Masindi district council has passed a resolution backing the government proposal to gazette Budongo central forest into a National Park.
This was during an extra-ordinary council held on December 8, 2022. The motion was tabled by the district secretary for production natural resources and marketing, Geofrey Kiiza Bigabwa and seconded by the councilor representing Nyantonzi sub county Christopher Acidri.
In a council chaired by speaker Moses Kiirya, Bigabwa cited economic viability and conservation as some of the benefits of gazetting the forest to a National Park.
He said Masindi stands to benefit more from the revenue sharing project in case the forest becomes a national park since it will have more parishes touching the national park.
The motion was later unanimously passed by the councilors who argues that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), a government agency mandated to manage and conserve wildlife, annually gives 20 percent of the gate collections to districts sharing the national parks in Uganda and the amount a district gets depends on the number of its parishes that touch the national park.
The council was organised by UWA in partnership with Jane Goodall, a conservation organisation.
George Owoyesigyore, the acting commissioner ministry of tourism wildlife and antiquities told council that the plan has been necessitated by the rampant cutting of flora (trees) which endangers the fauna (animals) and are almost at the verge of extinction.
He also cited poaching that has led to loss of many wild animals in the forest which he believes will be addressed by upgrading the forest to a national park.
Owoyesigyire said a national park has several benefits citing increased revenue to both government and the adjacent communities resulting from tourism.
He added that Budondo will not be the first forest in Uganda to be upgraded, saying that several other forests have been upgraded before.
Masindi Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Ngabirano, welcomed the government’s proposal to upgrade Budongo forest to a national park.
He, however, asked UWA to give first priority to the park adjacent communities in the recruitment of the park rangers, saying currently UWA has not been doing so which has seen very few rangers drawn from the park adjacent communities.
Budongo forest was gazetted in 1932 and touches Masindi and Buliisa districts.
It covers 3,893 square kilometres and in case the proposal goes through, it will be annexed to Murchison Falls National Park which is located 17.5 kilometres away.
Recently, Buliisa district council resolved to first consult the communities neighbouring the forest before pronouncing itself on the proposal.
The councilors fear that upgrading the forest will affect the neighboring communities that have been getting items like firewood and medicinal herbs from it.
Buliisa wants the government to first prepare the communities such as allowing them to plant their own forests before implementing the proposal.