Thursday July 17 2014

Hoima sets up team to crack down on forest encroachers

Officials from the police, UPDF, National Forestry Authority and Bunyoro

Officials from the police, UPDF, National Forestry Authority and Bunyoro Kingdom assess the level of encroachment on forest reserves in Hoima District on Tuesday. Photo by Francis Mugerwa 

By Francis Mugerwa

Hoima- Hoima District authorities have set up a task force that will evict encroachers from all 11 central forest reserves in the district.

The deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr Ambrose Mwesigye, said the forestry and environmental task force will also prosecute those doing illegal activities in the forests.

“The force will also curtail illegal timber dealings in central forest reserves as well as investigate and prosecute those involved in illegalities in the forestry sector,” Mr Mwesigye, who is the task force chairperson, told the Daily Monitor shortly after chairing the inaugural meeting.

The team comprises officials from the police, UPDF, Bunyoro Kingdom, National Forestry Authority (NFA), and local government officials

At the meeting, security officials expressed concern about the activities of unidentified people who are settling in forests and setting up structures there.
However, the Kyangwali Sub-county chairperson, Mr Omuhereza Mazirane, told the meeting that thousands of residents of Ngurwe, Katikara, Wairagaza, who live adjacent to Bugoma Forest, are in fear of being evicted.

“There are no clear boundaries of the forest which can be used to irregularly annex community land to the forest,” Mr Mazirane said.

Mr Mwesigye, however, said the task force will also open boundaries of forest reserves and wetlands.
He cautioned politicians against frustrating efforts of the task force in a bid to protect their electorates who have encroached on protected sites.

NFA recently accused army veterans of encroaching on Bugoma Forest Reserve and escalating the destruction of one of Uganda’s remaining natural forests.

The NFA sector manager, Mr Stuart Maniraguha, said army veterans are clearing land for cultivation and setting up temporary structures in the forest.

The Midwestern Regional Anti-Corruption Coalition (MIRAC), a regional anti-corruption agency, which is implementing a forestry governance project, has raised a red flag about the activities of the ex-servicemen in forests in Bunyoro sub-region.
Mr Maniraguha said NFA is reviewing all threats that are facing forests in the district. He said a joint team of NFA, Bunyoro Kingdom and security officials were recently shocked to learn that some communities living adjacent to the forests, which were authorised to support conservation, were instead fuelling destruction.