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Uganda loses 2,000 acres of forest cover to UNHCR project

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Adjumani district will lose over 2000 acres of forest cover in Itirikwa sub county to give way for the establishment of a commercial farm for refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHCR.

Deputy Prime Minister General Moses Ali, the National Forestry Authority (NFA), Adjumani district leaders have been alarmed by the United Nations’ move to remove over three square miles (2000 acres) of natural forest and create a commercial farm for refugees in northern Uganda.

UNHCR has so far cleared more than 180 acres of the 380 acres planned for planting food crops for refugees and their host communities in Adjumani district in the first phase this year.

The land was offered by Piros Santos Erwaga, a native of Adjumani. It is densely populated with indigenous tree species like the shea, mahogany and mvule, that are reportedly facing extinction.

The farmland which is located at Aliwala village in Mungula Parish Itirikwa sub county is situated about 15 kilometers away from Adjumani town, it lies in the belt of Zoka central forest reserve which is the district’s only tropical forest.

The project which was launched on Monday has however alarmed Deputy Premier General Moses Ali, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Adjumani district leaders all of whom are concerned over the risk of environmental degradation.

General Moses Ali says that the mass destruction of the trees for the commercial farm will lead to adverse climate change and loss of the district’s greenland.

He noted that UNHCR and the district must plan for alternative means of protecting the forest much as the need for food among the refugees and their host communities is also important. Ali added that the risks of losing forest cover in the district is high since many other illegal loggers have intruded and actively destroyed parts of Zoka forest for commercial purposes.

Joel Boutrue, UNHCR Chief of Mission in Uganda on the other hand noted that the district and partners implementing the farm project should consider replanting the lost trees lest the district risks suffering harsh weather conditions.

Robert Owiny, the West Nile region range manager for NFA, pins environmental concerns and the need to address environmental degradation because of the importance of the biodiversity.

He noted that the farm management should not destroy all the trees but should also integrate trees into the farm blocks adding the NFA will work with the partners to seek alternative methods of maintaining the forest.

The Adjumani district leadership, NFA and UNHCR disclosed that a meeting will soon be convened over the looming threats to the forest which has been worsened by indiscriminate and illegal lumbering.

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