The National Forest Authority has rolled out a campaign of evicting people illegally occupying government forest reserves around the country to allow the forests regenerate naturally and save the country from future negative impacts of climate change.
The campaign follows President Museveni’s directive to evict people threatening the forests by clearing trees at an alarming rate. “We have successfully evicted encroachers in districts of Kyegegwa and Kyejonjo. We now want to roll it out to Kibale and Kagadi and the rest of the country,” Mr Reuben Arinaitwe, the NFA natural forests coordinator told the Daily Monitor on Friday while opening boundaries of Matiri Central Forest Reserve.
He said that using success stories from the areas where evictions have taken place, they set up task force committees comprising of technical and political leaders of a given district to start sensitising the encroachers, give them deadlines to leave the forest voluntary and later move in to pick those who have resisted and take them to courts of law. “We are also opening boundaries of these forest reserves and place clear marking boundaries like those Uganda National Roads Authority put to name road reserves.
Mr Robert Owiny, NFA Acting range manager – Muzizi River Range said that conflicting forest boundaries, dubious sale of forest land by connmen to unsuspecting members of the public, influx of immigrants from other districts who end up settling in the forests, weak law enforcement by government and some negative political interventions are the leading causes of forest encroachment.
“Nearly all the forests in Muzizi River Range sector faced serious encroachment by the local communities and immigrants from Kamwenge, Mubende, Kisoro, Kampala, Kabale and Ibanda districts after illegally acquiring forest reserve lands with the help of local people by January last year,” he said.
Cultivation to blame
He added that cultivation has been the most notable cause of encroachment and is heavily associated with charcoal production from the trees felled during land opening. Mr Norman Birungi, the Kyegegwa District Chairman last year revealed that about 10,000 encroachers had settled in the district main forest reserves of Rwensambya, Buhungiro and Ibanbara posing serious threats to the district forests.
Mr Gilbert Kadilo, the NFA public relations Manager said they have successfully evicted encroachers from Ibambara, Buhungiro and are in the process of evicting encroachers from Matiri Forest after a court ruling on a case were encroachers sued NFA for unlawful eviction from their ‘ancestral’ land.