Residents in Masaka district accuse National Forestry Authority-NFA for foiling community efforts to protect Mujuzi Central Forest Reserve.
The forest gazetted as a central reserve in 1938, covering approximately 6,079 hectares, has lost almost half of its section.
Yoweri Kalema, a resident at Kyamuzimba village says for decades, the forest has been protected by the community until NFA started protecting encroachers with guns.
The forest stretches along the shoreline of Lake Victoria connecting various major landing sites such as Namirembe, Malembo and Ddimo but currently several individuals have established pineapple, coffee and banana plantation gardens on big acreages.
Tony Kalyango, the Executive Director of Biodiversity Conservation Foundation-BCF says they established that Mujuzi forest has a lot of distinctive indigenous tree species and endangered wildlife, birds and insects.
The forest used to serve as a community hub for natural thymes and a myriad of raw materials for craft making and other income generating activities contributing to the socio-economic welfare of the population.
BCF has also established that the ecosystem of the area is suffering immense pollution resulting from the different entrepreneurial developments such as commercial agricultural practices involving the use of pesticides.
Masaka District Environment Officer Rose Nakyejwe says clearance of wetlands and forest cover has made it easy for the surface runoff moving along with fertilizers and chemical nutrients, plastic materials into the lake. She says it is only the lake that can trap, sieved by the flora cover before trickling down into the lake.
With evident dire consequences of climate change, the community is in fear of constant reduction in precipitation levels, natural calamities like prolonged dry spells among others in the area, worse still all other benefits of the forest are to remain myths if urgent intervention to save this ecology is not crafted and implemented.
BCF’s efforts are to be directed towards calling upon all concerned players to swiftly respond with action by raising a red flag to encroachers; on top of that advocacy and legal steps will be used as well as sparking legally accepted community action against the degradation plans.