Covid-19 affects environment in Bunyoro

Some of the residents of Rwenkobe Village in Kikuube District with environmentalists and Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers in a totally cleared part of Bugoma forest. (Photo: Gad Asaba)

As many as lost their jobs to Covid-19, pressure has been exerted on environment since workers resorted to encroaching on the ecology for a new survival, observe environmentalists in Bunyoro sub-region.

During a meeting organised by Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU), participants identified charcoal burning, hunting in protected areas and timber cutting as the main activities the laid off workers resorted to for a living.

This inevitably led to the destruction of environment in Hoima and Kakumiro districts among others, raising eye brows of ecological campaigners in the sub-region.

Mr Moses Semahunge, the Project Manager Bulindi Chimpanzee and Community Project in Hoima says the outbreak of Covid-19 also left a huge vacuum in donor country economies that local environment conservation organisations had their financial sinews in tatters.

Besides, transport and public gathering restrictions to slow down the spread of Covid-19 became a fissure encroachers exploited to degrade wetlands since environmentalists could no longer sensitise people about the importance of an intact environment.

This ultimately resulted in human-wildlife conflict as animal habitats were destroyed in favour of eking out a living.

Mr Semahunge also says due to movement restrictions, forest conservation agitators could not provide technical advice to tree farmers leading to low survival rate of tree seedlings.

Sound bite: Semahunge on challenges (English)

Mr Joseph Serugo, the Head of Kirawa Chimpanzee Conservation Association in Kasambya sub-county, Kakumiro district says efforts to promote eco-tourism are being crushed by encroachers on forests that are habitats for chimpanzees.

He says forest destruction has led to loss of fruit trees that primates depend on for food. This has created a bad relationship between people and the apes as they are now in confrontation for food.  

Sound bite: Serugo on encroachers (English)

Mr Ammon Kitooke, the Deputy Director CCFU says as Covid-19 restrictions continued, it became hard for them to patrol forests in an attempt to close the interaction gap between chimpanzees and humans for fear of the virus being transmitted to the apes.

Scientists say humans and chimpanzees share a surprising 98.8 per cent of their DNA.

Mr Kitooke adds that encroaching on forests for tree logging has also pushed animals from their habitat, thus, posing a risk on the relationship between people and the apes.

Sound bite: Kitooke on human-animal conflict (English)

The meeting that attracted private forest owners and other environmental activists from Bunyoro aimed to equip them with skills of improving on nature conservation.

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