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Friday,September 18,2020 16:36 PM

Mabira's hidden treasures

By Vision Reporter

Added 30th January 2013 06:44 PM

IT used to be a home for small bodied people with large heads. This was probably a human pygmy race that used to roam the expansive Mabira Forest located east of Kampala.

Mabira's hidden treasures

IT used to be a home for small bodied people with large heads. This was probably a human pygmy race that used to roam the expansive Mabira Forest located east of Kampala.

By Gerald Tenywa
  
IT used to be a home for small bodied people with large heads. This was probably a human pygmy race that used to roam the expansive Mabira Forest located east of Kampala.
 
Also known as nakalanga, according to Buganda folklore, the pygmies were hunters and gatherers. They were driven into extinction at the beginning of the last Century after an outbreak of lake flies locally referred to as embwa. 
 
According to 80-year old Ahmed Muwoya, a local hunter at Ssese village, Najjembe subcounty he used to encounter the pygmies during hunting expeditions when he was still in his teens. The devastating flies caused migration leaving behind the hapless pygmies.    
 
Although, disheartening the demise of the nakalanga is one of the stories awaiting visitors at the evening campfires at the edge of Mabira Forest Reserve in Wasswa village. It is part of the “menu” crafted for intending visitors at a camp site sitting not far from the Griffin Falls along River Musamya that washes through Mabira. 
 
“It is part of the rich cultural heritage of Mabira,” says Robert Kungujje, the secretary of Mabira Forest Integrated Communities Organisation (MAFICO) adding that though the history of Mabira is locked up in mysteries, the legendary stories have been told over generations. 
 
In the last five years, according to Kungujje the Small Grants Programme under the United Nations Development Programme has invested $70,000 to help harness the tourism potential at Griffin Falls and also promote community development. 
 
“The tourism potential at Mabira is immense,” says Kungujje adding that there are many tourism products waiting to be harnessed.  
 
Griffin Falls Campsite follows in the footsteps of the $1.5m Mabira Eco-lodge built by the Alam Group of companies near Najjembe trading Centre. 
 
Rich cultural heritage, biological diversity
 
Apart from the rich cultural heritage, Mabira used to house large mammals such as elephants which disappeared in the late 1950s or early 1960s. While unconfirmed reports claim that buffaloes could be still living in the strict nature reserve of Mabira believed to be the heart of the forest, scientists recently discovered an endangered monkey, the Grey cheeked mangabay living in Mabira.  
 
It also harbours the Nahan’s Francolin, an endangered bird. Other birds encountered in Mabira previously are 315 in total. The medical plants prunus Africana (ntasesa) -used to treat prostate cancer, warbugia ugandensis (mukuzanume) with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and citrosis (ligwalimu) used for treatment of impotence) are part of the 312 plant species in Mabira. 
 
Mabira key to River Nile and  electricity generation
 
Mabira is considered as a catchment area for two big rivers, Sezibwa and the Nile. It is also located between two big lakes Victoria and Kyoga. Because of this, the World Bank and Government of Uganda entered into an agreement tying down Mabira to conservation.
 
It was also observed that while Mabira was recovering from previous encroachment, the areas outside Mabira had lost most of the forest cover. In the agreement it was also agreed that Mabira should be expanded and funding provided by Government and its partners to manage Mabira and the areas outside. 
 
At the end of this decade, Uganda is likely to plunge into what water experts describe as water poverty. This, according to Dr. Callist Tindimugaya, a commissioner in the Directorate of Water development in the Ministry of Water means that there will be less than 1,000 cubic meters of water per person per year, which is described as the ideal amount of water available to an individual. 
 
“The demand for water is increasing because of population increase and the available water is being polluted,” said Tindimugaya. 
 
“The wetlands will dry up and the lakes have reduced amounts of water. We cannot speak of fisheries or hydroelectric power if there is no water.” 
 
Environment a security matter 
 
Although the country’s collective Vision for 2025 talks about, a “Prosperous People, Harmonious Nation, Beautiful Country,” little is being done to secure the environment. And because of this Uganda is losing its forest cover at a rate of 2% annually amounting to 892,000 hectares.
 
 According to FAO, countries like Rwanda where the forest cover is increasing have improved in their policies, laws and invested more for foresters to engage the local population to conserve nature and plant trees. 
 
Godber Tumushabe, the head of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment points out that the ecological integrity particularly the environment that drives the county’s food basket and the forests together with wetlands that feed water bodies with water should be placed at the same level as state security. 
 
“Poor people without resources and hit by environmental disasters are ungovernable,” says Tumushabe. 
 
Change of land use is not a wise option
 
While the Mabira give away to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) is being considered to address sugar shortage in the country, a study on the economic valuation of Mabira shows that such a proposal is a miscalculation.
But if SCOUL increased its productivity to match Kakira and Kinyara then the expansion of the sugarcane scheme into Mabira would not arise, according to a new report.
 
The report entitled Economic Valuation of 7,186 hectares of Mabira Central Forest Reserve proposed for the land use change or outright degazettement,” says if SCOUL produces at Kakira’s rate of productivity then the demand for land would reduce to 5,496 hectares.
 
SCOUL’s demand for land could reduce further to 4,988 hectares if SCOUL produces at 120 metric tonnes per hectare as proposed by a study by the Africa Development Bank.
 
Another scenario is that SCOUL could also improve its sugarcane conversion from 8.4 to 10 like Kinyara. If this is achieved, the land demand could reduce from 7,186 hectares to 6,036 hectares.
 
By increasing the productivity of land as recommended by the African Development Bank study together with increased sugar conversion, SCOUL’s demand for additional land could reduce by 5,038 hectares leaving an outstanding need of only 2,148 hectares. This, according to the report, could be obtained elsewhere and Mabira be left alone.
 
The report was done by a team led by Dr. Yakobo Moyini (R.I.P) as the lead researcher four years ago. The study was commissioned by Nature Uganda, a non-government organisation and partner of BirdLife International.
 
Other researchers included a biodiversity specialist, an agricultural economist, a forest inventory specialist, a natural environment economist and a policy analyst.
 
Apart from the results of the economic analysis, the report questions why the Government, “appears to place an apparently greater focus on SCOUL, the least efficient firm in the sugar industry.”
 
 

 

Mabira’s hidden treasures

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