Friday, August 26, 2016


The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest expresses concern over the increasing insecurity in Bugoma Central Forest Reserve and the continuous threat of destruction.

On Sunday 21st August 2016 a group of about 300 people led by a surveyor entered Bugoma natural forest claiming to be opening the boundaries of the land for Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, according to a title issued inside the protected reserve. The activity started in Nyakatete village from Kaseeta moving towards Nyakatete in Nsozi. By Wednesday they have cleared a length of about six kilometers that are ten metres wide, using chainsaws cutting everything including big mature natural forest trees.
The area is well known to be the habitat of the internationally endangered and protected chimpanzees, plus endemic Ugandan Mangabeys.

The National Forestry Authority responded on Thursday 25th August (after 4 days) by sending a police enforcement of three pick up and 20 policemen of the Environmental Protection Police Unit, who stopped the activity of clearing; however the police force withdrew on Friday and clearing restarted. On 23rd August the National Forestry Authority sent a communication to the Commissioner Land Registration, Ministry of Land Housing and Urban Development requesting to cancel the illegal Freehold Certificate of Title issued in the name of Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara and, subsequently, the leasehold issued to Hoima Sugar Factory Limited. 

The affected area is a large portion of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, the Muhangaizima block for about 8.000 hectares. Considering that there are less than 5.000 chimpanzees left in Uganda (of which about 500 are believed to be in Bugoma Forest) and considering the huge amount of natural rain tropical forest under threat of destruction, this is the biggest environmental disaster in Uganda for many decades and possibly at international level. 

As a result of the escalation of insecurity and destruction, eco-tourism activities in Bugoma have been halted and nature walks cancelled, with losses for the State. Tourism is one of the top priorities for the Government of Uganda, while sugar cane expansion is not and deforestation implies losses of potential tourist attractions. Meantime, there is an escalation of illegal logging as the patrol by National Forestry Authority is no longer in place for security concern.

On 23rd August the Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon. Ephraim Kamuntu, wrote a communication to Ministry of Water and Environment, informing that a petition signed by 105 representatives of tour operators from the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) requested for urgent interventions to protect Bugoma Forest, the investments in eco-tourism and tourist accommodation. In the letter, the Minister says that “the reserve is one of the few remaining habitats and migratory routes for the endangered chimpanzees and other key wildlife species”, therefore requesting the urgent intervention of the Ministry.

We kindly urge all stakeholders involved to act responsibly, put into consideration that the forest is a public and international matter, which largely affects the future of the tourism sector as well as the local communities.

Monday, June 20, 2016


The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest, Uganda Wildlife Society, Uganda Society, Destination Jungle LTD, Uganda Jungle Lodges LTD are expressing their concern and the condemnation over the current attempt of giving away a relevant block of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima District.

An organized group of people has tried to encroach on the central part of the forest, Muhangaizima block claiming a total of 8.000 hectares of tropical forest under the mandate of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom. The intention is to grade down the forest for the purpose of establishing sugar cane plantation. This situation is ongoing since February 2016 and the pressure is mounting.

This affected area is the central part of the gazetted Bugoma Forest, which means that encroaching is equal to compromise the survival of Bugoma Forest as a whole. Bugoma Forest is one of the most important forests in Uganda for biodiversity, which is explained in the geography of the Alberetine Rift Valley, crucial for the development of tourism in Uganda. It is home to the endangered and internationally protected chimpanzees; it is home to a large number of primates’ species like the endemic Ugandan mangabeys and it is a birding destination. To destroy the forest is equal to destroy as well the right of the wildlife and birds to survive. There are only less than 5.000 chimpanzees remaining in Uganda of which about 500 are believed to live in Bugoma forest.

The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest has started in 2014 an enrichment tree-planting project for the regeneration of degraded areas. Even this project is under the target of the encroachers and the project cannot be currently accessed, leading to loss of the resources invested from the work of the association in collaboration with the CFM group of Kyangwali.

On 17th April 2016 a group of 10 people from Kisaru Trading Center attacked 4 staff of National Forestry Authority with pangas and iron bars, seriously injuring them as they were on patrol during the day near Rwera site. Phone calls and intimidations are made daily to the personnel of the State, the Police, the National Forestry Authority who are doing their best to carry out their duties.

At the beginning of 2016 eco-tourism activities have started in the forest at Rwera, near the area which is currently encroached. Moreover, the National Forestry Authority has issued in 2015 new licenses to operate eco-tourism to private investors. There are also in-coming private investments in accommodation (the construction of Bugoma Forest Lodge by Uganda Jungle Lodges LTD) and in research on biodiversity like on the chimpanzees (by the Jane Goodall Institute). All this has the potential to make Bugoma Forest in the near future one of the new relevant tourist attractions in Uganda, with trickle down mechanisms for local communities where poverty and lack of jobs and investments are rampant.
All these future developments will be affected by the criminal behavior of who is trying to push forward selfish interests detrimental to the environment and in full illegality, since Bugoma Central Forest reserve is a protected forest under the State.

1.    We urge those who are encroaching to give up any attempt to break the law. The excuse that no boundaries have been ascertained is only the cover for a clearly illegal activity. Everybody, from the NFA to the local communities is very much aware about the forest’s boundaries.

2.    We urge a full investigation over the responsibilities of these illegal operations in Bugoma Forest and we recommend that any damage so far caused to the environment and to the State be compensated and that justice prevails.

3.    We urge those firms like Hoima Sugar Works LTD or individuals who are willing to deal or invest in sugar cane cultivation to do so legally, in areas where it is possible to carry out such an investment, by legal purchase of land and being far from this ecosystem of important biodiversity where wildlife is present. There are other areas available and more suitable than a protected reserve which is a tourist destination.

4.    We urge the leaders of Hoima District and Bunyoro kingdom to be responsible toward the development and the sustainable future of the area, considering that already more than 70 % of forest cover was lost in the last 20 years, which has affected climatic change and the livelihood of the people, losing important resources for the future and for tourism, creating a mechanism of permanent poverty. Leaders should now take care of the remaining forests and engage in forests regeneration, not in forest destruction.

5.    We urge the leaders, the private sector and the public sector to avoid, condemn and resist the temptation of corruption which will further exacerbate the development in the region by helping selfish interests to prevail over the respect of the law and over the interest of the local communities.

6.    We urge the Ministry of Water and Environment, the Government of Uganda and the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda to take action and to closely monitor the rampant escalation of illegality and violence in Bugoma Forest by increasing the presence of security and military personnel in the area to protect the staff and those civilians who are engaging in activities for the protection of the forest.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Eco-tourism Activities in Bugoma Forest

March 2016: From the Campaign to the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest

Yes, we decided to move forward. The Campaign for the Conservation for Bugoma Forest was launched in 2014 and it brought awareness about the importance of protecting Bugoma forest in particular and forests in general. We have been few people steering the whole process and making sure that our concern was always translated into plans and concrete actions.
The Chimpanzee Go! T-shirts
With one of the worst deforestation rates in the world, with politicians and communities requesting for commercial plantations of eucalyptus and pines (and showing no interest for the reforestation of indigenous trees), with a widespread disregard of any law and legality in regards to the protection of nationally protected forests, with increasing climatic change and worsening habitat disruption, with attacks to Bugoma forests orchestrated by politicians in the aftermath of the general elections of February 2016, in Uganda there is certainly need for people and organizations investing time and commitment for the environment and especially in favour of forest protection.
In the occasion of this year 21st March 2016 International Day of Forest, Destination Jungle LTD and Uganda Jungle Lodges LTD decided to move forward and register the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest, a new membership association. The first Annual General Meeting will take place on 13th May and will decide and determine the leadership for the newly born association. All those individuals and organizations who have been supporting the campaign and participating to the cause will have their chance to contribute in a more organized and effective manner. As an association, we will be able to be recognized as stakeholders in the fight for forest protection; we will be able to receive donations from supporters and to initiate project proposals, to mention few points. Therefore, the membership campaign starts immediately until the day of the General meeting.
Meantime these are the progress which we have seen by 2016.
First of all, eco-tourism activities have started for the first time in Bugoma Forest, thanks to the strong commitment of the leadership of National Forestry Authority in the belief that eco-tourism is a direct, positive contribution in conservation. In February we experienced ourselves a number of nature trails (previously used by the illegal loggers) which are leading to monkeys and chimpanzees habitats. Particularly, we could see a group of Uganda mangabey, which is endemic to this forest.
Furthermore, tourists can be protagonists of active reforestation by planting trees in the site allocated for regeneration as a result of the project launched by Run for Nature 2014. This activity sees the engagement of the community through the collaborative management group of Kiangwali.
Bracelets and necklaces produced by Daniel Zenji
We developed promotional materials for tour operators which were distributed via the Association of Ugandan Tour Operators. The association must keep focusing on the promotion of eco-tourism to make local and international visitors aware and, therefore, bringing tangible changes to Bugoma forest. Exactly what we discussed in theory with the local communities can become a practical and visible change. Here is the source for guides as well as for patrolling teams.
Secondly, the “Chimpanzee Go!” initiative is ongoing. Ugandan artist Zenji Daniel made specifically for the campaign pieces of necklaces and bracelets with the symbols of the chimpanzees. This handicraft is for sale in order to fundraise for the three objectives of the campaign: proceed with the tree-planting in Bugoma; support law enforcement for the protection of the forest (which is facilitating monitoring exercises and the presence of the law); to give incentives to the community organized in the collaborative forest management groups for the purpose of maintaining forested cover in the area and reducing pressure into the protected reserve. Under the initiative, t-shirts were also made portraying the chimpanzees and the campaign logo. These items so far are displayed in the two lodges of Uganda Jungle Lodges (Ishasha Jungle Lodge and Bwindi Jungle Lodge) and advertised to all the tourists travelling with Destination Jungle LTD. More support is needed.

For this year 2016, we welcome the newly born Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest.