Moyo District Authority Sets Environmental Protection Committee In Refugees Settlement

Most Ugandans are completely reliant on natural resources to survive. Forests provide firewood and cleared land frees arable soil for agriculture.

Moyo District Authority Sets Environmental Protection Committee In Refugees Settlement
Trees being cut down in Moyo District for firewood [Photo|Paul Night]

By Paul Night

MOYO, 13 December 2017 [Gurtong]-Already 28 districts have lost their entire forest ecosystem while another 19 districts have forest cover lower than 1%.

As forests give way to agricultural land, the soil is exposed to erosion and loses its fertility. Where cattle are introduced, grazing also affects soil quality, opens the way for invasive species and reduces the diversity of plant species.

Other related problems include falling quality and availability of water among other issues like clearing some forests to settle the fastest growing refugees’ crisis in the country.

On Monday, the Leaders of Moyo district local government with support from UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies providing service to South Sudanese refugee at Palorinya refugee settlement set up an environmental enforcement committee in order to conserve nature.

The allocation of settlement sites for the refugees in Uganda is in non-populated areas where very few inhabitants settle. Most farm areas for the local communities which are forests with many trees and bushes after allocation of a plot one must clear the land by cutting most of the trees out for building a house besides the pieces of poles given by the management of the camps.

Within a short period of time the massive forest becomes homes to the homeless South Sudanese who continue to flee violence and continued economic crisis in South Sudan and with the growing effects on the environment in the most affected districts mostly in the northern region, authorities are beginning to question the conservationism of their natural resources.

Patrick Drama, the District Forest Officer in Moyo district said: “As we have at Sub County level environment protection committee, we also have established what we call environmental protection committee and their work is to undertake environmental mobilization and do enforcement of natural resources issues or offences”, Drama said.

He said the committee is guided by a manual book (Operation Hand Book) defining what message will be passed on during sensitization and how enforcement should be conducted and also how  people will be punished once they commit environmental offence in the settlements.

Drama said the district further is going to undertake activities of environmental assessment generating information relating to the effect of refugees and host communities activities on the natural resources.

“This assessment will be acquired for the purpose of planning and as data is captured then we shall be able to mainstream different environmental intervention. However, this data is not captured only for Itula Sub County where the refugees are settled but entire district (Moyo) because it is observed that the impact of refugees in terms of firewood collection leading to deforestation as now extends to other parts of the district we need to capture this data and such that we do strategic decisions to at least control the spread of this impact.”

Isaac Wani 45, one of the environmental protection committee member said the trees in Palorinya refugee settlement are vulnerable as many are at risk of being cut down.

He said the district will undertake capacity building activities for the leadership both in the settlement and the hosting communities and will be done to emphasis mainly the aspect of co-existence and sharing the natural resources.

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