Monday, September 30th, 2013
The Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda,
Rt. Hon. Rebbeca Kadaga,
Re: Petition Regarding Forest Degradation in Uganda, by the Youth from Bunyoro Kingdom.
YOUR RT. HON. SPEAKER, we wish to thank you for giving us an opportunity to meet you and the dedicated services you have provided since the inauguration of the 9th Parliament. During this short period, Parliament has achieved a lot in terms of promoting transparency and accountability for social, economic and political development in Uganda. Right laws are put in place to liberate and lift the country and her people from the current poverty trap characterized by poor services in health, education, roads, lack of safe water, unemployment and public demonstrations.
However, we do realize that the 9th parliament has not done enough in as far as safeguarding the natural environment is concerned. For instance, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Gerald Tenywa of Mak Uni Sch of Agr and Environment, Speaking ahead of the commemoration of the World Forestry Day, concur that UGANDA has lost 26% of its forest cover in the last two decades. In the Global Forest Resources Assessment Report, FAO also said the forest cover had reduced from 4,924 million hectares in 1990 to 3,627 million in 2005. In a recent FAO report authored by the National Biomass study, it was indicated that the 0.6 hectares of farmland available in 1991 would decline to 0.2 hectares per person by 2025. Paul Drichi, the Biomass Inventory Coordinator under the National Forestry Authority, said the country’s forest cover was receding at a rate of 2% annually. Uganda’s forest cover is estimated at 24% of the land cover and is likely to decline with increasing population that relies on agriculture for survival. The increasing population would require increased food production and energy, putting undue pressure on the surrounding land cover.
The consequences included; increasing deforestation, forest degradation and fuel wood scarcities.
THIS PETITION is a product of various Youth Conferences on forest degradation in Uganda which were organized in the five districts of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom (Kiryandongo, Buliisa, Kibaale, Masindi and Hoima), between 21st November 2011 and 14th Jan 2012 to discuss and collect views from the youth and their elders regarding the governance of forest resources. The overall goal of the conferences were to discuss the forest conservation issues in Bunyoro sub-region, examine the challenges we face as youth and come up with demands and recommendations to government for action in order to promote the common good, equity and social justice on forest resources in particular.
WE APPRECIATE Uganda ratified and is a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The CBD has three objectives: Conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of Genetic Resources. Other biodiversity related Conventions and agreements; CITES, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, The Lusaka Agreement of 1996, UNCCD of 1994, UNFCCC of 1997, Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in1987. Uganda is obliged to implement the above Conventions and agreements.
Uganda also has a number of legal instruments on biodiversity; The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995), National laws on environment and biodiversity, Policy framework & Action plans on biodiversity in Uganda, The National Environment Management Policy (1994).
WE TAKE NOTE that despite the existence of various international and national legal frameworks, forest degradation is rampant and this has eroded a lot of biodiversity of national importance. (70%) of forested area in Uganda is on private and customary land. and therefore are rapidly being degraded or converted to other land-uses, particularly agriculture.
The loss of important natural resource is leading to a decline in carbon stocks (leading to increased emissions of GHGs) and further reducing biodiversity, promoting soil erosion and degradation. For example, the crested-crane has declined from 100,000 in 1975 to 10,000 in 2005, according to New Vision of 16th Feb. 2012.
WE ALSO OBSERVE that the Albertine Graben is one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world and an important region for Uganda in terms of tourism, agriculture, fishing, culture, regional peace and stability regarding shared resources of Lake Albert-River Nile and others. Therefore, exploitation of forests must be done sustainably, with the greatest care, with regard to the key issues in the area of forest law enforcement and forest sector governance.
Bunyoro region is facing a high rate of forest degradation. And this can be attributed to Uncertainty or conflicting government policies, open access to protected areas, poor atitude amongst the rural poor, that natural forests in themselves yield little or no value, Circumstances presented by pastoralists (many privately owned land parcels are routinely subjected to grazing), Agricultural expansion in forested areas, Charcoal and fuel wood removal from forested areas above the permissible levels,Un selective removal of favored timber trees from forests above the allowable removal levels, Seasonal fires, forest resources are seen as quick capital for the poor and are the first source of income for most people, Conflict over land, land allocation and tribal sentiments , political interference in forest Management, Business motives for large scale agriculture on free government land, Inadequate awareness of Government policy and law on forests, unresolved Legal matters especially pertaining to forest boundaries, Administrative instability in the district forest departments. There are also examples where local leaders are locating forest land to immigrants. Cases in point are Bugoma and Bujjawe central foerest reserves in Hoima district. There is massive encroachment on Grama, Kasaato, Kijuna, Kyamulangi, and Ruzaire forest reserve in Kibaale District. There is also massive encroachment on Budongo forest, Kasokwa and Kasongoire forest reserves in Masindi district. Wetlands and riverine forests like Waki, wambabya, Nguse that fall within the Eastern cachment of Lake Albert have all been enchroacched upon. Moreover, these water shade areas drain into L. Albert. Some of these rivers have a high potential for hydro electric power generation like Buseruka project along river Wambabya Hoima District.
In view of the above, Your Rt. Hon. Speaker, as concerned Youth from Bunyoro Kingdom, the region with the highest amount of proven oil reserves to date, through this petition, we request your honorable Parliament to do the following:
Lastly, there have been efforts by the NEMA and the NFA to report the status of Uganda’s forests in terms of changes in forest cover. This is not enough because the report on status of forests should also include information on the number of biodiversity indicator species such as trees, birds, mammals, primates and butterflies. Without such information, it is impossible to apply measures that can enhance forest management and conservation that should lead to sustained benefits of forests for the current and future generations.
For God and My Country