A delegation of environmental experts, advocates and CSOs under the Save Bugoma campaign have petitioned the Kingdom of Bunyoro calling for their urgent action to save the forest from the eminent threats by investors who want to convert it into a sugarcane plantation.
The petition was received by Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom (BKK) prime minister Omuhikirwa Andrew Byakutaga at his office at the kingdom’s Orukurato.
In the petition, the conservationists want Bunyoro Kingdom to; “Make a public commitment that Hoima Sugar Ltd or any other person or company will not convert any part of Bugoma forest into a sugarcane plantation.”
“The forest should not be converted to serve any other purpose that is incompatible with forest conservation, irrespective of whether Bugoma is a central or private forest reserve.
In addition, BKK should work with other stakeholders including NFA, NEMA and others to organize a regional dialogue to discuss how the interests of all those claiming interests on Bugoma forest land can be settled without destroying any part of the forest, central reserve and private reserve,”
These also asked the kingdom to dialogue with government to support efforts to refund the money paid to the kingdom by Hoima Sugar Ltd and other claimants.
They also want NEMA to stop the ongoing Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) by Hoima Sugar Ltd until the above-mentioned stakeholder dialogues are concluded” the petition reads in part.
Works to clear 900 hectares out of 2,223 acres of Bugoma Forest Reserve, in Hoima to plant sugarcane began early this year after the court ruled that the land leased to Hoima Sugar Company Ltd by the administration of Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom lay outside the protected area of the forest.
The land was leased to Hoima Sugar, which has a 70% shareholding in Kinyara Sugar Works in neighboring Masindi district, in 2016 for 99 years at a Shs3b cost by Solomon Iguru Gafabusa, king of the ancient kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara. He said the leased area was ancestral land and not part of the protected forest.
Hoima Sugar is currently waiting for the approval of the Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report from National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to continue their works to the dismay of conservationist who feel that touching even just part of the forest will be dangerous to the ecosystem.
The Save Bugoma Forest delegation included officials from Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET), Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wild Life Conservation Trust, National Association of Professional Environmentalists, Acode among many others.
Bugoma Forest is home to 23 species of animals, including an estimated 550 highly endangered chimpanzees, Ugandan mangabeys (an endemic primate), 225 species of birds and 260 species of trees.