Fight for Uganda’s Mabira Forest continues

This video is called Prevent destruction of the Mabira Forest.

From BirdLife:

Conservationists call for Ugandan government to halt forest give-aways


The fate of Mabira Forest Reserve –home to 30% of bird species found in Uganda- continues to hang in the balance as President Museveni and some elements of the Ugandan government attempt to hand over a quarter of its area for sugarcane cultivation.

BirdLife International and NatureUganda (BirdLife in Uganda) continue to argue that the economic benefits of retaining Mabira in its present form, will easily exceed the ‘short-sighted’ gains quoted by the government in the proposed forest ‘give-away’.

Mabira Forest Reserve (at over 30,000 hectares) is listed by BirdLife as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and contains over 300 bird species, including the Endangered Nahan’s Francolin Francolinus nahani. The forest is also home to nine species found exclusively in the region including Grey-cheeked Mangabey Lophocebus albigena johnstoni, a recently identified endemic primate subspecies.

In order to convey the enormous value of retaining Mabira Forest Reserve, NatureUganda has undertaken an economic study of the site, which they are now putting to the Ugandan government. Among the economic benefits of retaining Mabira that NatureUganda have outlined are:

1. Environmental services provided by Mabira Forest Reserve. Most notably the forest protects the water catchment area for Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga and the River Nile. The forest also acts as a carbon sink worth $212 million USD at current carbon market prices.

2. Local livelihoods are supported via commodities that come from the forest, particularly from the sustainable harvesting of wood, food and medicines. The National Forestry Authority, the lead forestry agency in Uganda, last year estimated the value of the wood alone at $568 million USD.

3. Tourism at Mabira is another high-earner for Uganda: Mabira contributes 62% of the total revenue collected from visitors to Uganda’s Forest Reserves. Ecotourism is now Uganda’s second largest foreign exchange earner.

“The economic studies that we have undertaken clearly indicate that keeping Mabira Forest Reserve for reasons of conservation, constitutes a better land-use option than sugarcane growing when total economic value is considered,” said Achilles Byaruhanga, Executive Director of NatureUganda.

“If a quarter of Mabira is chopped down the effect on the remaining forest will be far-reaching, reducing the range of species, causing encroachment, erosion and siltation, and reducing its capacity to provide services, so there would be less water in rivers, less rain, less carbon intake, fewer tourists,” he added.

NatureUganda’s arguments for stopping the ‘give-away’ of Mabira Forest Reserve are supported by BirdLife International, a global alliance of over one hundred conservation organisations.

“For the Ugandan government and Mehta Group [sugar company] to continue with a venture that is so very costly in terms of biodiversity loss and in terms of economic stability, is wholly deplorable.” said Hazell Shokellu Thompson, Head of BirdLife’s Africa Division. “However, we are confident that once all the facts have been reviewed, the Ugandan government will do the right thing for the Ugandan people and stop the ‘give-away’”.

“Uganda ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1993 and has a fairly good track record in upholding the treaty so far. The government has an obligation to continue to adhere to the agreement in the same way that many African and world nations do,” he commented.

“The sugar company itself also argues that it has a strict policy of environmental compliance which this venture quite obviously contradicts.”

Mabira is only one of a number of ‘give-aways’ proposed by the Ugandan government, believed to be planning a bill to amend the National Forest and Tree Planting Act that would give the National Forestry Authority power to de-gazette protected forests without first going through parliament.

For more information on Mabira Forest Reserve see this month’s feature article: Uganda’s forests in the balance, reproduced from BirdLife’s World Birdwatch magazine, June 2007.

See also here.

3 thoughts on “Fight for Uganda’s Mabira Forest continues

  1. Uganda: Book for Uganda Birds Due

    East African Business Week (Kampala)

    6 August 2007
    Posted to the web 7 August 2007

    David Mugabe

    A specialised magazine for the bird watching fraternity will be launched in Kampala, Uganda mid August this year.

    According to tourism officials, Uganda is one of the best bird watching destinations in Africa with over 1,000 bird species in its vast flora and fauna.

    The 25 page magazine will have a fairly technical language but also user friendly for the sophisticated industry of aviculture (bird watching).

    The magazine will also include general information about Uganda’s tourism and how and when best to access one of the world’s best tourism destinations.

    Bird watchers spend a longer time in their activity, sometimes going into viewing for weeks as compared to other tourism expeditions.

    Ms. Sylvia Kalembe, an information specialist at Tourism Uganda (TU), the country’s tourism agency told East African Business Week that since 1998 the then government tourism agency, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) realised the need to promote avitourism.

    “There was a deliberate decision for a product development initiative and a book titled “Where to watch birds” which described the most sought after species and their nearest viewing sites within and outside the city centre was published,” said Kalembe.

    The book has of recent become outdated with changes in pricing and site variations hence the need to publish a new data base. The magazine will be called “Bird Watching in Uganda.”

    Uganda has 10 national parks and provides an enduring impression for the traveller who loves nature and sight seeing. Queen Elizabeth National Park alone has over 600 bird species.

    One of the most sought after bird species is the Shoebill, found in the Semliki Wild Reserve and Mabanga wetland near Uganda’s lakeside town of Entebbe. The other is the Bare-Faced Go-Away-Bird (Corythaixoides personata), which usually inhabits acacia savannah of South Western Uganda where it is very common.

    “This is our gold. Most people come here for the shoebill,” said Kalembe.

    Kalembe said there is still a problem evaluating the effectiveness of bird watching and how much the trade brings to the country in form of earnings.

    The bird watching industry in Uganda will also be boosted by the specialised exhibition scheduled for August 17-19, 2007 in the United Kingdom.

    Relatedly, a Tourist Guide Guiding Principle is being developed by the Uganda Safari Guides Association.


  2. Uganda: Museveni Defends Forests, Wildlife

    New Vision (Kampala)

    27 August 2007
    Posted to the web 28 August 2007

    Gerald Tenywa

    PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has declared that national parks and gazetted forests would be protected at all cost.

    “We must maintain the protected areas and deal with the pressures from the population,” the President told a meeting, organised by the Leadership for Conservation Africa, in Paraa, Murchison Falls, on Sunday. The meeting attracted conservationists and businessmen from Africa, Europe and the US.

    “It is important to conserve and I think we will be doing a mistake if we do not maintain the national parks and the forests.”

    Mining of minerals and oil was good, the President noted, but such resources would get exhausted one day. “Tourism is better because it is sustainable and can go on for a long time.”

    He said tourism contributed over sh340b to Uganda’s earnings and was on the increase, while revenues from coffee were going down.

    “What we get from tourism is a clear indicator that Uganda makes profit from wildlife. The earnings have surpassed other sectors of the economy.”

    With population growth, he said, the land holdings were becoming too small and this made growing crops like coffee unsustainable. “That is why some people are migrating to other parts of the country.” He called upon the participants to attract businesses and build factories so that peasants could shift from subsistence farming.

    “Peasants are not doing much except destroying land,” Museveni said. “The population is increasing and we need a strategy to change the society. It is important to create industries because this draws more people from the countryside to the urban areas.”

    The issue of conservation was important, he stressed, but with democracy, the electorate put pressure on the Government to get land. “The colonial governments were able to expel people to create parks because they were not elected and had the monopoly of the force.”

    Prior to Museveni’s address, Dr. David Mabunda, the president of the Leadership for Conservation Africa, said the forum was aimed at creating partnerships between parks and communities.

    “We will not create an army of rangers to protect the parks in future because the benefits will change the attitudes of communities.”

    He cited employment and setting up of facilities such as clean water. “Conservation can only succeed if its takes communities along,” he emphasised.


  3. Uganda: Govt Still Undecided On Mabira

    New Vision (Kampala)

    15 September 2007
    Posted to the web 17 September 2007

    John Odyek

    THE Government has not yet decided to degazzette or give out any part of the Mabira Central Forest Reserve for sugarcane growing.

    In a statement to Parliament on Thursday, the Minister for Water Lands and Environment, Maria Mutagamba, said the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (SCOUL) had requested the government to give it part of the forest, but the matter was still being studied.

    Mutagamba was responding to questions from MPs about the government’s position on the proposed land use change in part of the forest.

    Beatrice Anywar Atim (Kitgum, FDC), said the absence of information on Mabira Forest’s proposed giveaway created room for speculation.

    Mutagamba said when SCOUL requested the Government for part of Mabira Forest for sugar cane growing, the government responded by carrying out consultations with stakeholders, including forestry experts, institutions, civil society organisations, local governments and the local communities in the area.

    She said the Cabinet recommended that there was still insufficient information on the matter to allow it to take concrete decisions.

    Mutagamba said a Cabinet sub-committee was set up to gather more information and report back.

    The members of the sub-committee are tourism minister Janet Mukwaya, lands minister Daniel Omara Atubo, environment state minister Jessica Eriyo, agriculture state minister Kibirige Ssebunya and finance minister Dr. Ezra Suruma.

    The proposed give away of Mabira earlier this year sparked off heated debates and a demonstration that turned into a riot in which scores of people were injured and an Indian was killed in Kampala.


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