Traditional control of forests is disastrous

Odongo Odoyo

By Opio Jackson

The community land ownership policy substantially contributes to wide spread destruction of forests in the country unlike in other African countries where community involvement has played a greater role in forests conservation.

The land tenure system in the country has given much power to the traditional leaders to destroy forests at the expense of the community and the nation at large.

Parliament needs to speed up deliberations on the new land policies passed by the Council of Ministers to rescue our forests from destructive investors.

It is time to end the ancestral ownerships of forests where one family is privileged to control over 10,000 hectares of forest land at the expense of the entire community.

The government should protect its natural resources for the benefit of all citizens but not for few individuals.

For instance in Acholi area of Magwi and Ayaci Counties in Torit State, it has been a tradition that forests belong to individuals.

Forests here can be inherited from one generation to another due to traditional believes. The one who claims the rightful heir to the forests has the right to own all lives in the forest including the trees.

He can sign an agreement with investors without being questioned by the government or the community.

This is one of the worse forms of land tenure system that needs reform. Such land ownership needs to be abolished because it is so destructive to our environment.

Those who hold those forests have little knowledge on conservation matters and cannot understand anything to do with climate change. They only believe in the traditional rainmakers.

The bulk of forest exploitation in South Sudan is mostly carried out by the traditional leaders despite global campaigns against the deforestation and land degradation cutting down of tress.

During my recent visit to Magwi County, I observed logging as one of profitable economic activities taking place in the area. Hundreds of foreign investors are seriously felling trees for timber and logs.

These logs are often transported to Uganda through Lobone Border.

It is the right time for the government to abolish such land ownership practices to save our country’s declining into a desert. Some of the traditional beliefs should end where someone claims ownership of all most all the community land including the forests. In Acholi area most lands are owned by the so-called traditional leaders opposed to national development.

It is not wrong for a community to own land but where a single family claims the entire land, then it becomes disastrous to people’s health and survival.

There is great need for the government to improve on the land tenure system so as to protect the forests and environment.

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