Otuke residents want shea trees fully protected

The call was made during the recent commemoration of the shea nut and its products.

OTUKE, June 20, 2024 – The people of Otuke district want their leaders to fully implement laws established to protect the environment, especially protection of the shea trees that they say are being felled to provide fuel for cooking.

The call was made during the recent commemoration of the shea nut and its products. The event was organised by Okere Community Development Project in Otuke district.

Shea trees are known for their nuts [shea nuts] that are processed into shea nut butter, sometimes known as shea nut oil and the fruit consists of a thin, tart, nutritious pulp that surrounds a relatively large, oil-rich seed from which shea butter is extracted.

Meanwhile, other products from shea nut cooking oil, smearing oil, and or lotion used for different purposes. The shea trees are a source of income for some of the households in Otuke district.

Betty Acen, a resident of Baryao village, Okere parish in Adwari Subcounty, expressed worry that those who have cut the shea trees have resorted to stealing nuts from their neighbours’ trees.

“There should be no cutting down of shea trees for charcoal burning. Some people who have cut down their trees are now stealing nuts from  the neighbours who have kept trees. Sometimes, when are picking nuts, we are attacked by those who don’t have trees,” Acen said.

Acen who has 120 shea trees says she is earning money from the shea nuts, thus enabling her to meet the basic needs of her family.

In the same vein, Bishop Emeritus John Charles Odur Kami, who served across Northern Uganda, is also encouraging people to protect shea trees, saying the trees offer many benefits to the owners and the community at large.

“A shea tree is a very precious thing. Anything shea is very natural. We feel bad when the trees are cut down, and burnt into charcoal. I want to appeal to people who have been blessed with these trees to guard them jealously,” said Odur.

Pastor David Obong Oleke on his part said that stronger punishment should be imposed on those who cut down the shea trees.

He appealed to the local leadership to at least carry out regular meetings with the community members to sensitise them about the importance of the shea trees.

“There should be strong laws against tree cutting. The local leadership should have constant meetings with the community to sensitise them against tree destruction,” he said.

Whereas Ojok Okello who is the Executive Director for Okere Community Development Project cited the importance of trees, saying the community should stay away from cutting down shea trees and other trees to avoid arrest.

“Do not compel me to let you be arrested, not only that, don’t cut down other trees for charcoal, trees are very important, they bring us rain and at the end we carry out agriculture that makes us even rich,” Okello said.

Patrick Onyanga, Senior Environment Officer for Otuke district explained that both the community and the district are working together to ensure the shea trees are protected through training and sensitisation.

“At the moment, shea trees are being protected by the community and as a district, we have had several engagements in terms of sensitisation, awareness raising, training on value addition and also linked some few who are doing value addition to market. Where people don’t comply, we do enforcement,” said Onyanga.

He said that the district is working towards protecting the local trees because they help in promoting the fertility of the soil.

“We are working on how we can protect all indigenous trees, they support growing of crops, improve soil fertility, and they modify climate, among others,” Onyanga said.

On his part, Charles Opio the Otuke District Commercial Officer [DCO] said that shea nut has boosted the livelihood of women in the business

Opio said that shea nut also contributes to the district local revenue that can be used for other development within the district. “Shea butter is a source of livelihood to the women in Otuke. It has improved the livelihood of women and when we have many people involved shea business, we tax them, which brings revenue to the district,” Opio said.

In Lango Subregion, shea nut tree is majorly grown in Otuke and Alebtong districts.

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