Global climate crisis is there; we can reverse the trend and benefit more through deliberate forest conservation

The great Sir David Attenborough said in 2020, ‘Saving the planet is now a communications challenge’. He must have said that not to belittle the science or undervalue the importance of research, but because fundamentally there should be a strategy in place to deal with our problems. As humans, we should know what we need to do and when to do it.

For instance, as humans, we are facing different global challenges including an increase in global temperatures, unprecedented floods, drought famine, loss of important biodiversity such as plants, birds, animals, increase in crop pest and diseases, increase in conflicts for natural resources, increase in zoonotic diseases and pandemics, and so many. This trend and more of these challenges can continue if we choose to say or do nothing.  The aforementioned are mostly as a result of human interference with nature resulting into climate change thus climate crisis.  Our main focus as people living in the planet is to now convince everyone to appreciate that there are changes in our climate but also come up with ways on how to mitigate it or even adopt to the changes. This should be done in ways where different people can easily understand this global phenomenon. For instance, the message given to communities in Mandwiga, Butoole Parish in Kyangwali Sub County in Kikuube district can be the same as that for the people living in Kampala City but simpler ways. By doing such, it would reduce on the challenge of communications problem.

According to recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publications, addressing these challenges and moving towards sustainability will require drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions within the next decades. At the same time, the evidence is equally clear that the global community must also safeguard and restore nature, especially the remaining, relatively-intact ecosystems that offer one of the most obvious and immediate options to build climate resilience. IPCC is a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

The IPCC prepares comprehensive assessment reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place. It also produces special reports on topics agreed to by its member governments, as well as methodology reports that provide guidelines for the preparation of greenhouse gas inventories.

It is worth to note that a lot of conservation efforts have continued to have been done by different players including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), government and other corporations. There has been an increase in media coverage of trees as a natural climate solution and this has created momentum for tree planting which is seen as a tangible action that offers a chance for engaging in climate action. The enthusiasm for planting trees has grown rapidly around the globe with many established tree-planting organisations doubling or even tripled their level of activity. The total number of organizations has also exploded, with new players continually entering the arena. Corporate companies have also come on board and involved themselves for their public image and to be seen as actors in the climate action movement. But the question remains as to why there is still an increase in the levels of degradation? We need to really ask ourselves as to why natural ecosystems such as Bugoma central forest reserve still suffer human wrath of degradation? Is it because we hate to see nature thriving? Why would we allow a natural tropical forest such as Bugoma central forest reserve that covers an area of 401 square kilometres (155 square miles/40,100 hectares) dominated with Iron wood (scientifically known as Cynometra alexandri and locally known as the Muhimbi) to just vanish like that? Wouldn’t the next generation judge us harshly for failure to stand up and protect a natural beauty like Bugoma central forest reserve that is drained by four small rivers that include Nguse, Rutoha, Hohwa and River Rwemiseke (these two now being seasonal) all pour their water into Lake Albert. It had seven species of butterflies and two species of large moths.
Two notable bird species that occur here are Nahan’s Francolin (Francelinus nahanis), the black-eared ground thrush (Zoothera camaronensis).

A census in 2010 estimated that 600 chimpanzees live in the forest, alongside black and white colobus monkeys, reptiles, Uganda Mangabey monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, golden cats (profelis aurata) and side-stripped jackals. A small number of bush elephants were recorded in the recent years.
The trees make Bugoma a big environmental asset in the region, since the trees absorb carbon dioxide gas emission from the atmosphere.

I feel that we indeed have to do something unusual to the forest on the Western Rift Valley which offers breathtaking views of the countryside and other surrounding areas. The unusual thing we have to do is to restore the degraded patches of this forest as soon as we can. If we do this, we can be able restore the species richness of this forest through having an array of the aforesaid important plant and animal species and maintain it as a real biodiversity hotspot that is worth exploring by tourists since it hosts an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna species.

One has to note that this Reserve is a central Conservation Forest which is the 12th top places of importance out of the 65 forests studied for biodiversity. It is also amazingly the 17th among forests with exceptional species. Other mammals that call the forest reserve home include Buffaloes, Bush Elephants, Uganda Kobs, Golden Cats, Side-stripped Jackals, 20 species of Amphibians including one species that is endemic to the Albertine Rift, 118 species of moths, 292 species of butterflies that include 4 species endemic to the Albertine Rift Mountains. There are over 225 bird species that have been recorded in the forest and these include several Guinea-Congo Biome bird species. Should we really let this paradise just go without any efforts of trying to restore it?  We can surely be kind to nature as it has been to us this time round.

Restoring the forest and its pristine wetlands, we shall be able to avert the harm caused by climate change due human activities such as indiscriminate farming, industrialization where a lot of greenhouses gases are emitted. By protecting the forest, we shall be cushioning ourselves from these harmful gases because the trees absorb those bad gases but when we cut or even burn the remaining trees, destroy the wetlands, we release carbon into the atmosphere. We can truly choose to restore, protect, and use Bugoma forest better including developing it as birding destination, cultural tourism, ecotourism, wildlife safaris and this will earn us big as a country but also help us to fulfill our national climate targets in response to climate change.

Tourism alone can highly earn Uganda so much. For instance, according to the World Bank Group. 2013. Economic and Statistical Analysis of Tourism in Uganda, a study instituted by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities (MTWA) of tourists exiting Uganda in 2012-the Tourism Expenditure and Motivation Survey (TEMS).

Therefore, as different stakeholders, we shall need a whole range of skills to evolve conservation into a fast-moving, creative and results-focused sector to make those strategies a reality. That means we need the brightest scientific minds, but also the best leaders, the most successful marketers, the best legal and financial teams and people that can give the funds they need to deliver on their promises to global climate crises.

The writer is an environmentalist.

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