KISORO – Conservationists in Rubanda and Kisoro district are decrying the increasing human activities in Echuya Central Forest Reserve which they say are threatening its existence.
They raised the concern while speaking during the Biodiversity Conservation Forum for Echuya Central Forest Reserve landscape held at Cephas in Hotel in Kabale Municipality. 20 percent of a 3,400 ha Echuya Central Forest Reserve is in Kisoro district while 80 percent is in Rubanda district.
The National Forest Authority Sector Manager for Mafuga Mr. Robert Grabile said that human activities such as illegal grazing, cutting bamboo for craft, fires arising from wild honey hunters, illegal cultivation in the reserve by people leaving around the reserve has very much interfered with the forest.
Mr. Grabile said that tree species such as bamboo, hagenia abyssinsca, myrica sadicitolia, syzygium, guineense and rubas apetatus have started disappearing due to human activities.
He said that they are planning to National Forest Authority is planning to distribute bamboo seeds to the communities around the forest so that they can stop interfering with it looking for craft materials.
The Echuya Central Forest Reserve supervisor Mr. Herbert Turyahabwa said that however much they are carrying out operations and foot patrols to arrest people carrying out illegal activities in the forest, they face hostile to people especially from Kashasha and top leadership.
The Kisoro District Natural Resources Officer Mr. Vincent Mudanga said that despite closing bamboo markets in the district and arresting people who were found with bamboo products, degradation has continued despite the surveillance. He said that they intensified patrols to ensure that all the culprits are arrested.
“We have mounted operations, arrested those we’ve arrested some culprits however the vice continues to ravage the forest. We shall however continue the fight until it’s completely dealt with” Mr. Turyahabwe said.
The Executive director of Nature Uganda Achilles Byaruhanga said that illegal activities in the forest degrade the natural ecosystem and interferes with the natural habitats of animal and bird species that are a huge tourist attraction. Byaruhanga said that it is very had to stop illegal activities completely from the forest reserve.
He however asked National Forest Authority to tighten security within the forest to deal with the encroachers.