Bugoma Forest Reserve boundary opening resumes

KIKUUBE– Government through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, in partnership with the National Forestry Authority [ NFA ] has resumed the process of reopening the boundary of Bugoma Forest Reserve measuring 14,114 hectares.

This is the third time the government is attempting to reopen the boundary of the forest found in Kikuube district. In November last year, the Ministry of Housing, Lands, and Urban Development embarked on reopening the forest reserve boundary.

However, a few weeks into the exercise, Kikuube district officials halted the exercise citing irregularities.

The leaders blamed the NFA and the lands ministry for carrying out the exercise without engaging the local leaders, area residents, and a private surveyor on behalf of the local community during the demarcation exercise.

In February this year, the Lands ministry, 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.

The Lands ministry and NFA officials last Friday in Kikuube district sensitised the stakeholders including district officials, Bunyoro Kitara kingdom leaders, and the communities before surveyors began their work of opening the boundary.

According to Henry Walter Opyene, the Lands ministry spokesperson said that the exercise would last three weeks and after which the report would be submitted to the cabinet for guidance.

He said that the boundary opening for the forest was ordered by the cabinet in 2019 following several demands by the local community, civil society organisations, and people claiming ownership of land in the forest.

According to Opyene, there are over 20 groups claiming part of Bugoma forest reserve, adding that businessman Francis Atugonza, Hajji Mustafa Zaidi of MZD Agencies, the family of late Ohuhereza Mazirane, Hoima sugar Ltd, TULIPONA Veterans Association, Haji Shaban Bitarabeho, and communities among others, are part of the people claiming land in the forest.

He noted that all the concerned stakeholders were engaged before the exercise started, adding that the ministry was optimistic that they would complete the exercise without facing any hiccups.

Juliet Mubi, the NFA spokesperson said that NFA is funding the exercise, noting that the cabinet in 2019 directed the Ministry of Water and Environment to open the boundaries, with the help of the Lands ministry.

She added that the forest boundary is 186 kilometres, adding that surveying of 80 kilometres of the forest boundaries was recently completed, with the remaining 48 kilometres being worked on.

Charles Nyabongo Okyaki, who represented Chief Prince, Fred Mugenyi Rucunya [Okwiri] at the exercise said once the boundary opening gets completed it will end the long-time conflicts between different groups and NFA.  He added that Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom will also be able to get a clear picture of its land.

Dezideriyo Kaheru, one of the residents adjacent to the forest reserve explained that he was excited about the exercise, adding that once completed it will end the fight between NFA and the locals.

He noted that the locals are always harassed by NFA personnel who accuse them of encroaching on the forest land.


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