A group of environmental conservation activists have announced a series of activities aimed at mobilising Ugandans to boycott products of Hoima Sugar Limited over the company’s stance on Bugoma Central Forest Reserve.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) gave nine square miles which is part of Bugoma forest to Hoima Sugar Limited to grow sugarcane, a move that has not augured well especially with conservationists and tourism enthusiasts.
Addressing journalists yesterday (Sunday), Mr Dickens Kamugisha, the chairman of the Save Bugoma Campaign said that activists’ efforts to speak to the sugar company over the forest have proved futile forcing them to opt for a step further.
“Hoima Sugar Limited has ignored calls from Ugandans to stop cutting down the forest. It is very unfortunate that the company is rapidly shaving down the forest to plant sugarcane by fronting the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate from NEMA yet we have challenged it in court,” Mr Kamugisha said.
“We have been left with no choice but to urge Ugandans, traders, banks, markets and the world at large not to buy Hoima sugar and other products from the company because the owners have adamantly refused to heed to calls to desist from destroying the environment,” he added.
According to Mr Sam Mucunguzi from the Citizens; Concern Africa, 1.8% of Uganda’s forest cover is lost every year and that in the past 20 years, 25% of the country’s forests have been cut down.
“We can’t afford to lose such a tropical forest that is of great benefit to the country and continent at large during such a time when we are advocating against climate change,” Mr Mucunguzi said.
Adding: “It is a shame that someone wants to destroy a forest but thinks their children will have a bright future when the environment is destroyed. We can’t stoop so low like that.”
Mr Mucunguzi said that it makes no sense for the country to be discussing eco-tourism when a forest which contributes greatly to tourism is being put down.
“Why should such a rare tropical forest go down for ridiculous reasons like growing sugarcane yet Busoga region which has been engaged in the same business has not benefitted much from growing of sugarcane? We are mobilising the public to boycott Hoima Sugar products and also isolate employees of the company,” he stressed.
The activists also condemned police and army presence in the forest to guard the interests of the sugar company.
“The speaker of Parliament, [Ms] Rebecca Kadaga and other MPs should come out to condemn the cutting down of the forest. This concerns everyone not only us,” Mr Mucunguzi said.
NEMA recently cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to use the forest reserve for sugarcane growing when it issued a certificate of approval for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report.
Efforts to get a comment from Hoima Sugar Limited officials about the matter were futile.