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BirdLife Partners applaud Uganda’s decision to drop Mabira Forest give-away

NatureUganda convince government

Conservationists across the BirdLife Partnership are welcoming news that the Ugandan government has dropped its plan to give away a third of Mabira Forest Reserve to provide land for sugarcane plantations. The announcement came on Friday 19 October 2007, through a statement from the Uganda Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. Mabira Forest Reserve (at over 30,000 hectares) is globally recognised by BirdLife as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The forest contains over 12% of plant species and 30% of bird species found in Uganda. The announcement follows months of intensive campaigning by a number of organisations, most notably NatureUganda (BirdLife in Uganda) with support from BirdLife’s Africa Division and by BirdLife Partners from a number of countries and territories.Achilles Byaruhanga, NatureUganda’s Executive Officer expressed delight: “I am excited that our effort to advocate for a better option for Mabira Forest Reserve has been recognised and the fact accepted that the forest is a critical resource for Uganda and globally. The achievement is also for the Ugandan people who stood firm and opposed what was a wrong policy decision"

NatureUganda’s recent economic valuation of Mabira Forest Reserve is thought to have played an enormous part in the decision. The report showed clearly that the economic value of the forest if conserved, would surpass the anticipated economic value from sugarcane growing in future. Moreover, the report indicated clearly that alternative land for sugarcane growing is available elsewhere in Uganda, where there may be enhanced benefit to local communities and local economies.The list of ‘ecosystem services’ –livelihoods, clean water, food- provided by Mabira Forest to over 120,000 adjacent community members was another important finding in the report handed to the government by NatureUganda. The value of tourism also prominently featured. The BirdLife International Partnership through its national partner, NatureUganda, will continue to work with the Government of Uganda in the conservation of its national heritage.

“We applaud the government of Uganda for making a bold decision in protecting its forest resources despite the intentions of the sugar company,” said Ato Mengistu Wondafrash, the chairperson of Birdlife’s Africa Partnership (2006-2007).

The announcement made by the Ugandan government on Friday coincided with BirdLife’s Council for the Africa Partnership (CAP) meeting in Nairobi, where 23 African nations met and signed a petition opposing a proposed chemical plant on the shores of Tanzania’s Lake Natron, which threatens 75% of the world’s Lesser Flamingo.

“We hope the interesting parallels between Mabira and Lake Natron are noted by the Tanzanian government – both support key species, both support a booming tourist trade and both provide crucial ecosystem services for associated communities,” said Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, Head of BirdLife's Africa Division.

4th July 2014