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.


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