Private forest owners have been identified to be among the most important stakeholders in the efforts to ensure sustainable use of forestry resources in Uganda.
Speaking to Kazi-njema News after his supervisory tour to Bugoma Central Forest Reserve and facilitating a training workshop organised by the Cross Cultural Foundation in Uganda (CCFU) held in Hoima city, Mr Michael Kusuro, the Budongo Systems Range Manager said his job would absolutely become easy if members of the community appreciated the income in ecotourism vis-à-vis unsustainable tree felling for income.
He justified their importance by revealing that forests under private and community ownership constitute 70% of the forested land in Uganda whereas national parks including Murchison Falls and Kidepo under the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) constitute only 15%. Land under central forest reserves managed by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) equally constitutes 15% like that under the UWA.
It is on this background that Mr Kusuro said leaving behind private and community forest owners will be a great miscalculation.
He highlighted the potential of a person attracting local, national and international tourists and earn big through hospitality services because with technical guidance, an ecotourism centre comprises attractions that are independently paid for.
The Range Manager talked of traditional dance, traditional food, handcrafts and fire camps. This is a very sustainable way of utilising forests other than cutting it down for timber and charcoal burning and replacement with plantations.
Mr Kusuro promises to intensify sensitisation to ensure that the community is aware of the opportunities in conserving private and community forests as well as the near and long term dangers of degrading forests.
He noted that people normally think it is only the Central Forest Reserves that must be conserved yet there is a lot to lose outside the national reserves.
The debate comes at the time when it is not clear whether the replacement plan for part of Bugoma Forest Reserve with sugarcane plantations will be reversed or not. Claims that clearing is continuing remain active.
Ms Emily Dranii, the Executive Director for CCFU, said they are working to promote conservation by attaching cultural value to the forests.
According to her, more sensitisation is needed during this economically and socially hard time created by the COVID-19 pandemic whereby forestry resources are the nearest alternative source of livelihood.
Meanwhile, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Minister for Tourism, John Apollo Rwamparo appreciated the cultural approach saying it quickly sends a signal of conservation to the Banyoro.
He said that Bunyoro kingdom is now promoting planting trees at burial ceremonies instead of factory manufactured flowers.
Mr Rwamparo said the cultural attachment to environmental conservation is evident at all traditional functions where the most essential costumes like backcloth from backcloth tree are used.
Statistics from the NFA show that natural forest cover is badly declining in Uganda warning that if vigorous measures are not taken to control deforestation and promote reforestation, Uganda will have no visible natural forest by 2050.
It means everybody in the country will face the rough effects of global warming which include famine and floods.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that a million species across the globe are in near time danger of extinction due to environmental conservation.
The previous decade had the highest global temperatures in the recorded history of mankind.
Nobody knows how the 2020-2030 decade will end.