Breaking

Serere Fishermen Cry Foul Over Forest Land

Top story
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.
Kagwara Forest Reserve.

Audio 3

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 country. 

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. 

Kagwara Forest 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”. 

//Cue in “We had areas...

Cue out...people down”//

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.

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.

//Cue in “Some are cultivating...

Cue out...COVID-19 has come”//

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.

//Cue in “When they were...

Cue out...unacceptable”//

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.