The National Forestry Authority-NFA is concerned about the increasing population in the gazetted enclaves within Mabira forest which they say is contributing to forest depletion.
Micheal Ojja the Mabira Sector Manager says that there are 14 enclaves measuring about 2,660 hectares that were gazetted in 1932 when the forest was declared a central reserve.
These enclaves were deliberately spared for people to live in so as to offer protection to the forest and its habitats.
According to Ojja, at the time when Mabira was declared a central reserve, there were 40 households living in the enclaves, but the number has increased to 240.
He notes that they can only restore boundaries since occupants in enclaves own land titles and relocating them requires compensations. He says that 6, 000 hectares were earmarked to be restored, but 2, 000 have been restored but residents are taking advantage of staying closer to the forest to expand into them.
Mabira is depleted especially in the inside part deep from the main road through illegal logging, cultivation and charcoal burning activities. There are a number of gardens and sugar plantations grown on forest land. Some of these covering the NFA mark stones indicating the forest boundary.
Ojja explains that they still lack manpower including more supervisors. Mabira has eight supervisors though according to Ojja the world standard of managing a forest should be one supervisor looking after 2, 000 hectares.
Although the forest is known for more than 312 species of indigenous trees, Badru Mayanja, the Mukono Chief Administrative Officer notes these can rarely now be traced giving an example of fruit trees that are supposed to be food for the primates that include monkeys, apes and chimpanzees.
Richard Mbegunya one of the residents at Buvunya notes that although the residents are blamed for encroaching on the forest, he alleges that NFA secretly allows people to cut trees.
“Residents now fear entering into the forest ever since army deployments were made but tree logging as never stopped, well I do not say that locals don’t go there but what they take is little compared to what is taken on tracks” Mbegunya says.
Andrew Kaluya, the Member of Parliament representing Kigulu County South and a member of the Natural Resources Committee, says they have visited several forests across the country and realized that the enclaves are leading to encroachment.