NFA kicks Mehta off 124-acre Mabira land

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Local government officials and police raid a part of Mabira Forest which had been destroyed by encroachers Photo Credit: Mukasa Kivumbi

BY NECJOGHA TEAM

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has recovered 50 hectares (124 acres) of Mabira forest land that Mehta Group of Companies, the parent company of Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (SCOUL), had turned into a sugar plantation.

SCOUL, founded in 1924, manufactures up to 1 million tonnes of Lugazi Sugar a year from its 30,000-acre estate, according to information on its website, and directly employs 7,000 people besides 6,000 other outgrowers.

Mr Tom Rukundo, the NFA director of natural forests, yesterday said it took the authority three years in back-and-forth meetings with the sugar maker to reclaim the land.

“We recovered 50 hectares from Mehta that he was using for sugarcane growing and another 100 hectares from the communities that had encroached on the forest land,” Mr Rukundo said.

“Some of the land was encroached [on] during the times of insurgency and Mehta had a lease on [a section of Mabira] land he got in 1930s, which expired,” he added.

The authority in partnership with Motor Care and environment journalists re-planted part of the reclaimed land with indigenous trees last Saturday.

SCOUL officials were unavailable to comment on the matter. The company, one of the largest tax payers, generates 9.5 megawatts of electricity and in 2014, it set up a distillery which converts molasses into industrial alcohol.

In 2017, a Joint Water and Environment Sector Review Report, curried out by Ministry of Water and Environment, indicated that the country’s forest cover had dropped to 9 per cent, representing a 3 per cent drop in just two years.

The report also revealed that thousands of hectares of Mabira forest had been degraded.

“4,755 hectares of Mabira were mapped as degraded or under stocked and 1,500 hectares of were under restoration,” reads part of the report about the 30,000 hectares forest gazetted in 1932.

Uganda has 506 central forest reserves managed by NFA situated in different parts of the country which represents 15 per cent of the total forest cover.

The other 85 per cent forest cover is managed by Local Governments, individuals and institutions.

The Recovered Forest Land

Mabira forest is home to rivers that pour water into Lake Victoria and River Nile.

It is also a forest with different animals, birds and a source of medicinal plants.
Because of its rich natural flora and fauna, many tourists frequent the forest.

In 2007, President Museveni, attempted to give out a section of Mabira to Mehta for sugar growing but the plan was botched after environmentalists staged demonstrations that resulted in the loss of lives.

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has recovered 50 hectares (124 acres) of Mabira forest land that Mehta Group of Companies, the parent company of Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (SCOUL), had turned into a sugar plantation.

SCOUL, founded in 1924, manufactures up to 1 million tonnes of Lugazi Sugar a year from its 30,000-acre estate, according to information on its website, and directly employs 7,000 people besides 6,000 other outgrowers.

Mr Tom Rukundo, the NFA director of natural forests, yesterday said it took the authority three years in back-and-forth meetings with the sugar maker to reclaim the land.

“We recovered 50 hectares from Mehta that he was using for sugarcane growing and another 100 hectares from the communities that had encroached on the forest land,” Mr Rukundo said.

“Some of the land was encroached [on] during the times of insurgency and Mehta had a lease on [a section of Mabira] land he got in 1930s, which expired,” he added.

The authority in partnership with Motor Care and environment journalists re-planted part of the reclaimed land with indigenous trees last Saturday.

SCOUL officials were unavailable to comment on the matter. The company, one of the largest tax payers, generates 9.5 megawatts of electricity and in 2014, it set up a distillery which converts molasses into industrial alcohol.

In 2017, a Joint Water and Environment Sector Review Report, curried out by Ministry of Water and Environment, indicated that the country’s forest cover had dropped to 9 per cent, representing a 3 per cent drop in just two years.

The report also revealed that thousands of hectares of Mabira forest had been degraded.

“4,755 hectares of Mabira were mapped as degraded or under stocked and 1,500 hectares of were under restoration,” reads part of the report about the 30,000 hectares forest gazetted in 1932.

Uganda has 506 central forest reserves managed by NFA situated in different parts of the country which represents 15 per cent of the total forest cover.

The other 85 per cent forest cover is managed by Local Governments, individuals and institutions.

Mabira forest is home to rivers that pour water into Lake Victoria and River Nile.

It is also a forest with different animals, birds and a source of medicinal plants.
Because of its rich natural flora and fauna, many tourists frequent the forest.

In 2007, President Museveni, attempted to give out a section of Mabira to Mehta for sugar growing but the plan was botched after environmentalists staged demonstrations that resulted in the loss of lives.

Uganda’s forest cover change between 1990 and 2015

According to the state of Uganda’s Forestry 2016 report by Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda’s forest estate has shrunk from 24% of the total land area in 1990 to 9% in 2015. In terms of acreage a total of 3.05 million hectares were lost in a span of 25 years.Out of this loss about 2.2 million hectares were from the woodlands. The records also indicate that the forest estate outside Protected Areas reduced from 68% of the total forest land area in 1990 to 61% in 2005 and down to 38% in 2015.

This means that almost half of the unprotected forests have been cleared in just 25 years. However, there were some significant gains in the broad leaved and conifer plantations as a result of tree planting efforts by NFA and the private sector. Between 2005 and 2015 the area of forest plantations both conifers and broad leaved increased to 37,000 hectares on private land and 64,000 in Central Forest Reserves.

Table 4 below shows how the forest cover has changed between 1990 and 2015

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