Mabira Central Forest Reserve

The forest reserve is positioned 20 Kilometers away from Jinja city and 54 Kilometers from Kampala city.

Mabira Central Forest Reserve

Mabira Forest Reserve is one of the largest evergreen tropical natural forests found in the Eastern part of Uganda between the two cities of Kampala and Jinja in the districts of Buikwe in between Lugazi and Jinja. Mabira Forest Reserve covers areas that are equivalent to 306square kilometers. The forest reserve is positioned 20 Kilometers away from Jinja city and 54 Kilometers from Kampala city. The Mabira forest reserve is principally occupied by tropical high forest communities of medium altitude moist semi‐deciduous and moist evergreen forest. The forest was greatly affected by human activities but has been recovering after stopping illegal settlement and encroachment between 1988 and 1989.

Before its declaration as to the protected forest reserve in 1932, the Mabira Forest Reserve was utilized as a source of rubber while other different portions of the forest were cleared for coffee plantations. However as time passed especially between   1971 and 1979, Mabira forest resources were e frequently washed-out due to different human activities such as illegal hunting, logging, and encroachment which was done by adjacent communities. Illegal tree cutting, encroachment, and the setting up of sugar and tea plantations led to the loss of over 50 percent of the forest cover.

After peace was restored and the government became stable in 1985, all the illegal occupants who were within the forest were expelled and reforestation programs and strategies were aggressive with the return to peace in 1985, farmers illegally occupying the forest were expelled and reforestation programs antagonistically implemented by the government. Further other intergovernmental agencies and non-governmental organizations combined their efforts to restore the glorious Mabira forest by developing and extending ecotourism benefits to the communities residing in the outskirts of Mabira Forest Reserve.

Because of all this Mabira Natural Forest is one of the Forest Reserves falls under Strict Nature Reserve. Strict nature reserves involve areas that are maintained in their natural state without any form of exploitation to act as benchmarks against the activities and operations of silviculture and management. All these efforts by different stakeholders have made Mabira Forest Reserve be a key tourism and environment resource not only to the government but to the Uganda community.

Flora and fauna in Mabira forest reserve

Flora and fauna in Mabira forest reserve; these involve different species of animals and plants/vegetation that your eyes cannot skip while in Mabira Forest Reserve.   Mabira Central Forest Reserve offers Ugandans and other travelers a chance to have a picnic, a favorite for Birders, a place an Oasis of Natural Beauty and Wonders.  The magnificent trees, Plants, Flowers, Birds, Butterflies, Monkeys, and small mammals make this a place a great getaway from Kampala and spend some hours a day or a quiet overnight stay at the Mabira Rainforest Lodge  a beautiful Eco-Lodge in the ancient rainforest that was first inhabited by original people of the forest in the Buganda area who were the Nakalanga people which were pygmies like most of the early inhabitant of Uganda and even today some come to Mabira Rainforest to honor the spirits of Nakalanga

As of today, Mabira forest reserve is home to about 311 tree species with the forest center containing many antique trees many of which are over seventy-five years old. The outer part of the forest consists of trees which are, as old as 25 years and this is because the outer part is mostly affected by illegal logging and encroachment from nearby communities.

 Mabira Forest is of great biologically diverse and a sanctuary to several animal and bird species some of which cannot be spotted anywhere on this planet earth.  Mabira forest reserve is an anchorage to 219 butterfly species, 316 bird species, and 97 of moths.  Among the several birds in the Mabira forest are the Nahan’s Francolin and Papyrus Gonolek.  Seventy-nine species of the birds in Mabira can only be found in Central Africa.

Besides, the Mabira Forest also hosts a wide range of animals, including endangered primates. A primatologist working in Mabira Forest announced in February that monkeys in the forest previously thought to be Grey-cheeked Mangabey (Lophocebus albuginea) were a new species. Therefore if you are looking for the nearest destination from Kampala, where you can enjoy a primate safari, Mabi ria is the place to go! There are leopards, antelopes, and snakes. Elephants and buffaloes were once plentiful and roamed the forest but became extinct about three decades ago as human intrusion started taking its toll on the forest. The forest is beginning to recover after the current government evicted encroachers.

Many compartments of the Mabira forest reserve are important for recreational purposes; a total area of the recreation zone is over 5079 ha, equivalent to over 16.2% of the whole reserve. Ecotourism is among the best non-consumptive uses of the Tropical High Forest (THF) provided of course that it is carefully planned and regulated according to the available forest resources and the number of users.

Mabira forest reserve forms an imperative water catchment area serving many streams and different water bodies like River Nile, River Ssezibwa, Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga. The Baganda (the dominant tribe) considers the forest of great cultural and historical significance. The Buganda god of food and rain is believed to live in the Mabira forest. The forest has always provided medicine/herbs that are used to treat all kinds of ailment among the people living in the area and beyond.

Efforts behind the failed plan of giving away Mabira forest reserve to investors

The fact is that Mabira central forest reserve is surrounded by agricultural farmers and plantations especially of tea and sugar cane, in the year 2007, the Ugandan government announced plans to give away about 30% of Mabira forest reserve for plantation farming (sugar cane growing) to Mehta group of companies. Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) maintained that the expansion of the plantation would generate billions of Uganda to Mehta group of companies a shillings and create thousands of jobs.  However, the public, politicians, civil society organizations, tourism organizations, and environmentalists opposed the move via massive demonstrations. The protestors feared that the forest giveaway would cost the country dearly by causing Lake Victoria to shrink hence increasing climate change, soil erosion, displacing people and leading to the extinction of many of the wildlife of the forest.

The Anglican Church and the Buganda kingdom suggested their land provided the need for sugarcane growing was urgent. After a series of demonstrations that resulted in deaths of demonstrators, burning of the sugar plantations, and widespread calls for boycotting of SCOUL Sugar products, the movement bowed to pressure and the plan suspended. But only for a while because in 2013, the government renewed its original plan of giving away the forest using the sugar crisis as an excuse.

Once again individuals, academics, and cultural leaders were also concerned and joined the protest against giving away Mabira forest reserve to investors. This time they were even more organized and joined by international protestors and environmentalists from across the globe. They referred to the previous destruction of the Namanve forest to create Industrial parks that have not been a success a few industries to show. Other famous giveaways are part of the beautiful forests in the Ssese Islands (Bugala Island) to BIDCO for palm oil production and Butamira Forest Reserve to Kakira Sugar Works Ltd despite a High Court ruling against it. The government even proposed to gazette Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve for agricultural purposes with the latest attempt to give away Murchison falls national park to the hydropower construction project

The successful demonstrations against Mabira proved that Uganda is so concerned about conservation and knows the benefits that conservation can bring to and can be influential in opposing government decisions that could negatively impact on the environment in the future.

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