NAKAPIRIPIRIT/KATAKWI-The government has finalised plans to re-open the boundaries of all national parks and game reserves so as to update ownership in a bid focused to end conflicts between communities and the Uganda Wild Life Authority.
According to UWA, government has earmarked funds to re-open all the 10 national parks and 12 games reserves in the country as part of a strategy through which government will peacefully mark the boundaries and resolve the existing and emerging conflicts.
Meeting the district leaders, security agencies drawn from Kumi, Bukedea and Katakwi [Teso sub-region] and Amudat, Nakapiripirit and Napak [Karamoja sub-region] UWA’s director for conservation, Mr John Makombo, explained that the prime objective of the meeting was to discuss the processes and engage all stakeholders around the Pian –Upe Wildlife Reserve [PUWR] to plan for the re-opening of the reserve boundaries.
“The meeting is intended to design the right approach to achieving the targeted results in boundary re-opening with the support from both local leaders and the neighbouring communities. It is expected to generate information, ideas, and feedback that will contribute to peaceful boundary marking of the reserve for community livehood enhancement, and for growth and protection of our tourism industry, Mr Makombo said.
“This is partly in fulfilment of government’s Vision 2040 to protect the tourism potential of the country for sustenance of the direct benefits that will spur the growth of the economy because Uganda vision 2014 recognizes the potential in nature-based tourism as a major forex exchange earner for Uganda”.
Mr Makombo explained that the stakeholder’s meeting drives the strategic objectives and mission that underscore the need for involvement, engagement of and building partnership with UWA’s partners, the neighbouring communities, and other stakeholders in wildlife management to achieve sustainability of the natural resources.
He said that the protection [conservation] of biodiversity will provide sustainable economic development through tourism and provision of ecosystem services because at the international level, tourism shows its resilience in its contribution to the GDP growth.Travel and tourism made an overall contribution of $7.6trillion [10.2% of global GDP] and 292 million Jobs.
He further explained that the tourism sector accounted for 6.6% of total global exports and almost 30% of total global service exports and whereas at national level, travel and tourism contributed shs 6.1 trillion to GDP in 2016
“This accounts for 70 per cent of Uganda’s tourism revenue and at local level, Pian-Upe wild life reserve has generated over shs 218million which has been distributed to both the local community associations and the local districts of Nakapiripirit and Amudat for livelihood improvement,” Mr Makombo said, adding: “With the extension of the tarmac roads [Sironko-Nakapiripirit and Soroti-Moroto] will automatically increase the number of tourism.”
He said the continued loss of vegetation cover is one of the key factors causing the sharp rise in global temperatures and its common that Ugandans are facing with challenges of unreliable rainfall that have often resulted to total loss of crops.
“The common occurrences of famine and lack of food in areas that used to be the most crop production zones is a true manifestation of climate change emanating from environmental degradation and mitigate this Uganda needs to protect all natural ecosystem that is still viable enough and restore those which have been degraded,” he said
The Katakwi District chairman, Mr Walter Ekiring, applauded UWA for responding timely and pledged total support towards the exercise that is tailored to reduce conflicts between UWA and communities but however, faulted UWA for inhuman acts that were ushered onto the residents of Angisa [Magoro sub-county]. “This was quite unfortunate and regrettable incidence that people were brutally and forcibly evicted, and even their properties destroyed”he said.
He explained that 58 homesteads were destroyed during the forcefull eviction that were carried out UWA but because the district values the reserve, “we had to shock absorve these challenges but if not the situation would have been bad on the side of UWA and pray that UWA considers compensating some of the people who lost their properties”he said.
State Minister for Energy, Mr Peter Lokeris said the boundary opening has come at the most appropriate time, considering that UWA has constantly been in conflicts with locals living around this reserve. The local leaders within the sub-region have on several occasions appealed to the government calling for its involvement in the lon standing conflicts
The Nakapiripirit LC5 chairman, Mr John Naghilo, pledged total support in order to have a clear boundary marks and singled out areas like Nagwal, Nakayot which will sanity between the community and the wildlife agency.
The Mt Elgon National park chief conservation officer, Mr Fredrick Kiiza Kayanza, said the government has designated funds to execute this exercise. He said in a sensitization-planning meeting for the boundary re-opening is expected to kick off soon in order obtain a permanent park boundary and they hope that this will be a greater relief to the parties involved.
“The boundary re-opening of all game parks and reserves is very critical and will require proper approach during sensitization. Many people had actually encroached on the parks and reserves, the exercise will enable UWA and the local communities each to be where they rightfully ought to be” Mr Kiiza said. The meeting attracted RDCs, MPs, DPCs,LC5s,DISOs, Natural resource officers from the sub-regions of Teso and Karamoja districts that borders the reserve.