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Security deployed to guard Masaka forest reserves

MASAKA– Uganda People’s Defence Forces [UPDF] officers and Environmental Police have been deployed to protect three forest reserves of Manwa, Jubiya, and Mujuzi in Bukakata Subcounty and Namirembe Forest Reserve in Kyanamukaka Subcounty along the shores of Lake Victoria in Masaka district.

This comes after loggers and charcoal burners encroached on the forests, depleting some of the sections as they cut down trees.

Masaka District Forest Officer, Willy Bbaale says the district is endowed with 34,822 hectares of forest cover, but 60 percent of gazetted forest reserves have been degraded by loggers and cultivators. ”It is unfortunate some people connived with local leaders from village level to sub-county and acquired land titles in the forest reserves,” he said, adding the rampant destruction is caused due to the high demand for charcoal, timber, and land for pineapple growing.

He said 4527 acres of trees in Jubiya Forest Reserve have been cut down. Manwa lost 3456 acres and Mujuzi Forest Reserve had 2545 acres of forest cover destroyed by loggers and cultivators.

”The environmental destruction has resulted in drought spells and unpredictable rains affecting other agricultural activities like coffee growing and bananas” he said.

Masaka District Police Commander, Moses Nanoka said Environment Police and UPDF soldiers are patrolling the forests and get rid of encroachers.

He said during the crackdown operation three loggers were arrested and 2,000 timber was impounded and taken to Masaka Central Police Station. Also, 300 pineapple growers who encroached on Mujuzi and Manwa forest reserves in Bukakata Subcounty and Namirembe forest reserve in Kyanamukaka Subcounty have been ordered to vacate the forests.

The Nationa Forest Authority [NFA] sector manager in charge of Masaka region, Mildrid Nafuna said in September 2021, the district authorities and NFA in partnership with the private sector launched a campaign of planting indigenous trees in the depleted forest reserves.

”We also introduced agroforestry practices and gave out tree seedlings to farmers to plant and recover the hundreds of hectares of natural forest” she said, adding that only 150 acres of the depleted forests have been planted with indigenous trees.

Bukakata Sub-county Chairman, Aloysius Jjuuko said his council come up with by-laws geared towards sensible use of forest products and environment protection but he blamed NFA for denying organized groups of residents to be leased some forests to plant trees but instead allowed individual businessmen to plant eucalyptus trees which spoils the soils.

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