Bunyoro’s Bakwonga clan embarks on forest conservation

Private forest owners gather in Kwonga forest, Kabwoya Sub-county in Kikuube District on Friday, January 29, 2021. (Credit: Gad Asaba).

As the rhythm for environmental conservation continues to be sounded steadily, the matter has now taken a new twist as some people in Bunyoro eye it on a clan basis.

The Bakwonga clan members of Kabwoya Sub-county in Kikuube District have heeded to the drumbeat by joining environmental conservationists to fight against climate change caused by deforestation among other factors.

Mr Joseph Muruuli, one of the guards of the Kwonga private forest says the clan aims to promote the forest that sits on a 28-hectare piece of land to an eco-tourism category given its conservation diversity including flora and fauna.

However, he says the conservation task needs some financial boost for the clan-based environmentalists to economically reap from the forest.

“While guarding this forest, there are some challenges we meet including some encroachers. So, we have to take some responsibility of taking them out. In that process, there is always some kind of flexing (fighting). Patrolling the forest consumes time and we are also not paid,” Mr Muruli says.

“Government can fund us because we have been in the process of conserving the environment. But now, we want to move to commercialisation. To benefit from this forest economically, we have to modify it to the level of eco-tourism but we don’t have funds. If government can be able to provide us with funds, we welcome the idea,” he adds.

Audio: Muruuli on challenges (Runyoro/Rutooro)
A bee hive in Kwonga forest, Kikuube District. (Photo: Gad Asaba).

Mr Aliguma Ahabyona Asiimwe, the in charge of Communication and Spokesperson of Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU), advises private forest owners to protect their forests progressively and avoid cutting the trees therein for timber in a bid to make quick money. He also advises them to set up some projects in their forests that will fetch them some money in a short term.

“Private forest owners should not rush for quick money making from their forests by cutting timber for sale. Instead they should start some income generating projects in their forests like eco-tourism which will help them to benefit from their forest conservation efforts in a short term”.

Mr Asiimwe urges the people of Bunyoro and Ruwenzori to safeguard their forests for a better and healthy future environment as forests will act as carbon sink of the fumes that will be emitted from the oil refinery chimneys in Hoima plummeting from the atmosphere, provide herbal remedies for the surrounding communities and also habour animals that are used as totems by some clans in Bunyoro.

Members of the Bahiinda clan of Bunyoro treasure a monkey because it is their totem.

Mr Asiimwe also highlights the significance of conserving private forests saying by habouring wildlife and cultural sites, the conservationists help improve the tourism sector.

However, he advises that in order to attract and keep wild animals in their forests, private foresters have to plant fruit trees including mangoes and jack fruits since they are food to game.

He condemns encroachers who try to destroy private forests in favour of cutting both mature and immature trees for timber and poles for building their houses respectively.

Mr Amon Kitooke, the Deputy Executive Director CCFU highlights the value of conserving habitats of wild animals like chimpanzees which have been proven to be the leading tourist attraction in Uganda.

He stresses the dangers involved in destroying forests saying this will lead to wild animal incursion to human communities yet some animals are hostile.

Mr Kitooke urges people to learn to live with wild animals like their ancestors did, similarly adding that some animals as used as totems of certain clans in Bunyoro.  

He cites a chimpanzee as a totem for Bayanja clan, so conserving forests as habitats for wild animals denotes keeping totems alive.

Audio: Kitooke on chimpanzee habitat (English)
Environmentalists enter Kwonga forest in Kabwoya Sub-county in Kikuube District. (Photo: Gad Asaba).

The Deputy Executive Director notes that private forest owners pass through hard time to maintain their forests including pressure from neighbours who always ask them to turn the forests into agricultural land while dealers ask to be allowed to harvest timber.

He encourages private foresters to practice eco-tourism and keep the friendship with chimpanzees.

CCFU was last week in Hoima for a two-day meeting discussing with private forest owners on how they can best conserve habitats for great apes especially chimpanzees that have scientifically been proven that they are an endangered species.

The conservationists visited Kwonga forest that is privately owned by Bakwonga clan in Kabwoya Sub-county, Kikuube District.

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