In Budongo Forest, Masindi district illegal tree cutters are usually very suspicious of any new face that comes in the area be it on a Uganda safari despite seeing many tourists going there on various Uganda safaris for Chimpanzee tracking safaris and birding safaris as well as nature walks.
According to Gerald Tenywa, some high-ranking Uganda Government officials and timber dealers have made a fortune from the increasing illegal timber sales. Despite these deals the residents around affected forests like Budongo and Mabira who steal the timber and sell it to these dealers reducing the various Uganda safari activities, are still poor.
The dusty road to Budongo forest narrows into a path as it ushers you into the domant Nyakafunjo village in Masindi district after a 300km journey, northwest of Kampala making it hard to get to this woulb be great Uganda safari attraction that would attract many Uganda safaris activities had the raods been in a good state perharps.
Mahogany, a rare hardwood species is the most sought-after and cut tree in Budongo Forest Reserve and ferried to different parts of Uganda and her neighbouring countries such as South Sudan and Kenya.
According to Moses Andama, a resident in the village, it is not that the youth in this village want to cut down trees but it is because there is too much poverty in this village and unemployed. People therefore go to the forest due to lack of an alternative income earning activity, and this hence has turned into their garden from which to harvest something to eat.
A Uganda safari to Budongo Forest, which an estimated 800 chimps call home,
Exporses you to a site that looks like a devil’s workshop, a smell of death and amd makes one feel like crying after seeing the wreckage of the world`s most appreciated trees in one of Uganda’s most treasured forests.
Mahogany Sold for beer & salt
Despite the cumbersome work of cutting down the trees, splitting the logs into timber, ferrying it out of the forest and the risk of being arrested, timber cutters (The youth ) get some little money earn barely enough to buy salt, soap and beer and this seems like a lot of money to them because they can use it to buy a few essentials.
The youth in the area own no land and most of the land is under plantations of sugarcane and tobacco.Therefore the quick way the youth can meet their daily material needs is to cut down and trade the forest.
The local people in this area care not about the negative effects of their actions to the Uganda safari industry as well as the general climaten because they see the forest existing every day and can not think it will deplit one day.
As the illegal timber leaves for the urban centres where it rakes in billions of shillings, the businessmen and transporters have a way of buying themselves out of trouble when they are intercepted by Government officials.This has greatly affects the Uganda safari/Uganda tour sector as many travellers that have visited Uganda on sever Uganda tours and Safaris in affected areas always witness the change in climate as well the beauty in these deforested areas.
According to Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment`s (ACODE) report, The illigal timber trade includes bribing policemen, forestry officials or using highly placed people in Government to offer them protect from the law.
ACODE`s survey conducted in a recent report estimates that the timber cutters retain less than 2% of the proceeds and pit sawyers get about 3%, while the transporters take 4% of the earnings. Middlemen make 28% and Kampala traders take the lion’s share of 34%. The private forest owners share 21% and individuals who sell trees get 6%. Other actors take the remaining 4%.
According to ACODE’s report,while the rural poor earn least out of the timber, the middlemen get a bigger reward without owning the timber or adding value to it. They have control over the trade by having access to market information and credit and their connections or relations with other business actors (including law enforcement personnel).
If this vice continues in Uganda`s major forests,the famous Uganda gorilla trekking safari or simply call it tracking gorillas in Uganda a leading Uganda safari activity bringing in Uganda`s major foreign exchange together with Chimpanzee tracking as well as the general Uganda tourism sector will go into extinction.
It is on that preamble that all concerned Ugandas as well outsiders should get up in unity to fight this illigal timber business than has not only deadly effects on the Uganda safaribusiness,but risks Uganda`s environment,climate,history,as well as Uganda`s agriculture but also what Uganda and her culture is.
Prime Uganda Safari article 2013.