Environment conservation activists have said they are set to petition President Museveni over the giveaway of Bugoma Forest in Hoima district for sugarcane growing.
Hoima Sugar Limited was given nine square miles which was part of the forest to grow sugarcanes, a move that has not augured well, especially with conservationists and tourism enthusiasts.
Addressing journalists on Friday in Kampala Edwin Muhumuza the Youth Go Green Uganda Chief Executive Officer the forest reserve is part of the country’s eco-system that needs to be saved by every right thinking member of the society.
“This forest reserve is the lungs of the environment which are a factory of oxygen and various other important natural resources, with its rich diverse wildlife (fauna and flora). The degradation of a part of the forest for sugarcane production contravenes with the United Nations 2030 Agenda,”Muhumuza said.
“The Forest has contributed for generations to eco-tourism, climate modification/rainfall formation, provision of raw materials for domestic craft industries, construction and firewood. Young people of Uganda collectively envision forests as resources that should be managed in ways that enable continuous provision for the needs of current and future generations.”
The Youth Go Green CEO said whereas the country already has enough sugarcane in areas like Busoga, their existence has not directly translated into wealth and prosperity in those areas.
“We have witnessed cases of food insecurity, labour exploitation and increased poverty level among the sugarcane growing communities. Recently sugarcane farmers in Busoga demonstrated after failing to find market for their sugarcane and opted for Kenya whose border points were also closed. There has been an increased inter-human and wildlife conflict due to encroachment around the immediate sugarcane plantation in Bunyoro an issue yet to be addressed.”
“In this way, the forests would serve all people by providing food, water, shelter, energy and employment to the youth. Bugoma forest should be maintained as a spring for inspiration to the youth, spirituality and culture and as a result, protect nature, the climate and ultimately sustain life.”
According to Jackson Muhindo Rukara, the Resilience and Climate change Coordinator at Oxfam Uganda, the last option now is petitioning President Museveni for his intervention into the matter.
“Previously, we sought clarification from NEMA, National Forestry Authority and Parliament about the matter. We now want the President’s intervention to clarify on the giveaway by NEMA and the terms of the licence. We want to know whether the giveaway is not in contravention of the laws of the country,” Muhindo said.
Hoima Sugar Limited recently said they would protect the buffer zone and the forest’s ecologically sensitive areas but Muhindo described it as lies.
“We believe that, the development not only will violate the mandate accorded to NEMA in protecting the environment, it further highlights weakness in the institution as a custodian of the environment on behalf of the citizen of Uganda. It is on this ground that, we seek the the project be called off as the country struggles to address the global climate change impacts and increasing biodiversity loss,”Muhindo said.
NEMA recently cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to use the forest reserve for sugarcane growing when it issued a certificate of approval for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report.