KAMPALA, Uganda— National Forestry Authority (NFA) in collaboration with districts hosting refuges are to embark on a tree planting initiative aimed at restoring the degraded central forest reserves in the host districts brought by the influx of refugees.
According to Paul Bunyerah Musamali, the Acting Executive Director NFA, they intend to plant about 100,000 assorted trees country wide but targeting only refuges hosting districts .
He explained that the influx of refugees into Uganda from neighboring countries such as South Sudan , Rwanda , Democratic Republic of Congo among other countries has greatly affected the country’s forest cover.
“Our trees have been harvested randomly by both the host communities and the refugees, that is why we are coming up with this initiative of working with the local government to ensure that more trees are replanted in the depleted forests reserves” He said .
Musamali explained that both refugees and the host communities depend on government forests for biofuel as a key source of energy that they depend on , it is a source of income through making furniture which is later sold on the local market by both refugees and the host communities to earn income .
The most affected central forest reserves that need more attention according to NFA boss include Malamagambo Central Forest Reserve in Rakai District, Bugoma forest in Hoima district, the Bugoma forest has been greatly affected by the refugees settling in Kyangwali refugees settlement camp in Hoima District.
Other district where the trees will be planted are Arua and Yumbe in West Nile. In Yumbe particularly, refugees fleeing the conflicts in South Sudan have exerted pressure on some forest in the District, Yumbe District has one of the largest refugee settlement camp of Bidibidi with a refugee population of about 270,000 South Sudanese refugees, as of early 2017 fleeing the ongoing civil war.
Currently Uganda is hosting the highest numbers of refuges in Africa , and the third largest globally. The refugee population is now about 1.4million. Women and Girls represent 54% of the total refugee population, while children constitutes 60%.This increase compounds the impact refugees have on the country’s natural resources such as water and Forests.