Arua | RedPepper DIgital – MTN Uganda has injected UGX440m in restoring central forest reserves across the country.
Of the 506 central forest reserves in Uganda, MTN has partnered with the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to restore parts of at least five central forest reserves in different parts of the country.
These include; Kyewaga central forest reserve in Entebbe, Jubia central forest reserve in Masaka district, Enjeva central forest reserve in Arua district, Kagombe central forest reserve which lies between Kibaale and Kagadi districts, and Ogera central forest reserve in Serere district.
Speaking during the launch of the restoration program for Enjeva central forest reserve in Arua district on Friday, Ibrahim Ssenyonga who represented the MTN Chief Executive Officer said they intend to restore a total of 220 hectares of central forest reserves across the country.
“MTN has today embarked on restoring 50 hectares of forest cover in Enjeva central forest reserve in Arua as it further deepens its roots in Uganda, in its ambitious project of restoring 220 hectares of forest cover across the country,” Ssenyonga said.
“The reforestation project that shall restore forest cover in five central forest reserves in five districts across the country is a precursor of the company’s listing of 20 per cent of its shares on the Uganda Stock Exchange, an opportunity for Uganda to own a part of MTN,” Ssenyonga added.
He noted that the reforestation drive is part of MTN’s ‘Uganda is Home’ campaign which was launched last month in Entebbe where the Telecom Company restored 20 hectares of forest cover in Kyewaga central forest reserve and 50 hectares of Jubiya central forest reserve in Masaka district last week.
The Arua function which was presided over by Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, the Minister for Northern Uganda attracted different stakeholders including local and district leaders who all praised MTN and NFA for thinking about restoring parts of Enjeva central forest reserve.
During the occasion that shows different leaders plant and names at least a tree, Robert Owiny, the West Nile NFA Range Manager said Enjeva is one of the 37 central forest reserves in the West Nile Range.
“Today’s function is going to mark the reversal of degradation in Enjeva central forest reserve. This particular forest reserve was first gazetted in 1951 with a total area of 738 hectares and at the time of gazetment, it was intact and undisturbed,” Owiny said.
However, he stressed that with time, as the human population kept rising, people started getting into the forest reserve to extract forest products like firewood, building poles and at some stage, the charcoal business became lucrative and the trees in the forest became raw material for charcoal production.
“Then as land for cultivation also got smaller as the population increased, some people started encroaching into the reserve to undertake crop cultivation and that has led to a degradation amounting to about 200 hectares of Enjeva central forest reserve. The reason why I think today’s occasion which has brought people of all walks of life is not by mistake, it is a well designed approach recognizing the fact that matters of environmental conservation must be taken seriously by everybody,” Owiny stated.
Speaking on behalf of Tom Okello Obong, the Executive Director of NFA, Daglous Lukwago, the Business Development Manager NFA said NFA is merely the custodian of central forest reserves which belong to the members of the community.
“We are the custodians; we look after these forest reserves on your behalf. This is your central forest reserve, and at the end of the day, we shall leave this place and go back to Kampala but the community here, you are the beneficiaries of this, so, it is very important that you look after this forest reserve. Please support this program as much as you can,” Lukwago advised.
Alfred Okuonzi, the Arua district chairperson commended MTN and NFA for choosing to restore Enjeva central forest reserve. He equally requested the locals to own the project by protecting the trees being planted by MTN and NFA.
According to Okuonzi, the problem of people encroaching on forest reserves will only be addressed when locals resort to producing by choice but not by chance.
In her remarks, Kwiyucwiny thanked MTN for the initiative and asked people to liaise with NFA for tree seedlings so that they can plant more trees not only in forest reserves but also at their homes to conserve the environment.