NO ONE CAN DEFEAT COMMUNITY POWER AND VIGILANCE AGAINST ILLEGAL FOREST ACTIVITIESStory by Mr. Kasungwa Robert Malidadi 44yrs old Binunda LC1 Binunda Ward, Kyarusozi Town Council, Kyenjojo district Lead CBM Kyarusozi Town Council Illegal timber cutters arrested through community vigilance in Itwara CFR.
The community power and vigilance against illegal activities has yielded results:
It is one year since I joined CBMs. Prior to becoming a CBM, I got concerned about the destruction of forestry resources especially Kibego CFR which is in our Sub-county. More to that, the presence of illegal timber cutters negatively affected the social set up of our area whenever they would come out of the forest especially on the day of their salary payment. Cases of rape, theft and fighting were on the raise and this forced me to join NFA, Amon in particular to fight these illegal activities and their associated social issues. I reported several of these cases to police and organized a meeting of local leaders and NFA to forge ways of settling these issues. The meeting identified and documented 8 illegal pitsawyers operating in Kibego CFR were given a chance of twenty days to denounced illegal Pitsawying and plead for mercy t police. Despite these efforts illegal activities went. In 2013, I decided to join the CBM work so as to boost community power and vigilance since we were the most affected.
Seven of the eight illegal pitsawyers have abandoned illegal Pitsawying and have joined the CBMs and the rest of the community to fight illegal activities. Some of the people who have given up include Grammer, Kalema, Katongole, Banyasa and Zaverio. One called Micheal is still resisting but we shall get hold of him one of these days.
Illegal timber associated social problems described above have greatly reduced since most pitsawyers have returned to their homes in Kabale and Kibale districts.
The CBMs after a cross-visit to the CFM group in Itwara mobilized the local community around Kibego CFR to apply for CFM. This greatly increased community participation in monitoring and reporting of illegal forest activities.
Initially, about 6 Lorries of timber would be loaded out of the forest per months but for the last 2months no timber has been loaded from the reserve.
Initially, we did not have the capacity to record case reference numbers at police. This made it difficult for us to follow up cases. But currently we have been able record reference numbers for all cases reported at police. This has helped us to make follow ups and detain arrested illegal pitsawyers for quite some time. On 27th June 2014, we arrested 4 illegal timber cutters and took them to police in Fort Portal and apart from one; the three for 2 weeks are still prison.
There is very good relationship between the local community and JESE due to the effective awareness creation regarding the importance of the forest and the need to conserve it sustainably.
I have also noted that some other impacts that are negatively affecting the community and CBMs.
As CBMs we are faced with several threats from illegal timber cutters especially poison. As a vigilant lead monitor I learnt of attempts to poison me through Bushera in 3bars. I have decided to abandon drinking Bushera in Kyarusozi bars for the sake of my life. I can only take it if I move to far areas where people to not know me. Sam please add more on the story of poison.
I have also observed and heard complaints about bars in Kyarusozi town closing down due to lack of customers who used to be timber cutters. While this is an indicator of our success in monitoring and patrolling, it is affecting the livelihoods of bar owners.