Locals faulted as restoration of Opit forest reserve stalls

Part of Opit Forest Reserve in Oyam district. Photo by Ojara Daniel.

By Ojara Daniel

Oyam—19 November 2020: Residents of Omoro and Oyam districts are demanding for replanting of Opit forest reserve. The forest reserve is one of the leading reserves in the northern region, with an elevation of 1124 meters.

The forest helped during the LRA war and it became a source of live hood for one of the largest internally displaced people camps (Opit camp) from 2001 to 2008. It provided poles for construction, firewood, and part of its land were used for growing crops, among others.

Even after the war, the forest reserve has continued to suffer from encroachment, with people choosing to grow crops in it. This does not give chance to natural regeneration as sapling that sprouts are cut by the farmers and not given further chance for growing.

However, the efforts to restore the encroached areas by the national forestry authority have had mixed results. 

One, land conflict in the reserve and trees are being cut down by farmers cultivating in the reserve, while other surviving trees are burnt during the dry season by wild fires.

Having realized the need to support restoration of the forest reserve, many partners have come to support the project of restoration in 2016. Jointly implemented by Nature Uganda, Tree Talk and BAT Uganda, the positives are somehow minimal.

A group of nursery beds for seedlings were established to provide seedlings for re (planting) but also some seedlings were supplied to the neighbouring schools and communities.

Other activities were to open the boundaries again so that communities are aware of the demarcation of the forest reserve.

But during the meeting held early this year together with Omoro district official at the district headquarters, one of the forestry officials this publication is only identifying as Dorcus, said the initial replanting of other hectares under the project has been denied a chance by the communities who uprooted some seedlings.

“We were spraying it with herbicides and the surviving ones were set on fire,” she said.

But during that meeting leaders pledged to sensitize the communities to refrain from frustrating the project and the support that development partners are bringing to the communities.  

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