Simon Okwi, the Parish Councilor for Kagwara says his voters were told to form an association in order to be considered by NFA, a development he notes enabled them to plant trees. He notes that the team was surprised when NFA came in to mark and split the forest into blocks without considering the locals.
Scores of fishermen in Serere district have been denied
access to forest land, which they have been cultivating for years. In Kagwara,
which hosts one of the biggest forests in the district, all the land that used
to support hundreds of families has been leased to investors.
The fishing community in Kagwara used to rely on the forest
land for food production especially maize, beans and cassava. As men went into
the lake to fish, women and children would be in the gardens, something that
would help their families not only get some money for survival but also
enough food to fight hunger.
But all this has now gone as both the fishing and cultivation have been stopped simultaneously. In 2016, National Forestry
Authority- NFA sought private investors to plant trees in forest reserves across
The move that was informed by the enormous loss of forest reserve
land to human activities only pinched fishermen, the main users of the forest
land following the suspension of fishing activities in January.
NFA records at the time showed that the country was losing over
120,000 acres of forest cover annually mainly caused by settlements,
cultivation, charcoal burning and lumbering. This prompted NFA to seek
organizations and individuals to help in afforestation.
has been split into 13 blocks of 50 hectares each. David Kalisa, one of the
fishermen and businessman also beneficiary of the forest land in Kagwara, says
they have been turned into paupers because of the forest land give away.
Kalisa explains that even after planting 19 hectares of pine
trees as local community association in Kagwara since 2013, NFA didn’t consider
them for any block. He revealed that some of the purported investors, now on
the forest land extort money from locals to have access to land. He says that
at least 20 people have fallen prey to the scam after paying Shillings 100,000 each to “investors”.
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Simon Okwi, the Parish Councilor for Kagwara says his voters were told to form an association in order to be considered by NFA, a
development he notes enabled them to plant trees. He notes that the team was surprised
when NFA came in to mark and split the forest into blocks without considering
Okwi is disappointed that most of the forest land was given
to big shots including some Members of Parliament from Serere. In his
narrative, Okwi claims that some of the politicians are cultivating crops
instead of planting trees that they were considered for.
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Joseph Opit Okojo, the Serere District chairperson says
the forest was given out without the knowledge of the district leadership. He
says the process was fraudulent and the people considered are busy minting money
from the forest land by cultivating food crops.
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Robert Busiku, the Sector Manager at National Forestry
Authority in Soroti says the forest reserves were poorly managed as people
exploited them for cultivating crops. He says that five percent of the forests
was to be managed by the local community but no one qualified.