MOVE TO SAVE BUGOMA FOREST FROM BEING TURNED TO A SUGARCANE PLANTATION
The civil society organizations and the tourism fraternity have come out to express their dis-satisfaction towards the decision of replacing close to 22 square miles of part of Bugoma central forest reserve with a sugarcane plantation.
Bugoma forest which is home to close to 500 chimpanzees (10% of the Ugandan Chimpanzee population), over 221 bird species, the Ugandan mangabeys (Endemic to only this forest therefore a unique treasure) among other primates is said to have been sold to Hoima sugar factory Ltd by the Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara kingdom Dr. Iguru Solomon Gafabusa.
Since August 2016, a legal battle has been on going in Masindi high court between National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Bunyoro kingdom. The case came to an end on 25th April 2019 with the kingdom obtaining victory and there after obtained recognition of their legal ownership of part of Bugoma forest.
The Bunyoro kingdom officials issued a leasehold to Hoima sugar works particularly to Zaid Mustapha (MZ Agencies) on 20th Sept. 2018, it is said that a grader was impounded after having tried to clear the said forest.
In a press conference held in Kampala, Benedict Ntale (Vice Chairperson – Association of Tour Operators) said “what is at stake is – we expect the area to lose weather patterns, drop in tourism revenue, losing habitats, the integrity of the forest and what it offers to the people and water catchment.”
Ntale adds that Eco-tourism development started only in 2016 and is bringing revenues for about shs. 20 million to National Forestry Authority
Bugoma central forest reserve with 411 sq km of protected area is the largest remaining block of natural tropical forest along the Albertine rift valley playing a big role in the remaining wildlife migratory corridors.
“Lets save our natural forest, We need to build for our future – the weather patterns have changed, the environment is all intoxicated.” Hashaka Edision- regional commisioner, Uganda Scouts Association expressed his concern,
He added “if we don’t rise up, if we don’t speak then who will?”
The conservations put up recomendations saying “Bugoma forest must be protected as it is, the government of Uganda should with immediate effect intervene to reassure the protection of Bugoma forest and reassure the investments in eco-tourism and income sharing with communities and stakeholders to invest more.”
“We have filed an appeal, and we hope that whoever is going to handle this appeal should have a bigger picture in consideration of the country.” Onesmus Mugyenyi – ACODE
Costatino Tessarim, who operates Bugoma jungle lodge, a hospitality facility around Budongo forest says “Currently, a tourist pays 25-60$ to see the Uganda mangabeys which exist only in Uganda, and chimpanzee goes for 90$ and we hope it will increase with time.”
“we are worried about what will come next after the forest is no more. We are suprised to see that other upcoming investors are discouraged and ours also being threatened.” Costatino added.