The court in Uganda has allowed the destruction of 22 square miles of part of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima District to pave way for sugarcane growing.
The Bugoma Forest is a protected tropical forest that is situated southwest of Hoima and northeast of Kyenjojo towns, and east of Lake Albert, in the Hoima district of western Uganda. It was gazetted in the 1930s and came under the mandate of the National Forestry Authority in 2003.
The Forest is home to 500 Chimpanzees. However, Information reaching the Albertine Watch indicates that a total of 970 hectares of Bugoma Forest have been given away for clearance by an investor to plant sugar canes because the land does not belong to the National Forestry Authority (NFA) according to the court ruling.
Hoima Sugar Limited, one of the newly established Sugar Plant is targeting the degradation of 8000 hectares of forest cover which is about 20% of the entire Bugoma Forest.
Bugoma forest is one of the most important tropical forests in Uganda for biodiversity. The forest is crucial for the development of tourism in Uganda. It is home to endangered and internationally protected chimpanzees as well as a home to thousands of primate species like the endangered Mangabeys among others.
Environmental activists including the Albertine Watch and many others have launched a petition calling for an end to the destruction of Bugoma Forest by Hoima Sugar Limited.
Hoima Sugar Limited has thrown thousands of communities out of their land with inadequate compensation, in violation of national and international laws, degraded water sources and severely impacted food security in and around Bugoma Forest.
Environmental activists are concerned that clearing part of the Bugoma Forest for sugar canes plantation will limit environmental benefits such as livelihood, access to clean water supply and climate stability among others.
On Thursday 25th, April 2019, Masindi High Court judge Wilson Masalu Musene dismissed with costs the case that National Forestry Authority NFA filed against the Omukama of the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, Dr. Solomon Iguru Gafabusa, for alleged encroachment and degradation of Bugoma forest reserve.
The king was jointly sued with Hoima Sugar Limited and the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) for alleged fraudulent concealment when he applied for a freehold title for part of the forest land, which was granted by the Uganda Land Commission.
The National Forestry Authority lawyers led by Mr. Joseph Kwesiga on Thursday,25th, April 2019 filed a notice of appeal against the judgment on Bugoma forest. Mr. Kwesiga also wrote a letter to the court, asking for a certified record of proceedings to enable NFA to prosecute its appeal.
The government of dictator Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is determined to allow foreign investors to continue violating the human rights of local communities. Many people have been kicked out of their land in order to allow for the planting of sugar canes.
Uganda was previously considered as the “Pearl of Africa”. However, apparently, Uganda is losing a lot in terms of forest covers. 29 years back, half of Uganda was covered by forest. However, right now less than half of Uganda is still covered by forest. Environmental activists predict that the Ugandan forest covers will be no more in the next 10 years.
It should be noted that the Albertine region is experiencing serious biodiversity loss and in particular tree cover and biodiversity decline in areas where commercial-large scale crops such as sugarcane, tobacco, and tea are grown. These have a serious negative impact on peoples livelihoods and ecosystems.
According to the Uganda country context analysis done to inform the global programme Shared Resources Joint Solutions (SRJS) interventions, the same has been found to be one of the major factors driving, deforestation and ecosystems degradation and consequently, threatening sustainability of International Public Goods (IPGS) such as water, climate, and food necessary for peoples’ livelihoods, ecosystems, energy and in general economic developments in Uganda.