A legal victory for local communities and wildlife in Uganda
In 2017 our partner in Uganda, Pro Biodiversity Conservationists PROBICOU went to court. Fighting for the rights of local communities to conserve and use Kafuga Forest products to sustain their livelihoods. Against deforestation and economic exploitation by private interests claiming the forest for themselves. You can read the original article here.
If PROBICOU had lost, the Kafuga Forest, which lies on the fringes of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site – would have been threatened with unsustainable exploitation. Amongst the endangered plants, insects, and animals in the park are 400 of the world’s remaining 880 mountain gorillas.
Creating a coalition with a shared vision
PROBICOU created a coalition to fight this case. Local rural community groups joined forces with the local council (who own the forest), as well as state agencies like the Ugandan Wildlife Authority and the Ugandan Forest Authority, to developed a conservation plan. On 21st September, the courts reached their verdict. In the words of Robert Tumwesigye Baganda of PROBICOU:
“… we have been struggling to conserve Kafuga forest since 2015. A group of people with private interests have been claiming the forest. We have been supporting Kisoro district Local government to protect Kafuga Forest. The court case has been ongoing since 2017. Finally, the 21st of September 2020 the court has decided on our favour and the forest can now be fully conserved.”
This is a victory for community access and control of land and resources. It is also an affirmation of the value community-led conservation in response to the climate crisis. In this regard, the final statement of the judicial resolution by Judge Olive Kazaarwe Mukwaya is instructive:
“Before I take leave of this matter, I must state that climate change is a global and national concern… There is need to balance societal need for food and sustenance with the protection and the preservation of the suit land to keep the eco system stable. Sustainable development and a green environment should not be mutually exclusive. Documented sensitization of the communities surrounding the suit land must be regular to avert further incidents of deforestation if future generations are to survive. Engaging the communities in environmental protection initiatives should be encouraged and promoted.”
PROBICOU’s efforts have led to an important victory for the communities around Kafuga Forest, for Ugandan conservation, and for us all.
Thank you, PROBICOU