Forestry officials raise red flag on increased encroachment
Posted Monday, March 18 2013 at 02:00
The National Forestry Authority (NFA) officials are worried about the increasing encroachment on Matiri-Rwibaale Forest Reserve in Kyenjojo District and others, saying it is a recipe for disaster.
The NFA officials, who were on a fact-finding mission in Kyenjojo on Friday, said there are conmen selling forest land at between Shs200,000 and Shs500,000 per acre to unsuspecting people, who have cleared the forest for cultivation. About a quarter forest land has been encroached on this year alone according to NFA officials. The forest covers 5,431 hectares.
Mr Amon Rutenta, a surveillance officer in-charge of River Muzizi Forest Reserve said hectares of land have been cleared and people use the trees for timber and burning charcoal. “We have so far arrested some and managed to impound about 1,000 pieces of timber from these people in the period between January to March,” said Mr Rutenta.
The forestry officials alleged that encroachers and conmen are mostly from Rwanda and other neighbouring countries.
However, some locals have mobilised to avert the crisis. Mr George William Musabe, said he had rallied 300 residents to check encroachment. “We as the neighbouring residents, we are working together to protect the forest reserve but we are overwhelmed because conmen have created smooth environment to grab government land, we shall never ever accept any grabber to take our forests” Musabe said.
President Museveni last month ordered the eviction of about 10,000 people illegally occupying government forest reserves in the neighbouring Kyegegwa District. The directive followed reports from the district leaders that encroachers were clearing trees at an alarming rate.
They claim unscrupulous people are selling forest land cheaply to unsuspecting farmers.