The Ministry of Land and the National Forestry Authority-NFA have resumed the boundary reopening of Bugoma central forest reserve in Kikuube district.
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.
They argued that NFA and the ministry of Land refused to engage local leaders, area residents, and a private surveyor on behalf of the local community during the demarcation exercise.
Wilson Ogalo, the commissioner of surveys and mapping in the ministry of lands, housing, and urban development says after settling the disputes that had emerged when they started the boundary reopening in November last year, they have embarked on the exercise.
He says the boundary reopening will take two weeks and calls on area leaders, and residents to cooperate with the team on the ground.
Ogalo says after fully reopening the forest boundary, they will avail the ministry of Land, NFA, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, and leaders with a report of the survey.
Amlan Tumusiime, the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner-RDC has challenged the surveyors to equally work with the leaders and residents to ensure transparency.
Desire Nkurunziza, the Chairperson LCI Nyairongo Village says people settling adjacent to the forest reserve should be part of the boundary reopening. He wants the community to first be consulted before the boundary reopening kicks off.
In 2016, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom leased 22 square miles to Hoima Sugar Limited. The sugar factory leased close to 22 square miles of the contested Bugoma Central Forest reserve land from the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom for sugarcane growing for 99 years.
However, the National Environment Management Authority -NEMA found 13 of the 22 square miles, unfit for a sugar plantation and recommended their preservation since it’s a wetland and forest reserve.
As a result, NEMA allowed Hoima Sugar factory to cultivate sugarcane on the remaining 9.24 square miles covering the grassland, establish an urban center on 1.26 square miles, an eco-tourism center on 1.97 square miles, and restore 3.13 square miles of the forest reserve.
They also recommended the preservation of another 0.156 hectares for the cultural site and 6.17 square miles as a natural forest.
However, several conservationists have opposed the move, saying the giveaway is not only a threat to the ecosystem and endangered species but it is likely to hurt tourism activities, which are a source of revenue for the local communities and the country.
Bunyoro Kitara has since explained that the land that was leased to Hoima Sugar is not part of Bugoma forest but the Kingdom’s Ancestral land that is adjacent to the forest reserve.