Residents of Nyabihu and Rubavu are farming in parts of Gishwati forest, less than a year after they were evicted from the forest.
A mini survey indicates that people are now growing crops, grazing animals while others are cutting down trees from the gazetted areas in and around the forest.
“People are encroaching on the forest again and we are meeting all the Executive Secretaries of the sectors bordering the forest to assess the magnitude and come up with strong measures,” said Jean Baptist Nsengiyumva, the Mayor of Nyabihu.
The northern part of the forest which stretches both Nyabihu and Rubavu districts is located in a wetland and prone to landslides mostly due to human activities.
Nsengiyumva warned the encroachers against the practice threatening tough measures against the culprits.
“It is important to preserve the forest. The decline of water levels of Lake Karago is primarily due to soil erosion caused by farming and felling of trees in the forest,” he said’
Last year, in order to save residents who lived on the slopes of dangerous hills from landslides, the government relocated over 200 families to Bigogwe and Nyakiriba sectors.
Sheikh Hassan Bahame, the Mayor of Rubavu, said that they had managed to keep away people who had started cultivating in the forest. He said the crops were uprooted, adding “it’s not a problem in Rubavu anymore.”
The government also launched a US$25 million ‘Gishwati and Water Management’ project, under the Ministry of Local Government, to ensure sustainable use of the forest.