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As populations continue to rise, there is not enough land to grow all that we need. That’s where the Bugoma Rainforest Reserve in western Uganda comes in. Luckily for the Bugoma Forest, the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign began. One reason for the campaign to have been made was because women in this region rely heavily on surrounding forests. For example, they may use it to gather food and firewood, as well as medicinal plants. This rainforest is also a very popular tourist destination. According to Uganda Parks, the Bugoma rainforest is “home to over 34 species of mammals including four globally threatened mammal species of which nine mammal species are listed under IUCN’s Red List.” When asked why she is working to protect her nearby forest, Beatrice Rukanyanga, a member of the Katwaniza Women Farmers Group, asks “How come these people are coming to Bugoma to destroy our nature? Nature is protecting us.” Rukanyanga and her fellow activists are working tirelessly to petition the government to protect the forest, actively replanting trees that have been cut down, and are patrolling the perimeters to keep out illegal loggers. This is a key concern because illegal loggers are already planting sugar cane and selling it to Hoima. After all, the company itself is having trouble going through with its intended plan.

Many argue that the sugar plantation in question only makes sense because Uganda is home to almost half of East Africa’s arable land. In addition to this, cash crops such as coffee provide an exceptional amount of people (almost 20%) with stable incomes throughout the region. While agriculture has been a pillar in every society throughout history, other things should be considered, according to experts. One of those is whether endemic species, ones found in only one place in the world, are in danger. 

Specifically relating to the Bugoma forest, Murchison National Park claims that 500 endangered chimpanzees call this rainforest their home; as do hundreds of types of trees and the mangabey monkey, an endemic species. The perimeters of this 98,800-acre forest’s boundaries have been in danger for decades, whether it's illegal loggers or companies that threaten to develop the land. One of those companies was just leased “one-fifth of the remaining protected forest” in 2016. That company turned out to be Hoima Sugar Ltd and outrage preceded this decision.

[bf_image id="n8hztg65p96nqnpntgkr2pk4"] Critics of the project cite the forest for not only being incredibly diverse but also aids in storing carbon, a potent greenhouse gas. To preserve it, the “lease was challenged” but unfortunately, the 2019 High Court ruling favored Hoima Sugar. The National Forest Authority is fighting this ruling and Dickens Kamugisha, from the Africa Institute of Environmental Governance (AFIEGO), says “NEMA’s actions violate the laws of Uganda. The certificate should be canceled.” It has become so controversial that Ugandan special forces guard the forest’s perimeter and even committees from the European Union are weighing in. With climate change becoming a prominent political issue in every country around the world, ecofeminism has been on the rise and has turned a few heads. Merriam-Webster defines ecofeminism to be “a movement or theory that applies feminist principles and ideas to ecological issues.” While that seems very technical, it has to do with the idea that women generally face more consequences of global warming than men. 

This is especially true for the women who live next to the Bugoma Forest. They feel the effects of climate change already because their crop season was much shorter and less profitable than in previous years. Now they don’t know where they will get the food they need to survive. Beatrice explains in this video her group's alternative ways of living that do not hurt the forest while still retaining the services they need. 

Unfortunately, this matter is not yet resolved but some important questions have been raised. Can sustainable development and environmental protection coexist? Who decides which land should be protected? How do you enforce that protection? But above all, consider the actions of a 500-person group of eco-feminists, determined to protect the natural state of their homeland. 

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Here at FSU, I am completing a degree in International Affairs with a minor in French. When I'm not in school or working, I love to read and work out. My passions include environmental activism and learning about human rights abuses occurring throughout the world.
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