive
Forests, BIDCO equally important