Wednesday , February 21 2024

Residents Demand National Park Status for Echuya Forest to Safeguard its Rich Biodiversity & Security

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KISORO – A Section of the residents living around the Echuya Forest Reserve in Kisoro District are urging the government to designate Echuya as a national park in order to bolster its security.

Echuya Forest Reserve, spanning across two districts of Kisoro and Rubanda and covering an expansive 34 square kilometers, serves as a sanctuary for various plant and animal species. Within its lush confines, approximately 150 bird species find their natural habitat, with eighteen of them being exclusive to this reserve, including the elusive Grauer’s swamp warbler.

Benon Bagora, a resident of Gitebe village in Kanaba Sub County, Kisoro District, which is in close proximity to the forest, highlights the vulnerability of Echuya to numerous illegal activities, such as tree cutting, beekeeping, and bamboo harvesting, among others. These activities have consistently exposed the forest to detrimental impacts.

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Bagora pointed out that those who set the forest ablaze exploit the limited patrols and the inadequate presence of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), which has failed to engage and incentivize local communities in forest conservation efforts. He criticized the NFA for not sharing the forest’s benefits with the local communities, which could have served as a motivating factor for their active involvement in conservation efforts.

CUE IN BAGORA… ON SECURITY…RR//

Tumwesigye Set, another resident and a leader in the Kanaba Community Development and Echuya Forest Conservation Association (KADECA), reveals that various community organizations in Muko, Bufundi, Kanaba, and Murora sub-counties have been established to assist the government in safeguarding Echuya.

However, Tumwesigye highlights the failure of the National Forestry Authority to effectively coordinate with these organizations. He emphasizes that the NFA has the responsibility to reinforce patrols and fire prevention measures during dry seasons, but no significant action has been taken in this regard this year. Tumwesigye also calls for the forest to be managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to allow communities to benefit from tourism.

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CUE IN TUMWESIGYE… ON NFA…RR//

Rubibi Yubu, the Chairperson of KADECA, implores the government and its agencies to consider providing support to community members who are actively combatting the fires that have already consumed more than 80 acres of the forest.

CUE IN RUBIBI… ON MOTIVATION…RR//

Dr. Haruna Mutabazi, the Vice Chairperson of Muko Sub County and Chairman of the Muko Echuya Forest Conservation Development Organization, points out that the NFA has consistently failed to provide necessary support to those who risk their safety to extinguish forest fires. These volunteers often face various challenges, including snakebites.

CUE IN MUTABAZI… ON THE MATTER…RR//

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