Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, with 411 sq km or 41.144 hectares of protected area, is the largest remaining block of natural tropical forest along the Albertine Rift Valley between Budongo and Semliki, therefore playing an enormous role in preserving wildlife migratory corridors.
Bugoma is home to about 500 chimpanzees (10% of the Ugandan chimp population), making the forest a chimpanzee sanctuary. Among other primates, Bugoma hosts a population of Ugandan mangabeys, endemic to only this forest therefore unique treasure. The bird list is of 221 species recorded.
With an ever-growing deforestation rate in Uganda that caused the loss of 63% of forested cover in only 3 decades, therefore contributing to less carbon absorption and contributing to climate change, the life of people is actually been more and more endangered with the degradation of habitats, reduction of water sources, reduction of fertility. It is paramount for the health of all the population to maintain the existing forest cover.
In the last few years, Bugoma Forest survival has faced various threats, the largest of which is the development of sugar cane plantations with the opening of Hoima Sugar Works in 2016, located next to the natural forest, a crop project which does not match at all with the nature of the forest habitat.
What is at stake?
- The conservation of Bugoma Forest in all its integrity is paramount for the livelihood of the local farmers communities, who are generally in support of the conservation. Destruction and change in the use of the habitat will affect the climate, the water sources, the whole economy of the area, while in particular sugar cane will worsen the remaining existence of natural habitat and its wildlife with more conflicts between humans and wildlife, as well as impoverishing the soil and impoverishing the local communities.
- The current development and investments in eco-tourism activities and tourist accommodation (Bugoma Jungle Lodge, new lodge in Mwera) in Bugoma Forest will be compromised by the destruction of the habitat and the poor image of Bugoma forest resulting from lack of rule of law. Investors in eco-tourism and conservation have much to complain about.
- The chimpanzee and Ugandan mangabeys population of Bugoma Forest will be negatively affected, contributing to a poor image of Uganda in the world, as these species are internationally recognized as well as the importance of Bugoma Forest.
- The conservation efforts by many organizations in and around Bugoma Forest, having various projects in the tree – planting, farmers support, socioeconomic supports to vulnerable communities including refugees in the area will be frustrated by a clear setback.
- The presence of a very dangerous sugarcane lobby, which attracted the favours of many local leaders and institutions (but certainly not the support of local people) and feels no problems in attacking a natural habitat of international biodiversity importance, will always be a threat to other positive investments in the area, investments that could create more job opportunities in a very poor socioeconomic region.
- The degradation in the area with the prospected loss of part of the forest will trigger a further escalation in degradation, further loss of habitat and endangering the biodiversity, moreover increasing the cases of all the illegalities that affected Bugoma Forest. This factor is crucial.
- The game played by various actors saying that Bugoma Forest has no clear boundaries, with the intention to grab both the protected forest and any other private forest does not help the solution of the problem.
- In the end Uganda will lose credibility in the respect and implementation of International Conventions including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which Uganda ratified in 1993 with the objective to regulate levels of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere; not forgetting the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- Bugoma Forest must be protected as it is, no matter where the exact of prospected boundaries are. An appeal must be made against the ruling of Masindi High Court of 25th April 2019 with immediate effect.
- Bugoma forest and local communities need development, which can be there when there is certainty of land use and ownership by the government of Uganda. We need to get our leaders to think sustainably (Long term).
- The local communities and their leaders should be part of the process of development and not victims of the intimidations by the sugarcane lobby and their connections.
- Sugarcane development should not take place at the expense of natural resources. There is enough land in Bunyoro to accommodate sugar cane, without destroying vital natural resources. Hoima Sugar Works should desist from threatening Bugoma Forest eco-system and should desist from using local institutions and leaders to push forward its interests.
- The Government of Uganda should immediately intervene to reassure the protection of Bugoma forest, to reassure the investment in eco-tourism and in accommodation in the area.
- Uganda should respect the international conventions and protocols on environmental conservation to which the country is a signatory.
With the only objective to work on implementing these recommendation, to sensitize the public and the media, to inform the international and national communities about the dramatic danger behind the threats to Bugoma Forest, a coalition campaign is formed and launch under the name “Save Bugoma Forest Campaign”, which is the united efforts of all the organizations and associations of the conservation sector as well as the private and tourism sector and the general public