National Forestry Authority (NFA) has ordered all encroachers on Kasongoire forest reserve in Kyabigambire Sub-County in Hoima district to vacate with immediate effect.
Francis Madrama, the Kisindi NFA Sector manager, says cultivators forced their way into the reserve after learning that NFA had allocated about 200 hectares of the 3069 hectare forest land to private agroforestry farmers.
The four agroforestry farmers were authorised to plant pine, eucalyptus and bamboo for commercial purposes but also help to restore indigenous trees in Nyakabingo and Katugo areas in Kyabigambire Sub-County.
He however, says the project suffered a setback after more than 300 cultivators raided the reserve to plant crops and chased away the workers employed by the agro foresters.
According to NFA, the cultivators were incited into raiding the reserve by unnamed politicians. It is alleged that the politicians interfered with sensitization meetings between NFA and the residents neighboring the forest reserve.
Now, NFA has ordered the cultivators to harvest their crops and vacate the reserve immediately before they are forced out. The cultivators some of whom reportedly hail from as far as Nebbi district had planted cassava, maize and tobacco in the reserve. So far only cassava is ready for harvesting.
The 15 days’ notice followed a meeting by the District Security Committee on May 06th, 2017. Francis Madrama, the Kisindi NFA Sector manager, says they have already deployed a team of Police and UPDF personnel to stop any further encroachment.
Alex Mwesigwa, the Kyabigambire Sub-County LC III chairperson, says NFA has already evicted some cultivators before they could harvest their crops.
According to Mwesigwa, the NFA officials also torched five grass thatched huts during the eviction process. But Madrama refutes the allegations, saying it is such propaganda that led incited farmers to raid the forest reserve.
NFA is a government agency mandated with the management and protection of forest reserves across the country.