Thursday, July 2, 2020

Press release: launch of Save Bugoma Forest Campaign 2020, "Forest Life Matters"


June 26, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kampala, Uganda
CSOS & TOURISM ACTORS CALL FOR AN END TO BUGOMA FOREST DESTRUCTION BY LAND GRABBERS, LAUNCH THE INITIATIVE “FOREST LIFE MATTERS”
Press Conference 26 June 2020
The civil society organizations (CSOs) and tourism associations listed below met today to launch the initiative “FOREST LIFE MATTERS”. The CSOs and associations are working under the coalition, Save Bugoma Forest Campaign 2020.
The objective of the FOREST LIFE MATTERS initiative is to strongly object against the current attempt to destroy Bugoma forest by land grabbers for sugarcane growing, other destructive projects and to remind stakeholders that Bugoma is an important ancient tropical rainforest with ecological, climatological and socio-economic importance. Notably, the forest is a sanctuary for chimpanzees, an endangered species.
Despite the above, two companies, namely Hoima Sugar Ltd and MZ Agencies, are in the process of cutting down over 10,000 hectares of the forest for sugarcane growing.

On March 10, 2020, MZ Agencies obtained a court order to chase away National Forestry Authority (NFA) and UPDF soldiers that were guarding Bugoma Forest. The NFA and UPDF were protecting the forest from being destroyed for sugarcane growing and other land grabbers. On May 14, 2020, all security personnel guarding Plot 115 Nyangabi and Plot 105 Nyaigugu, which make up part of Bugoma forest (Nkwaki South sector), left. Consequently, up to 100 MZ Agencies workers started cutting down over 2,000 hectares of Bugoma forest. This happened even before determination of the main case that NFA filed to prevent destruction of the forest in the High Court.

Before this, on December 3, 2019, Hoima Sugar Ltd and Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom got a favorable ruling from the Masindi High court ordering NFA and her agents to stop guarding the contested part of the forest (Muhangaizima sector of Bugoma) for Hoima Sugar to use the said land as it wishes. In the appeal, NFA requested that the status quo of maintaining Bugoma as a forest is preserved. However, the judge ruled that the applicant, NFA, failed to prove that there is a threat to the status quo but NFA’s prayer was rejected in favor of Hoima Sugar to cut down the forest.
Today, Hoima Sugar Ltd has approved Terms of Reference (ToR) from NEMA and is in the final stages of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process that may pave way for a certificate of approval from NEMA to commence destruction of Bugoma forest. There is no reason why NEMA, the country’s overall environmental regulator is processing tools to allow land grabbers to destroy a central forest reserve at a time when the project land is still being contested in court. Why NEMA is not working with NFA to defend and protect the national forest remains a big question.
Converting Bugoma forest into a sugarcane plantation among other land uses that are not compatible with forest conservation is not only illegal but is also a danger to the environment and to humanity. The CSOs and tourism associations that are launching the FOREST LIFE MATTERS initiative today are calling upon government and the land grabbers including the above companies to stop the destruction of Bugoma forest. We are also making the following demands:
Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, Spokesperson
1.      Land grabbers remain a threat to Bugoma forest amidst ongoing court cases:  It is sad that threats to Bugoma forest have continued to increase at a time when there are cases in court. In 2019 cases against Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Ltd were being fought. Today, MZ Agencies has also emerged to destroy Bugoma forest. Yet government has said that the lease title given to Hoima Sugar in 2016 was cancelled. Why did court reject NFA’s prayer to maintain the status quo of the forest until the main case was determined?  Unfortunately, despite the case in court, Hoima Sugar Ltd continues to claim ownership of 8,000 acres of Bugoma forest and are holding a court allowing them to use the contested land even before final determination of the main appeal. We request that the status quo is maintained until final judgements are made.

2.      Investigate court rulings which were given in favour of land grabbers and cancel all the illegal titles: the NFA and government have continued to lose court cases against land grabbers who are determined to destroy Bugoma forest. As was earlier noted, NFA has lost cases to Bunyoro Kingdom, Hoima Sugar Ltd and MZ Agencies. This is unfortunate. Government should investigate the Bugoma forest court processes to ensure that the court losses are not as a result of corruption where some court officials may connive against NFA. Moreover, too many actors, including cabinet ministers and judges, seem to have forgotten that Bugoma forest, with an area of 41,144 hectares, was gazetted by the Parliament of Uganda under Statutory Instrument No. 63 of 1998.  The Parliament of Uganda has never changed this gazettement, therefore all the titles are illegal and must be cancelled.

3.      Investigate and prosecute all government officials who processed the land titles in parts of Bugoma forest: Bugoma forest is part of a long list of protected areas for which land titles have been processed by the lands office under the Ministry of Lands and the Uganda Land Commission. The titles have been issued to private investors. These illegal actions are being facilitated by corruption in government offices. It is necessary that the perpetrators of these illegal actions are prosecuted and if found guilty, be punished.

4.      Enable public access to cadastral maps of the boundaries of Bugoma:  The NFA and government should immediately make public all the relevant cadastral maps regarding the boundaries of Bugoma forest and its catchment areas.  Under Article 41 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution, citizens have a right of access to information including information on protected areas such as Bugoma forest. The maps will help citizens determine the boundaries of Bugoma forest, which are under dispute for easy protection.

5.      NEMA’s approval of  Hoima Sugar Ltd’s ESIA ToR is in bad faith: Further, while NFA is in court fighting land grabbers who have taken over Bugoma forest, NEMA, a government agency charged with regulating and promoting environmental conservation efforts, is going ahead to process Hoima Sugar’s ToR and ESIA applications. The role being played by NEMA is more of a political one as opposed to the technical role that the authority should play. This is unacceptable. Government agencies must work together to promote conservation.

6.      Publicize ministerial and parliamentary reports on Bugoma forest: For the last five or so years, both government and parliament have either failed or ignored to release the investigation reports regarding claims of land ownership of Bugoma forest by Bunyoro Kingdom. Government should publicize these reports to enable the public understand the progress made to stop destruction of Bugoma forest. The reports are also important for the cases in court.

7.      Operationalize draft ESIA regulations to guard against illegal projects: The Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) should urgently consult the public, complete and operationalize the 2019 draft ESIA regulations. The new regulations should provide against commencement of any ESIA process for a project that is subject to court proceedings and/or is being investigated by government and surrounding communities have not been consulted and consented.

8.      Government should give Bugoma forest a chance to develop its full potential for eco-tourism and conservation-related activities. Currently all licenses, permits, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and contracts for Bugoma forest are on hold pending all the cases in court. This has greatly damaged private sector investments in eco-tourism, accommodation and other activities aimed at increasing tourism in Bugoma forest. The activities started in Bugoma only in 2018 with introduction of nature walks and need to be strengthened, not weakened. The ecofriendly private project developers in Bugoma forest need to be reassured of the rule of law and about the fact that Bugoma is and will remain a tropical rainforest of high biodiversity importance. The forest should not be degraded for sugarcane plantations. It should be noted that currently, Uganda earns over $1.6 billion in revenues from tourism per year. Destroying Bugoma forest will lead to loss of these revenues at the expense of Ugandans, especially local communities.
 
From right: Benedict Ntale, Joshua Rukundo, David Kureeba, Aggrey Malinga, Venex Watebawa, Cynthia Nantumbwe, Joshua Mutale, Dickens Kamugisha.
9.      The people of Kikuube district, local leaders, smallholder farmers and other businesses in the area of Bugoma are tired of years of uncertainty of their landscape and their environment. People are tired of seeing the arrogance of land grabbers that want to make them victims and impoverished on their own land. For many years, the communities have suffered intimidation, attacks and evictions of smallholder farmers. The land grabbers are using sensitization meetings held at community level to tell lies to communities about how sugarcane development will benefit communities and yet we know it is a curse. We demand an end of abuse of community rights.

10.  Oil activities attracting more land grabbers: It is clear that the new oil sector in the Albertine Graben that has led to construction of roads and other facilities in and around protected areas including forests, national parks and reserves, wetlands, around lakes and rivers, etc are a major cause attracting all politically, economically and corrupt people to acquire titles and destroy protected areas. This is what is called the oil curse and it is sad that it has started in Uganda even before commencement of oil exploitation.

11.  Government should use its land acquisition powers under Article 26 of the Constitution to save Bugoma forest and its catchment areas from land grabbers. Considering the importance of Bugoma forest, we call upon government to use its compulsory land acquisition powers to save Bugoma forest. This should be done as a last resort after all other options including cancelling the land titles in Bugoma forest have been exploited. However, the practice of compensating people who illegally acquire titles over Bugoma forest and other protected areas should be discouraged as it will worsen corruption and destruction of environment in Uganda.

12.  Once again, we would like to reiterate that FOREST LIFE MATTERS and we call on every citizen to stand up and protect Bugoma forest from destruction.                                                  
ENDS

#SaveBugomaForest
#ForestLifeMatters

For more information, contact:

·        Dickens Kamugisha – Tel: 0782407085
·        Benedict Ntale – Tel: 0772151904
E-mail: bugomacampaign@gmail.com

Friday, March 13, 2020

PRESS RELEASE: LAUNCH OF RUN FOR NATURE 2020




13 March 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE: LAUNCH OF RUN FOR NATURE 2020 – “SUGAR FREE FORESTS”


Today, the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest (ABCF), together with partners and sponsors, launches the fourth edition of Run for Nature, under the theme "Sugar free forests and the beekeeping project". Run for Nature is an annual event organized on the occasion of the International Day of Forests; this year the Run will take place on 29th March 2020, from Rivonia Hotel in Robert Mugabe Road, Mbuya, Kampala.
From Left: Mayor of Nakawa Balimwezo Ronald Nsubuga, Officer European Union Campodonico Beatrice, Ambassador of Italy Mazzanti Massimiliano, Marketing Head UTB Natukunda Sandra, Chair ACBF Tessarin Costantino
The theme intends to raise interest and investments for livelihoods alternative to sugar cane, in the case of Bugoma Forest and elsewhere. The proceedings of the Run in fact will support the implementation of the beekeeping for the farmers in Kikuube District. The idea is to provide training and equipment to 10 leading farmers and establishing a honey processing plant, which will attract more revenue locally as well as market for the honey. The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest will directly implement this project and run the honey processing plant in partnership with the farmers’ association. The overall cost of the project is 33,300,000 Ugandan Shillings.

Like in the previous editions, the Run brings together conservation, environment and tourism sector, with recognition by institutions like the Ministry of Water and Environment and the Embassy of Italy in Uganda. This year, the European Union has joined the partnership through the co-sponsorship of the Run.
The main partners of the Run are the National Forestry Authority and the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB). The tourism sector is represented also by the umbrella Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) and their different associations: Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), Uganda Association of Travel Agents (TUGATA), Uganda Hotels Owners Association (UHOA).
The partners from the conservation sector are key organizations having a history of presence and commitment for the conservation of Bugoma Forest, such as the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Eco Trust. Other key partners of the Run for Nature are Slow Food Uganda and the Scouts of Uganda,

INFORMATION ABOUT THE RUN:
Run for Nature will take place on 29th March 2020 at 7 am from Rivonia Hotel in Robert Mugabe Road, Mbuya. The run is open for the registration of 5 km and 10 km for the categories of individuals, corporates and students. The Registration Points are open at National Forestry Authority, at the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, at Café Pap in Parliament Avenue and at our Association premises. The fees are 30.000 Ugx for individuals, 250.000 Ugx for Corporate with up to 4 participants and 550,000 Ugx for Corporate up to 10 participants.

The chief runner for this edition will be His Worship Balimwezo Ronald Nsubuga, Mayor of Nakawa Division Urban Council, Kampala Capital City Authority.


SPONSORS RUN FOR NATURE 2020
There will not be the Run for Nature 2020 without the support of sponsors and partners, starting from the European Union. We thank all the sponsors: Gorilla Tours, Nature Lodges, Sobetra, Rivonia Hotel, Data Net, Destination Jungle, Daniel Choudry Sales Institute, Pakuba Lodge, Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge, Liaison Group of insurance, Standard Signs Contractors, Stirling Constructions, Jibu water, Tarpo Industries

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

ABOUT ACBF AND BUGOMA FOREST
The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest is a CBO association registered in Kikuube District (former Hoima District), in 2016 with the only objective to work on projects for the conservation of Bugoma Forest. Bugoma Central Forest Reserve (CFR) is a 411km2 government forest located in Kikuube District in the Western part of Uganda on the Escarpment edge near Lake Albert. According to the biodiversity report, Bugoma is an exceptionally rich forest in terms of vertebrate fauna. Two notable bird species are Nahan’s francolin and the black eared ground thrush which are known from only another forest in Uganda, Kibale forest. Sizeable populations of about 500 chimpanzees, the endemic grey cheecked mangabey (Ugandan Mangabey) and small numbers of elephants have been recorded in Bugoma Forest. Despite its importance in biodiversity, this forest has an history of degradation, deforestation and general threat to its existence.

In 2019, the Association started to invest in eco-tourism activities in the central reserve as a way forward for conservation and for improving peoples’ perception about the forest. The project of Chimp T-Rap that from 2016 serves as a support patrolling team for National Forestry Authority, is now serving also as a guiding team for tourists. In 2019 the Association entered into partnership with the Association KASFA (Kikuube District Farmers Association). In an area of poor and small scale subsistence agriculture, agro-forestry interventions will help maintaining a food security where many farmers are encouraged to embrace sugar cane plantation, which is negatively affecting the food security, the environment of the buffer zones and the health of people in general, moreover impoverishing the household incomes.

SINCE THE PREVIOUS RUN OF 2019
Since the previous edition of Run for Nature on 30th March 2019, our Association launched the “Save Bugoma Forest campaign” in May 2019 after the High Court of Masindi in the Civil Suit number 0031 of 2016 ruled against National Forestry Authority and in favor of the Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara and Hoima Sugar. The ruling was that part of Bugoma Forest for about 5.779 hectares (Buhanguzi Block 2 Plot number 216 land at Kyangwali) is not belonging to National Forestry Authority as a Central Forest Reserve, but to Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom as restituted property pursuant Traditional Rulers (Restitution and Property) Act Cap 247 and that the land title issued on the said land on 1st August 2016 is lawful as well as the subsequent lease title issued on 5th August 2016 to Hoima Sugar LTD for sugar cane development.  

Meantime a businessman called Mr. Zaid Mustapha on 20th September 2018 was issued a land title over an area for approximately 925 hectares of natural forest (2 km per 6 km) in the name of MZ Agencies in Nyaigugu LC1, Kabwoya Sub County. In both cases a grader was sent by Hoima Sugar LTD for starting the clearance of the natural forest, but they were impounded by the Police.

Currently, the attempt of developing sugar cane plantations at the expense of Bugoma nature forest is still a threat against conservation efforts and other developments in eco-tourism. We appreciate that the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom governing body and the Government of Uganda with a cabinet directive are looking at political solution to guarantee the preservation of Bugoma Forest and that a new boundary opening exercise is being ordered to facilitate handling of cases of disputed land.

The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest has a clear message to all the stakeholders: 1) Bugoma Forest must be protected as it is, no matter where the exact boundaries of the Central Forest Reserve are or who is the owner of the land; today in 2020 we should talk about afforestation and not about deforestation, if we wish to control our health and the climate change; 2) Bugoma Forest and local communities need development, which can come from tourism and conservation related investments, which would be compromised by all the threats; 3) The Local communities need to be part of the process of development and not victims of the so called “businessmen”.








Thursday, May 2, 2019

PRESS RELEASE – SAVE BUGOMA FOREST CAMPAIGN – 2 MAY 2019


The civil society organizations, the tourism fraternity, all concerned citizens of Uganda and the whole world are here to respond to the threats faced by our natural resources, particularly Bugoma Forest in Kikuube District former Hoima District.
Background
Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, with 411 sq km or 41.144 hectares of protected area, is the largest remaining block of natural tropical forest along the Albertine Rift Valley found between Budongo and Semliki, therefore playing a great role in preserving the last remaining wildlife migratory corridors. Bugoma is home to about 500 chimpanzees (10% of the Ugandan chimpanzee population), making the forest a chimpanzee sanctuary. Among other primates, Bugoma hosts a population of Ugandan mangabeys, endemic to only this forest therefore a unique treasure. The bird list consists of 221 recorded species. Bugoma forest biodiversity surveys recorded 224 species of trees and shrubs which is higher than in any other forest in the region.
Speakers at the press conference 2nd May 2019: Onesmus Mugyenyi,
Edison Ashaka, Benedict Ntale. Moderator: Richard Kwere
High deforestation rate in Uganda has caused loss of 63% of forest cover only in the last 3 decades! This causes less carbon absorption and directly impacts the climate thus contributing to climate change. Degradation of the environment puts lives of people at stake owing to reduction of water sources, changing weather patterns and reduction of soil fertility. It is paramount for the health of all the population to maintain the existing forest cover.

However, in the last few years various threats are negatively impacting on Bugoma Forest survival and related investments, particularly:
1. The development of sugar cane plantations with the opening of Hoima Sugar Works in 2016, located next to the natural forest, crop which does not match at all with the nature of the forest habitat.
2. The issuing of land titles inside and outside the protected forest reserve, always on prime forested areas, causing encroachments with the support of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom officials and political leaders of Hoima District. Particularly, a businessman called Mr. Zaid Mustapha; on 20th September 2018, he was issued a land title over an area of approximately 925 hectares of natural forest (2 km per 6 km) in the name of MZ Agencies. On 14th October 2018 a grader was impounded after having tried to start clearing the said forest.  Later on, on 22nd November 2018 Mr. Buryahika Stephen - who happens to be the chairperson LC3 of Kabwoya Sub County, where the forest is located - was given a land title for 51.45 hectares, also in a contested forested area. The said people were having meetings in the communities jointly with Chair Person LC5 of Hoima Mr. Kadir Kirungi (one meeting was held on 27th January 2019), in which they explained that the interest of the land titles was to clear the natural forest and develop a sugar cane plantation.
3. Since August 2016 a legal battle has been going on in Masindi High Court, with National Forestry Authority accusing Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Works of illegally claiming the Muhangaizima block of Bugoma Forest for about 8.000 hectares. On 1st August 2016 a Freehold Certificate of Title was issued in the name of Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara and, subsequently, the leasehold was issued to Hoima Sugar Factory Limited. This court case ended on 25th April 2019 with the victory of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Works, who obtained recognition of their legal ownership of part of Bugoma Forest.
We would like to say that the mandate to judge over degazzetting a central forest reserve can only be vested in the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, not in any Court. We also condemn the fact that a political decision over the future of important biodiversity resources was left for four years to the judiciary. Political leaders didn’t intervene to resolve the matter.  
Insecurity of land tenure over Bugoma Forest and insecurity of the use of the land can only negatively affect the economic development in the area, the investment climate and the development of eco-tourism activities.
- Other challenges are the illegal logging and the prospective oil infrastructural development which will affect Bugoma Forest, including oil roads development, pipeline and refinery.
Hoima Sugar Works deployed 2 graders on 1st May 2019 to start clearing Bugoma Forest.
What is at stake?
1.            The conservation of Bugoma Forest in all its integrity is paramount for the livelihood of the local farmers’ communities, who are generally in support of the conservation as it is shown by the appeal they made in March 2019 when various local leaders signed the Petition to Ministry of Environment to halt the clearing of Bugoma Forest for sugar cane. Destruction and change in the use of the habitat will affect the climate, the water sources, the whole economy of the area, while in particular sugar cane will further degrade the area and increase humans / wildlife conflicts, as well as adversely affecting the soil and impoverishing local communities.
2.            The current development and investments in eco-tourism activities and tourist accommodation (Bugoma Jungle Lodge, new lodge in Mwera) in Bugoma Forest will be compromised by the destruction of the habitat and the poor image of Bugoma forest resulting from lack of rule of law. Investors in eco-tourism and conservation have much to complain about. Eco-tourism development started only in 2016 and is bringing revenues for about 20.000.000 UGX to National Forestry Authority.
3.            The chimpanzee and Ugandan mangabeys population of Bugoma Forest will be negatively affected, contributing to a poor image of Uganda in the world, as these species are internationally recognized as well as the importance of Bugoma Forest. Chimpanzee and mangabeys conservation projects are on-going with the objective to start new eco-tourism activities, which will increase revenues to the government, to the communities through sharing and more job opportunities.
4.            The conservation efforts by many organizations in and around Bugoma Forest, having various projects in tree – planting, farmers support, socio – economic supports to vulnerable communities including refugees in the area will be frustrated by a clear set back.
5.            The presence of a very dangerous sugar cane lobby, which attracted the favours of some local leaders and institutions (but certainly not the support of the people) and feels no objection in attacking a natural habitat of international biodiversity importance, will always be a threat to other positive investments in the area, investments that could create more job opportunities in a very poor socio-economic region.
6.            The degradation in the area with the prospected loss of part of the forest will trigger further escalation of degradation, further loss of habitat and endangering the biodiversity, moreover increasing the cases of all the illegalities that affected Bugoma Forest. This factor is crucial.
7.            The game played by various actors saying that Bugoma Forest has no clear boundaries, with the intention to grab both the protected forest and any other private forest does not help the solution of the problem, which is the preservation of the environment and its economic value.
8.            In the end Uganda will lose credibility in the respect and implementation of International Conventions as mentioned above.
Recommendations
1.         Bugoma Forest must be protected as it is, no matter where the exact boundaries are. An appeal must be made against the ruling of Masindi High Court with immediate effect to avoid and halt any forest’s clearing.
2.         Bugoma forest and local communities need development, which can be an opportunity when there is certainty of land use and ownership by the government of Uganda. The government of Uganda must re-establish its ownership of the entire central forest reserve without “if” and without “but”.
3.         The local communities and their leaders should be part of the process of development and not victims of the intimidations by the sugar cane lobby and their connections. National Forestry Authority must commit itself in the development of eco-tourism and income –sharing with communities, encouraging stakeholders to invest more.
4.         The Government of Uganda should immediate intervene to reassure the protection of Bugoma forest and to reassure the investments in eco-tourism and in accommodation in the area.
5.         Sugar cane development should not take place at the expense of natural resources. There is enough land in Bunyoro to accommodate sugar cane, without destroying vital natural resources. Hoima Sugar Works should desist from threatening Bugoma Forest eco-system and should desist from using local institutions and leaders to push forward its interests.
6.            Uganda should respect the international conventions and protocols on environmental conservation to which the country is signatory.
With the only objective to work on implementing these recommendation, to sensitize the public and the media, to inform the international and national communities about the dramatic danger behind the threats to Bugoma Forest, a coalition campaign is formed and launched under the name “Save Bugoma Forest Campaign”, which is the united efforts of all the organizations and associations of the conservation sector as well as the private and tourism sector.
SAVE BUGOMA FOREST CAMPAIGN

Organizations subscribing:
Uganda Tourism Association, Association of Uganda Tour Operators, Association of Uganda Tour Guides, Association of Uganda Travel Agents, Uganda Jungle Lodges Ltd, Rosaline Place LTD, Destination Jungle Ltd, NGO Uganda Coalition, Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest, Association of Scouts of Uganda, Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Joint Energy and Environment Projects (JEEP), Tree Talk Plus, Care International, ACODE, Youth Leading Environment Change (YLEC), Bugoma Chimpanzee Project, Eco-trust, NAPE.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

No way for forest encroachment: Run for Nature 2019

The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest is organizing this third edition of the annual Run for Nature on 31st March 2019, having the objective to continue the struggle to sensitize the public over urgent environmental topics and as a fund raising for the projects of the Association.
Press conference of 15th March 2019, Uganda Museum
We have been working all these years, since the start in 2014 at the time of the Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign, to understand and fight all the causes of the degradation of Bugoma Forest in Hoima District. With its 411 sq km of protected area, Bugoma Forest is home to endangered species like the chimpanzees and the Ugandan mangabeys, as well as endemic species of birds. We opened the nursery bed of indigenous tree species that helped many farmers in the area of Kabwoya sub-County (Igwanjura and Kimbugo Parishes) to plant trees and protect water sources. On 21st March 2017 in the occasion of the International Day of Forest our Association launched the ultimatum against illegal loggers and started the project of the “Chimp T-RAP patrol”, a unit of people working to monitor and discover illegalities in the protected reserve. The success of the first 2 years of this project is clear: illegal logging decreased by probably more than 60%. This results was possible thanks to the continuous involvement of communities and their leaders in the area and thanks to a strong collaboration with the staff of the National Forestry Authority. Our team leader risked his life in two occasions, attacked by illegal loggers, but he never gave up and still leads the team. No media, no television gave any tribute to these young people coming from a poor community, spending their life to protect the forest, never attempted by any corruption. That is why we remember them now here and even today they are in the forest patrolling.
Dr. Joshua Rukundo, Chimpanzee Sanctuary
& Wildlife Conservation Trust
The hope was that Bugoma Forest could become a different place than an open carpentry: a place for conservation of the biodiversity, for eco-tourism development, for new opportunities. In 2019 we are moving further on the side of the local communities, listening to their needs through their associations and organizations. They are the ones demanding for a better development in the area. We are now preparing the project for the dissemination of agro-forestry practices and the environmental education for the youth in the State Schools of Kisaaru and Nsozi. This will help addressing the problems of the co-existence between farming and the presence of a tropical forest. It is clear since 2016 that sugar cane expansion cannot bring development in the area: on the contrary it would bring soil depletion, environmental degradation and human impoverishment. Eco-tourism activities have also started on a low scale since 2016, organized by National Forestry Authority and the presence of newly open Bugoma Jungle Lodge is helping the process. However, much more should be done to organize eco-tourism activities that will attract more tourism in the forest.
Run for Nature is also this: we run together, different people from different sectors, as we also try to have a dialogue and build up a future. We take this opportunity to call the institutions of the environment, the tourism and wildlife to talk and come to better joint solutions for the protection of forests and the endangered species like the chimpanzees and Ugandan mangabeys. 
We chose the date of 15th March 2019 for our launch because today is taking place the biggest mobilization in the world against climate change. Today is “Friday for Future”, the movement of the students, who are meeting in 98 countries all over the world for 1325 events. This movement was initiated by young Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who on 20th August 2018 started to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament, demanding urgent actions to fight the climate crisis.
With Run for Nature we run together to demand actions and responses against climate change: first of all, forest protection and restoration.
Run for Nature will take place on 31st March 2019 at 7 am from Rivonia Hotel in Robert Mugabe Road, Mbuya. The run is open for the registration of 5 km and 10 km for the categories of individuals, corporates and students. The Registration Points are open at National Forestry Authority, at the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, at Café Pap in Parliament Avenue and at our Association premises.
This year the partnership for the Run once again bring together conservation, environment and tourism sector. Our main partners are the National Forestry Authority, which initiated the Run with us from the first edition; National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA); Uganda Tourism Board (UTB); Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The tourism sector is represented by the umbrella Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) and by their different associations: Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), Uganda Association of Travel Agents (TUGATA), Uganda Association of Tour Guides (USAGA).
Our partnership proceeds with the conservation organizations, like the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust. The Slow Food Uganda is also our traditional partner thanks to their work in sustainable agriculture, the protection of traditional and healthy food and knowledge. This year we are also partnering with Joint Energy and Environment Projects (JEEP) with whom the Association is intending to develop the project of the agro-forestry. The Scouts of Uganda are partnering with us, as they represent the young generations of students and youth, who through the scouts are educated to the love of nature and the active engagement in its protection.
This year the run will also involve schools and young students, because it is necessary that the message of working together for reversing the environmental crisis starts from the new generations.
We need to thank all our sponsors because they believed in us and in our projects. We thank Cassia Lodge of Busiga Hill for renewing the sponsorship; Pakuba Lodge of Murchison Falls National Park; Rivonia Hotel in Mbuya where the event will start; Orient Bank; Stirling construction company; 2 Friends Beach Hotel of Entebbe; Café Pap for renewing partnership once again; Tarpo Industries and Daniel Choudry Sales Institute.
A special thanks to the Embassy of Italy and HE the Italian Ambassador for giving the patronage to the event.

The cases of land titles over Bugoma natural forest.
The press conference address the case of the land title of Mr. Mustapha Zaid in Bugoma natural forest.
This year the topic of Run for Nature is: “No way for forest encroachment”. We would like to bring the attention of the media to the case of land titles given in the natural forest. If not stopped, the worst encroachment will take place. Our patrol discovered in May 2018 an encroachment of Bugoma Forest in the area of Nyaigugu LC1, Kabwoya Sub County. It was later on found that a businessman called Mr. Zaid Mustapha on 20th September was issued a land title over the said area for approximately 925 hectares of natural forest (2 km per 6 km) in the name of MZ Agencies. On 14th October 2018 a grader was impounded after having tried to start clearing the forest.  Later on, on 22nd November Mr. Buryahika Stephen who is the chairperson LC3 of Kabwoya Sub County (where the forest is located) was given a land title for 51.45 hectares, also in the contested forested area. The said people were having meetings in the communities jointly with Chair Person LC5 of Hoima Mr. Kadir Kirungi (one meeting was on 27th January 2019) in which they explained that the interest of the land titles was to clear the natural forest and develop a sugar cane plantation where a number of jobless people would have benefited getting jobs. This area has always been protected by National Forestry Authority even though it is not within the legal boundaries of the Central Forest Reserve.
Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom with a statement by Mr. John Musungu is also claiming that the said land belongs to the Kingdom and not to private businessmen. It is not clear whether the Kingdom claims the land for conservation or for similar interest in sugar cane plantation like the others. It is known that the area under dispute is where “Endaki z’amukama Kabalega” are situated, where Kingdom performs annual cultural norms; so we believe that the Kingdom has also a cultural interest in the preservation.
The question are: who allowed some individuals to acquire a big portion of natural Bugoma Forest and at the expense of the communities? How much was the transaction, considering the value of land in the area? Why political leaders still believe that sugar cane can be a solution for development in replacing a natural forest?
Our Association wrote to World Wild Fund to investigate over the matter. We also wrote to the Minister of Land and Land Commission with letter dated 25th February to demand the cancellation of land titles issued on Bugoma Forest
The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest urges all stakeholders, political leaders, the conservation agencies, the tourism sector as a whole to intervene for the ultimate protection of Bugoma Forest. We ask the media houses to play their role and inform the public about this threat.
1.    Bugoma Forest must be protected as it is, no matter where the exact boundaries of the Central Forest Reserve are. Today we should talk about afforestation and not about deforestation.
2.    Bugoma Forest and local communities need development, which can also come from tourism and conservation related investments and this would be compromised by the continuation of these threats in conservation and by the biggest encroachment in history, for about 976 hectares of land.
3.    The Local communities need to be part of the process of development and not victims of the so called businessmen.
We will run on 31st of March to say no way for forest encroachment, no way for climate warming, no way for Mustapha Zaid to destroy 925 hectares of natural forest for sugar cane.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Flyer Run for Nature 25th March 2018 by Association for Conservation of Bugoma Forest


PRESS RELEASE LAUNCH OF RUN FOR NATURE 2018 – 13 MARCH 2018


We invite the media houses to this press conference for the launch of the second edition of Run for Nature in 2018, organized by the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest on 25th March, in the recurrence of the International Day of Forests which is on 21st March.


Background about Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest (ACBF)
The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest (ACBF) is an environmental membership association, not for profit, registered in 2016 in Uganda (Hoima District), with the main aim of helping the protection and conservation of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve and surrounding areas in Hoima District. The Association is built on the experience of the Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign which was launched in 2014 and among other activities we organized the first edition of Run for Nature in September 2014, when about 220 people run. The proceed of the Run was invested in a tree planting project of 3 acres inside Bugoma Forest reserve in partnership with National Forestry Authority.
The Association meets every year at the Annual General Meeting where members elect the governing body or Executive Board. The current chair person of the Executive Board is Mr. Costantino Tessarin.
The association relies on donations, sponsors of good will for meeting the costs of the activities and for this reason we have a fund raising campaign called “The chimpanzee go!” whereby handicraft items and t-shirts are sold at different selling point (particularly in the properties of Uganda Jungle Lodges) and the proceeds go to the Association. We also have an Italian cell based in Bologna which operates as a point of sensitization and collection of donations.
This year the second edition of Run for Nature has the objective of providing funds for the current main activities of the Association. We believe in the “magic of doing” and not in the “magic of talking”: as others talk but don’t do, us we are doing concrete things and we do it with very limited resources.
Specifically the projects we need to support are the following:
1)            Management of the public nursery bed. Open in July 2016, located in Nyakafunjo (Kimbuga Parish), Kabwoya Sub-County (Hoima District), it provides free indigenous tree species to the community around Bugoma forest where need is great. About 20 families have benefited for more than 7.000 trees in exchange with our monitoring, training on good practices, attention to protection of water strings and agroforestry. The nursery is also serving as the basis for the prospective tree – planting projects in the area. The nursery is employing 3 people.
2)            Chimp T-RAP Private Patrol. This is a private patrol project started in March 2017 on the occasion of the celebrations of last year International Day of Forests which was done in Mwera eco-tourist site in Bugoma Forest. A team of 5 people is enrolled under the Association to support the protection of the forest in collaboration with the staff of National Forestry Authority, which leads to proper observation in the forest and gain intelligence of the encroachers and any illegality. This project is very crucial, due to lack of sufficient patrolling staff from the government. The patrol made steps in tackling part of the recurrent illegal logging in Bugoma Forest. Some resources were also allocated for legal support for the cases open at Hoima Police Station, some concerning attacks (on 21th July 2017 and 3rd November 2017) and threatening violence against our team.
3)            Sensitization programme in schools. The Association is planning to start a sensitization programme with 3 primary schools in the area (Kisaru Primary School, Kaseeta Primary School, and Nsoozi Primary School), schools located in the communities around Bugoma Central Forest Reserve. The programme has the objective to prepare activities with children to explain forest biodiversity, conservation and ecotourism. Many of these children are from families of illegal loggers or labourers of illegal loggers.

Brief about Bugoma Central Forest Reserve
Bugoma forest in Hoima District, with 411 sq km of extension, located alongside the escarpment of Lake Albert basin, was rated 12 out of 65 forests surveyed in Uganda for biodiversity importance by Uganda Forest Department in 2002. From a scientific survey carried out in 2010, it is estimated that in Bugoma Forest there are many animals, birds species and plants to be protected and that it is also important because is one of the last remaining forests along the wildlife migratory corridor of the Lake Albert region, between the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (in the North) and the Semliki reserve (in the South). Bugoma counts a record of 267 species of trees, 18 mammals, 278 butterflies, 221 birds species. Among the mammals, the primates are abundant, with about 580 endemic and endangered chimpanzees, the endemic Ugandan mangabey, a large number of black and white colobus, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys. The Ugandan mangabey only remains present in Bugoma, as it disappeared from other forests in the region. Among other animals, Bugoma hosts a small population of bush elephants, golden cats, side-striped jackals.
Bugoma forest is a huge potential tourist destination along the Rift Valley circuit, yet a forgotten treasure of Uganda. Only the development of an organized “Ugandan mangabey trekking” could bring consistent revenues from tourism to the Government of Uganda.
However, there are many and systemic obstacles in the protection of Bugoma Forest. First of all, the natural boundary of the protected reserve let the forest be exposed to all sort of pressure in an area which is becoming highly populated and recurrently invaded by refugees and migrants. Indeed common crimes in the forest are occurring like: encroachment for farming or for charcoal burning; encroachment for cattle rearing with bush fire clearing; illegal logging of hard wood is huge threat.
Another set of obstacles is the political bias against the protection of the forest, by both local politicians backing encroachers and by the Bunyoro Kingdom establishment, who even attempted to clear the protected reserve back in 2016 and a court case is still open in Masindi against the National Forestry Authority.  It is common to hear local politicians saying that the “forest is overgrowing in people’s land” and that “Police should stop arresting loggers”.
The body mandated to protect the forest, National Forestry Authority, is not sufficiently staffed and organized for this hard task, leaving the forest often unprotected, which requires more concerted efforts.
Finally, in the Police of Hoima we noticed resistance in taking seriously or following up properly cases related to illegal logging and environmental crimes. For example, a huge crime like a mob attack to a forest patrol occurred on 3rd November 2017 with a policeman almost killed (Mr. Eric Mbaia) and the case up to date is not been followed up.
Another threat to the survival of Bugoma Forest is the prospective development of critical oil roads exactly inside and through the forest, while the oil refinery is planned to be built just on the North of the reserve.
Therefore the intervention and partnership with civil society and private organizations is and will be vital for the protection of the forest. The situation on the ground confirms the necessity to keep our project of the private patrol in cooperation with National Forestry Authority and the necessity to work more on the ground involving local communities in an organized manner.

Presentation of Run for Nature 2018: 25th March 2018 under the theme “Stop Abusing the Planet”
Run for Nature 2018 is the second edition of what we believe is the major environmental sport event taking place in Kampala, having the objective to sensitize over the forestry crisis in the world and to fund raise specifically for the project of the Association.
The event will take place on SUNDAY 25th March 2018 at 7.00 am and the venue is Plot 2B, Robert Mugabe Road Kinawataka – Mbuya Hill , Kampala (office of Destination Jungle Limited and head office of the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest).
The day was chosen in concomitance with the International Day of Forest on 21st March.
The theme of this year Run is “Stop abusing the planet”: we will run for nature, believing that all of us, as individuals and as a society, should be entirely taking up the responsibility of the impact of our life style for the survival of our planet, which is suffering our abuses when we clear forests, we pollute air, water and the soil, we happily waste garbage and we invade all the environment, even those habitats which we should leave for other species to enjoy.
Participants in the Run can register for 5 kilometers and 10 kilometers run with prizes in different categories (women, men and corporate). The amount of the prizes is 1.600.000 UGX. Registration fee is 40.000 UGX for individuals and 250.000 UGX for corporate which allows 4 people to participate.
Registration points will be at the office of Destination Jungle, at Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), at National Forestry Authority and at the Café Pap.
In the run package participants will receive the official green t-shirt, thanks also to the support of Asiatic Sports.

Partners and sponsors of Run For Nature 2018
The target of Run for Nature is to raise a contribution of 10.000.000 UGX for the projects of the Association. This will be possible thanks to the mobilisation of partners, sponsors and Medias in the organization and in the registration. We are targeting participation by about 300 people.
During the run and after partners of Run for Nature will have the chance to display their reasons. The National Forestry Authority will run to advocate for more political attention and more resources for the forestry sector. Slow Food Uganda invites people to have a special healthy lunch, after the run, at Mulongo Catering Restaurant in Nsambya organized by the Slow Food Chefs Alliance Uganda with a fee of 25.000 UGX. Green Bio Energy (Briketti) will display alternative eco-friendly charcoal and it is amazing that after so many years of this friendly alternative the government and the public did not embrace the cause of alternative charcoal, but insists in extracting charcoal from forests like Bugoma.
The Association of Uganda Tour Operators will bring its members in the run and will run remembering that the protection of the forests and the environment is also in line with the promotion of eco-tourism as a key income resource for the country. The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Trust will also be present to bring the cause for survival of the endangered chimpanzees of Bugoma forest and Uganda as a whole.
The Uganda Scouts Association will run with the youth who are the future of Uganda, a young generation which is well educated to the civil responsibility and committed to “leave the world a bit better than the way it was found” (as the founder Sir Baden Powell said in his last speech to the scouts of the world). The scouts will also help in the logistic of the run.
A special thank to the Embassy of Italy and to the Ambassador H.E. Domenico Fornara for supporting the Run for Nature with the patronage of the Embassy of Italy. We are honoured that our environmental caused is embraced by the diplomatic representation of Italy in Uganda.
We would like to thank all the sponsors who made possible Run for Nature 2018. We thank them particularly because not many are committed in supporting environmental causes like our and this is encouraging. We thank Cassia Lodge, Cafe Pap, Highland Water, Asiatic Sports, Destination Jungle, Uganda Jungle Lodges, Tarpo Industries and Aerolink Uganda.