Kisoro, Uganda – Conservationists in Rubanda and Kisoro districts want Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA to take over Echuya Central Forest Reserve.
The forest that is shared by Rubanda and Kisoro districts is under National Forestry Authority-NFA after it was gazetted in 1939.
Conservationists argue that once the forest is under UWA, it can be turned into a national park since it is a habitat for rare bird species and will also help promote tourism in the area.
The Forest Reserve is home to roughly 150 bird species, eighteen of which are endemic to the reserve, including the elusive Grauer’s swamp warbler.
Achilles Byaruhanga, Executive Director of Nature Uganda says that currently the forest reserve is being degraded and encroached on by people under the watch of NFA.
Byaruhanga also says that some species of animals like wild pigs and buffaloes that used to live in Echuya forest were all killed by poachers due to negligence by the management.
Engineer Ivan Mbabazi Batuma, the chairperson for Kigezi Tourism Cluster says that the takeover of Echuya forest by UWA is long overdue. Batuma explains that the takeover by UWA will help boost tourism where both flora and fauna will be protected.
Batuma also notes that communities neighbouring the forest reserve will benefit through revenue sharing.
Tom Butime, Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, says that the district council should first pass a resolution supporting UWA to take over the forest reserve. He adds that the resolution will then be presented to cabinet and later before parliament for final discussion and approval.