Friday, October 2, 2020

SAVE BUGOMA FOREST ACTIVISTS PROTEST THE ISSUANCE OF THE CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT BY NEMA TO HOIMA SUGAR LTD.

 

23 August 2020

PRESS STATEMENT - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SAVE BUGOMA FOREST ACTIVISTS PROTEST THE ISSUANCE OF THE CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT BY NEMA TO HOIMA SUGAR LTD.

1. The undersigned civil society including: NGOs, environmental journalists, activists and members of the public under the umbrella body Save Bugoma Forest Campaign 2020 are protesting against National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) for issuing a certificate of approval for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report authorizing Hoima Sugar limited to destroy over 21 square miles of Bogoma forest to plant sugarcane and other activities.

2. According to the ESIA Certificate issued by NEMA dated August 14, 2020 a copy of which we have, NEMA has permitted Hoima Sugar LTD to use 21 sq. miles out of the 22 Sq miles they (Hoima Sugar) leased from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom at 3 billion shillings against the will of NFA the chief custodians of all Natural forests and against the calls by Ugandans.


3. In the ESIA certificate of approval, NEMA has tried to confuse the public that Hoima Sugar Ltd will plant sugarcane on 9.24 sq. miles, establish an urban Centre on 1.206 Sq. miles, establish an eco-tourism center on 1.97 sq. miles and restore forest on 3.13 sq. miles, among other economic activities but based on the way NEMA had facilitated the fraud and violated the laws of Uganda to issue the above certificate, no one should trust NEMA. The certificate of approve will facilitate Hoima Sugar destroy Bugoma forest. The conditions in the certificate are only intended to mislead the public. This is the same NEMA that gave a wrong permit to Lwera sand miners and later resulted into court awarding the degraders over UGX180 billion. Why should Ugandans trust NEMA?

4. As citizens committed to promote conservation of Bugoma forest and the environment generally, we strongly object to the ESIA certificate of approval by NEMA to Hoima sugar Ltd to destroy any part of Bugoma, not even one square mile or an acre. Bugoma forest must be conserved and all degraded areas restored.

5. We want to inform all Ugandans that the Environment and Social Impact Assessment report certificate of approval issued is simply a sugarcoated, well-crafted move smoothened by NEMA to legalize an illegal process to give away and destroy Bugoma forest by Hoima Sugar LTD. It is unfortunate that a government agency can engage in facilitating destruction of a forest amidst worsening impacts of climatic changes in and outside Uganda.

6. More so, it is absurd that NEMA opted to violate all environmental laws governing ESIA processes in Uganda. Among others, they violated the 1998 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, especially regulations:

i. Regulation 12: which requires the developer to publically consult the public but the developer did not publicize any consultations.

ii. Regulations 19 and 20: NEMA was required to publically call for public comments on the complete ESIA report by Hoima Sugar Ltd but this, they did not.

iii. Regulations 21and 22: which require NEMA to order for a mandatory public hearing/s where the project in question is controversial. The Hoima Sugar Ltd’s Sugarcane project in Bugoma is controversial as there is still a case in court, citizens’ petitions to parliament, minister of water and environment, NFA, NEMA, Development partners, such European Union, Dutch Embassy, French Embassy and others.

iv. NEMA also violated regulations 24 and 25 regarding how a decision on the ESIA should be made.

v. NEMA processed and approved Hoima Sugar Ltd’s ESIA at a time when there is a case in court regarding the same subject matter and therefore NEMA violated the subjudice rule.

7. In view of the above, the ESIA certificate of approval issued by NEMA to Hoima Sugar Ltd must be revoked immediately.

Our demands and plans:

8. It is very clear that NEMA’s ESIA certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd is a product of fraud and it cannot be enforced in any democratic society.

9. We call upon all Ugandans to use their powers as enshrined in article 1 of the Constitution to Save Bugoma forest at all costs.

Specifically, we demand for the following:


a. NEMA’s Executive Director should immediately be interdicted and investigated for engaging and facilitating fraud to destroy Bugoma forest.

b. Parliament should use its oversight powers to investigate the actions of NEMA, Hoima Sugar Ltd and ministry of lands for issuing land titles in forest reserves, approving ESIA reports in disregarding of national laws and other illegal actions.

c. If NEMA does not revoke the ESIA certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd in the next 8 days from today 23 August 2020, we shall organize massive public demonstrations in both Kampala on 2nd September and in Kikube and Hoima districts on 6 September 2020 to express our disappointment against NEMA and government, and to enable the citizens to take control of Bugoma forest to stop NEMA’s fraud and Hoima Sugar Ltd’s plans to destroy Bugoma forest.

d. We call on the Sugar Producers Association of Uganda to dissociate themselves from the actions of Hoima Sugar Ltd and commit that they will use their influence to ensure that Hoima Sugar does not destroy Bugoma.

e. We call upon oil and gas companies to join the campaign to protect Bugoma forest from destruction because this forest is key in absorbing fossil gases that will be produced by oil activities.

f. We call upon the financiers of Hoima Sugar Ltd to withdraw their funding because this is a dirty investment.

g. If NEMA does not revoke the certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd, we shall call upon all Ugandans to boycott sugar from Hoima Sugar Ltd and its associates including Kinyara Sugar.

h. On Monday, the 24 August 2020, we shall file a case in the High Court of Uganda against NEMA and the Executive Director of NEMA as an individual for issuing the ESIA certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd to destroy Bugoma forest in total violation of the laws of Uganda.

Importance of Bugoma CFR Bio-diversity.

i. Bugoma CFR is a tourism hub. Its home to about 600 Chimpanzees’ and contains the highest density of the Nahan’s Francolin and Grey Parrot birds among other endangered bird spices.

ii. It is a migratory corridor for large mammals such as chimps and Elephants connecting to Budongo and Murchison Falls National Park from Queen Elizabeth National Park.

iii. It’s a western arm of the rift Valley.

iv. Central in Rain formation, it’s likely the region will be hit by adverse effects of climate change. This is in addition to the loss of soil fertility when the area starts to experience drought which will subsequently affect the factors of production and result into economic crisis in the region and at the household level.

v. Bugoma is home to several rivers sources that recharge Lake Albert and the surrounding wetlands which act as the breeding grounds for the fish in L. Albert.

vi. More significantly, Bugoma is centrally located at the heart of the Albertine oil exploration, and mining will soon start. It’s expected that oil explosives and production flares would be absorbed by the forest which acts as the carbon sink. Therefore, if depleted, all the pollution will directly be released into space to chock Ugandans.

For God and our country.

#SaveBugomaForest #ForestLivesmatter

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.