ADJUMANI– In an attempt to regain the lost forest cover in northern Uganda and parts of central Uganda, the Food and the Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations [FAO] has signed a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] with farmers to receive small grants to plant trees under the Forest Management and Sustainable Charcoal Value Chain project in Uganda.
The four-year project funded by the European Union is an intervention of the government of Uganda implemented by FAO in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and the Ministry of Water and Environment. Forest cover in the country continues to disappear due to rampant charcoal burning, illegal logging, and lumbering.
While addressing the grantees before the signing of the MoU, Josephat Kawoya, the programme associate of FAO said the project aims at mitigating social and economic impacts of charcoal production through establishing wood energy plantations, rehabilitation of natural forests on private land, sustainable woodland harvesting, and management, support to acquisition of improved charcoal production technology among others.
“This project is targeting to subsidise the establishment of 1800 hectares in the districts of Adjumani, Yumbe, Obongi, Moyo, Amuru, Nwoya, Gulu, Kitgum, Lamwo, Kasanda, Kiboga, Luwero, Mubende and Nakaseke,” Kawoya explained.
He added that under the rehabilitation, up to 500 hectares of natural forests on private land will be rehabilitated through integrated and improved forest management practices such as enrichment planting, farmer-managed natural regeneration, and forest protection and reforestation.
Moses Onono, an environmental activist from Gulu however appealed to FAO to empower the grantees with skills for raising their own seedlings observing that, seeds from other sources are very expensive. He also urged FAO to link the farmers to international markets for their forest products.
Onono said the project is a very good initiative that will empower the locals and encourage tree planning in the region.
Rose Margaret Opeli, the executive director of Nutrifarm a local CBO in Adjumani one of the beneficiaries of the project noted that with the high volume of charcoal burning in the Adjumani district the intervention is timely and will help in regenerating the depleted forests.
Opelimaintained that she is focused on planting trees to help mitigate the negative social and economic impacts of charcoal burning caused by the increased demands locally and internationally.
“The rampant destruction of trees for charcoal prompted Nutrifarm to take an initiative to promote tree planting,” Rose said.
Robert Komakech, another beneficiary from Amuru noted that as the project kicks off, there is a need to produce quality trees that can produce the best charcoal that needs expert market research from the international markets.
He also made a request for FAO to consider giving tractors in each district or at the regional level to enhance the capacity of farmers to open bigger lands since the initial cost of starting tree planting is very costly.
Gulu district LCV chairman, Christopher Opiyo who is also a beneficiary in the project, said he applied to be a beneficiary so that he can lead by example after realising that the rate of forest destruction in the district has gone high.
According to a recent report released by National Forest Authority [NFA], Uganda’s forests and woodland stand at 24 percent of the total land area. Of these 9,242.08 square kilometers [sq.kms] is tropical rainforest, 350.60sq.kms are forest plantations and 39,741.02sq.kms is woodland. 30 percent of these areas are protected as national parks, wildlife reserves, or central forest reserves.
Francis Oja, the Adjumani district forest officer, said 25 percent of the district’s 31,000 square kilometers was forest cover, but 15 percent have since been destroyed as a result of refugees’ arrival from the 1980s, rapid urbanization leading to increased demand for charcoal and wood fuel, and illegal logging.
According to FAO, the demand for wood fuel would increase at a rate of 4.2 percent annually, with 65 percent of urban households relying on charcoal as their primary energy source.
A report released by Global Witness in April 2021 indicates that charcoal burning is a significant cause of forest degradation in many parts of the country. The report said Uganda loses 72,000 hectares of forest cover each year as trees are cut for firewood and charcoal.
The report further says charcoal-related forest degradation threatens other aspects of rural livelihood and also destroys precious habitats for wildlife.
The majority of Ugandans use forest products for cooking, with electricity connectivity standing at only 27 percent. This puts a huge demand on forest products to meet energy needs.
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