Kikuube, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban development and National Forestry Authority-NFA has again resumed the process of reopening the boundary of Bugoma forest reserve.
This is the third time government is attempting to reopen the forest boundary. In November last year, the government through the Ministry of Housing, Lands, and Urban Development embarked on the long-awaited reopening of the Bugoma forest reserve boundary.
However, a few weeks after the start of the boundary reopening, Kikuube district officials halted the exercise citing irregularities.
The leaders then argued that NFA and the Ministry of Lands refused to engage local leaders, area residents, and a private surveyor on behalf of the local community during the demarcation exercise.
In February this year, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development again resumed the process of reopening the boundaries but the process ended prematurely after residents protested the criteria being used by the government to reopen the forest boundary. This situation also led to the boundary reopening being halted.
Now Henry Opio Ogenyi, the Assistant commissioner for surveys and mappings in the land ministry says after thoroughly engaging the relevant stakeholders and residents settled adjacent to the forest reserve, this time they are confident that the boundary re-opening will go on smoothly without any interruptions.
According to Ogenyi, currently they are engaging the neighboring communities settled near the forest reserve to work hand in hand with officials who are on the ground to kick start the demarcation process.
Peter Banura, the Kikuube LC5 chairperson is optimistic that the boundary reopening will help solve conflicts that have been emerging for a long time between the NFA and residents settling near the forest reserve.
Amlan Tumusiime, the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner-RDC calls for teamwork between the Ministry of Lands officials, NFA and leaders in the area for the process to yield fruits.
Desire Nkurunziza, the LCI chairperson Nyairongo village in Kabwoya sub-county that is near the forest reserve calls on the lands ministry and NFA officials to be transparent while executing their duties of the boundary reopening. He too demands that locals should be included and be part of the exercise.
Rose Kyalisiima, a resident of Kabwoya near the forest reserve too says that if the locals are not involved in the boundary reopening, the entire process is likely to flop again.
Covering 410 square kilometers of a protected area and a stretch of forest measuring 40 kilometers, Bugoma is a tropical forest that was gazetted in 1932. It is endowed with 24 species of mammals, 465 species of trees, 359 species of birds, 289 species of butterflies, and 130 species of moths. The mammals include monkeys, chimpanzees, buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, and at times elephants.
The forest reserve is a migratory route for wild animals and a catchment for rivers that drain into Lake Albert where oil has been discovered. The boundary reopening would help address issues that have pit residents against NFA for decades.