- Conservationists have applauded the Ugandan government’s decision to drop its plan to give away a third of Mabira Forest Reserve land for sugarcane plantations.
Ugandan government bowed down to pressures from wildlife activists and publicly announced conserving Mabira.
The more than 30,000 hectare forest is globally recognised by BirdLife as an Important Bird Area (IBA) as it contains over 12% of plant species and 30% of bird species found in Uganda.
“I am excited that our effort to advocate for a better option for Mabira Forest Reserve has been recognised and the fact accepted that the forest is a critical resource for Uganda and globally,“ Achilles Byaruhanga, NatureUganda’s Executive Officer.
“The achievement is also for the Ugandan people who stood firm and opposed what was a wrong policy decision."
NatureUganda’s economic valuation of Mabira Forest Reserve is thought to have played an enormous part in the decision because the report showed clearly that the economic value of the forest if conserved, would surpass the anticipated economic value from sugarcane growing in future.
Besides, the report indicated clearly that alternative land for sugarcane growing is available elsewhere in Uganda, where there may be enhanced benefit to local communities and local economies.
The NatureUganda report also valued tourism and ecosystem services - livelihoods, clean water, food - provided by Mabira Forest to over 120,000 adjacent community members.
Through its national partner, NatureUganda, the BirdLife International Partnership promised to work with the government of Uganda to conserve its national heritage.
“We applaud the government of Uganda for making a bold decision in protecting its forest resources despite the intentions of the sugar company,” said Ato Mengistu Wondafrash, the Chairperson of Birdlife’s Africa Partnership, in a statement.
Uganda’s decision coincided with BirdLife’s Council for Africa Partnership meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, where representatives from 23 African nations met and signed a petition opposing a proposed chemical plant on the shore of Lake Natron in Tanzania thus threatening 75% of the world’s Lesser Flamingo.
“We hope the interesting parallels between Mabira and Lake Natron are noted by the Tanzanian government – both support key species, both support a booming tourist trade and both provide crucial ecosystem services for associated communities,” said Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, Head of BirdLife's Africa Division.
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