International stakeholders verify forestland conflict resolution in Lango

International stakeholders verify forestland conflict resolution in Lango

Dokolo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of the international community have witnessed the return of calm and peace to Okwongodul parish in Okwongodul sub county Dokolo district where Awer central forest reserve has been a flashpoint of land-based conflict.

The forest reserve sits on 220 hectares in Adwong dok Inyom ‘B’ and is bordering three other villages.

Awer is one of the 27 central forest reserves in East Lango (Kachung sector) which comprise of five districts of Amolatar, Alebtong, Otuke, Dokolo and Lira. Between 2007 and 2018 National Forestry Authority (NFA) allocated Awer to private tree farmers commonly referred to as investors who were responsible for planting and managing trees in the forest reserve.

However, most investors were met by hostility from locals surrounding the area and those living on the land, claiming the land is theirs. The locals also accused them of restricting their grazing area and confiscating animals, encroaching on their land, and restricting access to a village source of water for their families.

The investors on the other side had grievances that the community deliberately took animals to graze on the young trees with the aim of destroying the forest.

But in 2022 Land and Equity Movement Uganda (LEMU) through the Responsible Governance of Investments in Land (RGIL) 1 project supported by GIZ started working with district leaders, investors and the community to document and resolve grievances.

Dr. Theresa Auma, the Executive Director LEMU explained that through their efforts, some of the complaints have been addressed and locals are starting to appreciate the importance of the forest and how they can benefit from it.

During a learning visit by delegates from over 35 countries across the world, locals informed them of how the situation has greatly changed although some challenges still persists. Jasinta Ebot, a resident of Ayek-ayek B village said incidences of detaining and selling off animals which strayed to the forest has stopped.

According to Auma, efforts are being made to ensure that community members whose land will be verified and found to be inside the current boundaries of the forest reserve is compensated by the government.

Meanwhile Gracious Aguti, the NFA Sector Manager in charge East Lango is worried that the encroachment challenge will continue to persist due to population increase. For instance, five NFA staff have so far been injured by hostile locals who are influenced by political leaders to continue using the land within the boundaries of the forest reserves.

She was however, quick to note that NFA is coming up with initiatives to improve livelihood of the people near the forest reserves.

Patience Baganzi, the Dokolo District Police Commander, attests to the fact that peace is reigning in Okwongodul and Dokolo following the intervention of LEMU and other development in Land matters which she said is the major cause of crime in her district.

From Wednesday 7th, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development will host international and national land experts from 35 countries to showcase how successful government-civil society partnerships in the land governance sector can facilitate people-centered land governance.

Through dialogue and the sharing of best practices, participants will develop innovative solutions to address complex land issues, aiming to improve land rights and livelihoods for millions across Africa.

The event is facilitated by the International Land Coalition in partnership with Land Collaborative; Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF); the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO)/Land-at-scale, National Land Coalition Uganda (NLC Uganda) and Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU).

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