KIKUUBE – The continued destruction of Bugoma Forest Reserve by Hoima Sugar Limited has stirred a heave of anger among farmers in the western district of Kikuube.
Angry local communities recently launched the Save Bugoma Campaign. The campaign, according to Desire Nkuruzinza, head of the aggrieved communities, has already garnered 15,000 signatures to shore up a petition to President Museveni – urging him to intervene and stop the destruction of Bugoma forest, the only source of rain for their farms.
In 2017, Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom offered a 99-year lease to Hoima Sugar Limited, to grow sugarcane on about 22 square miles. But the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA found that 13 of the 22 square miles were in a wetland and forest reserve and therefore unfit for sugar plantation.
Nkuruzinza said they are currently drafting a petition, which the group plans to present to the president, Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, the Minister for Environment, religious leaders and NEMA.
He said the communities need the president to order Hoima Sugar Limited to stop cutting down the forest for sugarcane growing.
He said clearing the forest is a disaster because it is likely to cause hunger due to the resultant change in rainfall patterns.
Hassan Mugenyi, the campaign’s focal person, said the community is opposed to the give away of the forest because its benefits to farmers outweigh those of sugarcane growing.
Mugenyi said Bugoma Forest is a habitant for different wild animals, medicinal plants and also harvests rain for the entire Bunyoro region.
Its continued destruction would have adverse effects for the community, he said.
“Due to the ongoing destruction of the forest, wild animals such foxes, chimpanzees, snakes and baboons have started invading our homes and farms, one month ago four people were attacked and injured by foxes, which has never happened before,” he said, adding that several plantations of cassava, bananas, maize and beans have been destroyed.
Kaahwa Katusabe, a farmer in Kaseta parish, Kabwoya Sub-County, said farmers depend on this forest for rain since they have no irrigation system in the area.
“We as farmers cannot allow this forest, which gives us rain for our farms, to be cut down to plant sugarcane, we are going to suffer because we shall never see any harvest again if this forest gets destroyed,” she explained.
Dickens Kamugisha, the Executive Director of African Institute for Energy Governance-AFIEGO, said the community’s fears are genuine and urged leaders listen to the people.
Recently lawyers sued the government for approving a private company to clear parts of a natural forest for sugarcane growing.
Pheona Wall, President of Uganda Law Society (ULS), said in a statement that they seek to have the civil division of the High Court in Kampala to declare null and void a decision by NEMA to allow Hoima Sugar Limited to clear 5,500 hectares of Bugoma Forest Reserve in the mid-western district of Kikuube for sugarcane growing.
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