The Government has allocated funds in this year’s financial budget to demarcate the boundaries of the forest this will go a long way to address the unanswered questions regarding Bugoma.
By Joan Akiiza
Bugoma forest measuring approximately 41,414 hectares is at the verge of destruction to be replaced by sugarcane plantation and yet Uganda is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and REDD+ an international mechanism to mitigate climate change, with the aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to deforestation and forest degradation.
REDD+ goes "beyond deforestation and forest degradation and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Important to note is that the country is year after year experiencing a worsening climate characterised by diminishing forest cover and yet the president has come out over and over again to condemn acts of environmental degradation pertaining to wetlands, swamps, lakes forests among others, but what is happening on the ground is completely different.
According to NPA (2019), there is a significant reduction in the forest cover from 15% in 2010 to 9.5% in 2017.
Degradation of forests and wetlands has been attributed to the increasing population, high demand for plantation agriculture such as sugarcane, oil palm plantations, and charcoal among others.
With a court ruling that declared Bugoma forest owned by Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and ordered for the withdraw of all security forces guarding the forest, this pauses danger to the status of this tropical forest and will give leeway to Hoima Sugar to convert the forest into a sugarcane plantation.
Much as courts have declared the forest to be owned by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, we appreciate there are user rights that accrue from land tenure rights, but the question remains as to whether conversion of the forest into a sugarcane plantation is the best option that can serve the interests of the people especially in this era of climate change and the oil & gas activities within the Albertine Region.
The Government has allocated funds in this year's financial budget to demarcate the boundaries of the forest this will go a long way to address the unanswered questions regarding Bugoma.
In this regard, the Government should intervene and save this forest from destruction as such efforts will be contributing to the National Biodiversity Strategy and action plan II, allocate some other free land for the sugarcane plantation and save the forest.
A specific call is made to the different Government agencies such as National Forest Authority (NFA), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Ministry of Water and Environment and the parliamentary committee on natural resources to dialogue with Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, MZ Agencies and Hoima Sugar Ltd to ensure that this forest is saved from destruction.
The writer is working with the National Association of professional environmentalists (NAPE)