Kibaale. Residents and leaders from greater-Kibaale districts have accused the National Forestry Authority (NFA) of sidelining them while giving out central forest reserves to private developers.
In a July 2017 advert, NFA sought to hire out several forest reserves in Kakumiro, Kibaale and Kagadi districts and other regions to individuals for commercial tree growing on a 49-year lease basis. Early this week, the forestry authority released a list of the successful applicants.
However, leaders in the above districts said nationalising the application process is a deliberate move to push out residents living around the reserves from benefiting.
Kibaale District chairman Peter Amara claimed that he had obtained the final documents showing that less than 10 applicants from the three districts had been selected despite hundreds applying for the offer.
“I am not happy at all because I happened to view the list of the successful people. The bidding process was taken to Kampala and there was little information to our communities,” Mr Amara told a district council meeting last week.
“When you look at the final list of beneficiaries, our locals are very few and they are not exceeding 10,” he added.
Mr Amara said giving away forest reserves to people from other areas will create a conflict with the residents living around the reserves.
“Now the pressure is rising, indicating that we are likely to get a conflict here because of the influx of people from Kampala to occupy these forests and yet our people around have suffered by history resulting from colonial problems,” he said.
Members of Kasoga Farmers Association in Mabaale Sub-county, Kagadi District, have petitioned the Resident District Commissioner, Mr Salimu Kumakech, seeking any explanation as to why their application to develop Ruzaire Forest Reserve was not considered by NFA.
According to the petition, the farmers vowed never to allow any non-resident to work within the forest reserve if area residents are not considered first.
Kagadi District vice chairman John Alibankoha vowed to join residents protesting the distribution of forest reserve land to people who are not area residents.
Kibaale District Woman MP Noerine Kisembo Basemera said government should always consider local content while dealing with exploiation of resources in Bunyoro sub-region.
“I am equally concerned that our local people were left out and yet as a country today, we advocate for local content,” Ms Basemera said.
When contacted, the Kagadi NFA sector supervisor, Mr Boaz Basigirenda, said all those aggrieved by the NFA’s bidding process should petition the higher authorities.
NFA speaks out
“Everyone had his role to play in this programme and my work was to display the central forest reserve blocks and what followed the processes, including allocations, were all done form the headquarters. I urge whoever is having a complaint over this matter to go to the NFA headquarters’’ he said.
Mr Basigirenda, who was also in-charge of receiving applications for land blocks in the reserves, said he received more than 200, adding that many applicants were from other areas like Kampala.
“Local people were also encouraged to apply and indeed they applied in groups. As per now, no one has been given land though there is a list which came out and I am yet to get it,” he said.
The rates. According to a circular from NFA, some of the central forest reserves up for hire include Nyabiku in Kakumiro District, Kijuna, and Kanaga in Kibaale District and Ruzaire in Kagadi District. Other forests are in the districts of Nebbi, Apac, Nakasongola, Mbale, Amuru, Kiboga and Amolatar.