Women to welcome Museveni with petition on Bugoma forest

Bugoma Central Forest Reserve

Women living in the neighbourhood of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve (CFR) will welcome President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa with a petition highlighting their key grievances and fears in relation to the plot to replace part of Bugoma forest with sugarcane plantations.

On December 19, 2020, President Museveni is expected at Bunyoro regional headquarters as a presidential candidate on the National Resistance Movement (NRM) ticket to solicit support for him to continue serving as democratically elected president of Uganda for the sixth term.

During their dialogue on Bugoma CFR held at Bugoma Jungle Lodge in Kabwoya sub-county, Kikuube district, the women appreciated their role as far as environmental conservation is concerned and how deforestation particularly affects rural women given the traditional setup of their communities.

Ms Alice Asiimwe of Kaseeta B village in Kabwoya sub-county said women are in great fear for losing their land because men normally abandon them when things turn around as witnessed during the Kigyayo evictions in Kiziranfumbi sub-county.

According to her, since the local leaders seem not to care or have no capacity to listen to the plight of the local people in relation to the threats against Bugoma forest, they better take advantage of the president’s campaign visit to tell their fears and feelings about the forest.

“You know there are widespread claims that the project is backed by State House.  Let us write a petition and expect a final answer from President Museveni. He is our father and our president. We believe he can care about environment,” she said.

Ms Harriet Kemirembe living in Kigyayo Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp – home to victims of Kiswaza evictions in Kiziramfumbi sub-county shared her experience of living in an IDP after losing her land- an ordeal that shocked many participants.

“I am living a miserable life in a make-shift with my husband and our children including the mature ones. We had land for cultivation and food security before we were evicted. But now we are struggling to get what to eat,” she narrated.

Ms Kemirembe warned that women around Bugoma forest are heading to a similar experience if their leaders do not fight hard to have the decision reversed.

Ms Joy Rufunda, the Chairperson for Blind Women Association in Hoima, proposed that women should seek audience with Mr Andrew Byakutaaga, the Prime Minister for Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom to explain their position as mothers of the nation about Bugoma forest degradation since it is the kingdom that sold land to Hoima Sugar Limited.

Ms Robinah Tibakanya, the Hoima district Coordinator for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS called upon health organisations to join the ‘Save Bugoma Campaigners’ because the effects of climate change will trigger health complications when it is too late to intervene.

“Like us persons living with HIV/AIDS, our life is fragile because we hate exposure to pressure and polluted environment. We hear that oil production will pollute the environment and now we are the same persons at risk of going homeless since the land boundaries are unclear with the disputed land. All stakeholders must join the fight for Bugoma,” she said.

Kazi-njema News in-depth look into Ms Tibakanya’s concern rested on the World Health Organisation (WHO’s) report that indicates that seven million people die from the effects of air pollution and climate change every year.

During the dialogue, the women led by Ms Adah Mbabazi, discussed how Bugoma forest means a lot to their survival through harvesting forest resources like mushrooms and honey for food and sell the surplus to get money for essential commodities like salt and soap.

Traditional herbs that help them escape the expenses of buying medicine in clinics are another key benefit that almost 90% of participants did not miss to hint on.

Firewood collection and the known forest factor of climate modification were never ignored.

Audio: Mbabazi on Bugoma forest (Runyoro/Rutooro)

Ms Sandra Atusinguza and Jenifer Baitwamasa, members of Save Bugoma Campaigners, urged rural women to get organised further such that they can sufficiently play their role in fighting for Bugoma instead of remaining in lamentation when their voices are not head by duty bearers.

Ms Annet Kabahaguzi, the Kikuube District Community Development Officer, urged women not to lose track in the usual economic activities due to the issue of Bugoma forest.

“I know you are worried of land security and other related changes. But you should continue to promote creativity in art and craft and business because whether you remain on that land or not, you will need a source of livelihood,” she said.

Sharing her experience, Ms Lilian Kitoma Akello of Purongo town council in Nwoya district said women there are badly affected by the evictions aimed to pave way for large scale rice farmers.

Ms Sostine Namanya, the Programme Officer at the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) said as members of Save Bugoma Campaigners, they will continue working with different stakeholders in the fight for the environment.

Audio: Namanya on Bugoma forest (English)

The dialogue was concluded by a walk at the forest boundary holding placards that carry a message of protest against the degradation of Bugoma CFR.

The dialogue was organised by NAPE partnering with the National Association for Women’s Action in Development (NAWAD).

Ms Jenifer Nakitende, the NAWAD Field Officer, expressed worry that the degradation of Bugoma will negatively affect many livelihood sources of women including government projects.

Latest on Bugoma giveaway

The boundary opening issue remains an outstanding subject as far as defusing the tensions is concerned.

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) is claiming that Hoima Sugar Limited is continuing to clear the forest ignoring the court process and taking advantage of the delayed boundary opening exercise.

It says that the ministry of lands should resume the boundary opening exercise halted in the middle of last month on fears that it would have serious political implications.

The ministry of lands says boundary opening is continuing without stating how and with what stakeholders.

Save Bugoma Campaigners want a transparent exercise of Bugoma boundary opening.

Leaders in Kikuube district including the area Member of Parliament, district chairman and the Resident District Commissioner are accusing the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development of abrupt halting of the boundary opening process and cutting them off information.

They were optimistic that the exercise could answer many public queries about the government.

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