Over 310 acres of Bujawe forest cleared for tobacco growing, charcoal

Over 310 acres of Bujawe forest cleared for tobacco growing, charcoal
Bujawe Forest Reserve has been destroyed | Alan Mwesigwa

Officials say they have been intimidated into a damp corner and can now only watch as the forest that was a catchment area for River Wamababya

ENVIRONMENT | A total of 310 acres of Bujawe Forest Reserve  in Hoima District have been cleared for tobacco, maize, beans and charcoal burning activities.

Security forces here say they have been intimidated into a damp corner and can now only watch as the forest that was a catchment area for River Wamababya in Kayera Village, Buseruka Sub-county, is depleted.

Thirteen kilometers from Buseruka town off Hoima-Kaiso road is Buyera village that houses Bujawe Forest Reserve. While the name sounds big, what used to be a forest is an open garden plantation that has been cleared by ruthless people for Maize, beans, tobacco and charcoal burning activities.

Bujawe, covering 50 square-kilometres - or 310 acres - has been depleted with the clearing still ongoing.

The Hoima Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Michael Kyakashari, has been left wondering how woodland that only two months ago looked impenetrable has all gone down.

Hoima District leaders assess the damage inside the forest reserve

"This is really impunity, we were here two months ago and we failed to visit most of these places because it was thick," Kyakashari said during a visit to the offended woodland with a delegation from the district.

"Look how the entire place has been cleared, and we are told the person behind bringing these people is Simon Mugenyi Rwese. We have to look for him, if he fails to turn up on our sermons then we will order police to look for him."

Kyakashari noted with concern that most of the times they come for enforcement they get threats and intimidations from people asking them to back off if they still want [to keep] their jobs.

"So they want us to sit and watch as they clear the natural resources with the adverse effects well known, when we come they call threatening that we will lose our jobs," he said.

"With this kind of depletion of nature, we are not scared anymore. If it means bringing the President in a chopper to see how forests are being destroyed we will bring him."

The Hoima District Ratural Resources Officer, Joseline Nyangoma, said they did not know that such was happening until they were called by the RDC.

"When I got a call from the deputy RDC to come and inspect I had to come, I'm personally surprised about this, we are going to come here and bring our surveyors to assess the extent of damage," she said.

Ms Nyangoma said 310 acres destroyed was too much, especially because River Wambabya catchment is destroyed with it.

"All the water streams have dried up, this needs immediate attention," she noted.

Bujawe Forest Reserve also a catchment for river Wambabya where Kabalege dam is built, thus it's extinction may affect the operations of the dam.

Ms Nyangoma though acknowledges the need to work as a team with leaders from local council.

"We want to perform but we can't be everywhere as the district council, so when we don't get information [from those on the ground], it becomes hard for us to know what is happening," the environmentalist said.

"I want fault the councillors, LC1, 2 and 3 who I believe knew about all this but kept quiet."

This comes at a time government is intentional on forest cover restoration campaign, but it looks like an uphill task as people especially in rural areas continue clearing trees, not even heeding to guidance of cut a tree and plant five more.

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