Noar Natolo and Scovia Bulyaba are carpet weavers and members of the Nagoje community living in Mabira Forest, in Uganda. To supplement their income, they collect palm leaves from the forest and weave carpets that are later dyed with local natural products.

The forest that supplies these women with palm leaves also provides them with water, medicine and wood for fuel.

“Forests are not just the lungs of the planet,” says Musonda Mumba, Chief of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit at the UN Environment Programme. Forests support our overall well-being and are also source of income—we depend on forests and forests depend on us.”

But Mabira Forest is at risk of being wiped out due to an increasing population, high demand for charcoal and agricultural encroachment.

Mabira Forest is one of few remaining tropical rainforests in Uganda covering an area of about 300 square kilometres. One of the country’s biggest reserves, it is home to many endangered species like the primate Lophocebus ugandae, a species of monkey found only in Uganda.

Uganda has experienced severe deforestation over the last decade and has one of the highest rates of deforestation and forest degradation in the world. In 1990, forest cover was estimated at 24 per cent of total land area; by 2015, it was down to 12.4 per cent; today, it is at 9 per cent. Many of the remaining forests are in areas under the protection of the National Forest Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

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