Luweero dominates several stories of our recent past. Most, if not all, Ugandans born in the Millennial and earlier generations have had or can tell many stories about Luweero. Personally, I subscribe to the Generation Z and have heard stories of the Bush War in Luweero in the early 1980’s.
Having been born hundreds of miles away from the battlefields of Luweero, the impression and perception you get is that Luweero is the bushy forested area of yester years. In fact, the perfect imagery is of some sort of forest sanctuary. I traveled to Luweero for a short holiday on the evening of the 11th of February, 2023 and the reality was completely different. I found a Luweero far from the one I have always perceived. The road horizon is littered with a few signposts of schools, Charity organizations and a few budding factories.
Early in the morning of the next day, I was greeted by the morning sunrise as if it was warning me to prepare for a relentless midday sun that would stretch until sunset.
After breakfast, I started touring Luweero and making a few inquiries from the local people. Unfortunately for me, Luganda and I have never been friends. To escape this embarrassment, I would quickly change the conversation to English. This clearly signaled that am a visitor in the area.
“Most of the forests were cleared to create space for human settlement, animal grazing and crop growing.” responded my first source who was not interested in my inquiry about the visible absence of forest cover.
The response sets no doubt. Almost all the buildings in areas I was moving to, showed they were erected less than 10 years ago. Some are brand new residential and business settlements. The whole area is turning from a bush to a semi-urban area.
Forest cover is wasting away so fast. Human activities like farming, settlements and industrialization are pushing environmental concerns to the periphery. This explains the unforgiving heat of the sun during day. Countless people are available to confess that the forest cover is getting depleted so fast and its consequences are already biting the locals.
A secondary school teacher at Shammah High School, Luweero who hails from Nakasongola, during a conversation intimated that Nakasongola is even worse. He was responding to my surprise that as late as 7pm, the sun was still shining and the whole area was as hot as Kalahari Desert.
Along the road where you branch off to the Main Luweero town, there is a food market. I am a lover of Ugandan dishes, so I bought some pineapples and sweet potatoes locally known as “Lumonde.” The sweet potatoes are hard because of strong direct sunshine and the pineapples are devoid of their juices.
Besides the Bush War Stories, Luweero is recently known as the nearest food basket for the Kampala dwellers. Fruits like pineapples, tomatoes, jackfruits and mangoes find their to Kampala streets from Luweero.
The greatest concern is that much as food is needed to survive, can’t it be achieved in peacefully coexist with the environment? It is imperative to gazette some areas which should be protected from human encroachment.
The food and animals we are proud to grow and rear respectively at the expense of our environment, will not yield. We need to conserve our forests to ensure that the rain formation cycle is complete.
We are slowly turning our beautiful land into desert because of our carelessness when it comes to paying attention to environmental concerns. Give it a few years with the same degree of carelessness, the desert will be on our doorsteps.
Our environmental policy makers must be strict and bold when addressing environmental concerns. National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) should revisit its scorecard and recount how much forest cover has been lost under its watch. Erecting mansions and industries in swamps is now rampant. You only need some good trips of red soil to level your ground in swamps and the rest will be history. What follows are unending court cases or preparing for a juicy compensation.
Back in Primary School, the syllabus taught that Mabira Forest is the largest natural forest in Uganda. Today, it has become a sugarcane plantation that produces very expensive sugar that common people can’t afford.
Climate Change is an urgent concern of our times that needs no compromise. Environmental protection should be mandatory.
Kajuga Rogers Kabagambe is an Environmentalist, Youth Activities’ Enthusiast and an ardent admirer of Uganda’s beauty.