The New Vision
According to the Rainforest Country Report for Uganda (2005) ‘change in
forest cover’: between 1990 and 2000, Uganda lost an average of 86,500
hectares of forest per year.
Between 1990 and 2005, Uganda lost 26.3% of its forest cover, or around 1,297,000 hectares.
The recent State of Environment Report (NEMA, 2007) says Uganda’s forest cover has declined from about 5 million hectares in 1990 to 3.7 million hectares in 2005 and this has been attributed to encroachment for agricultural production.
Forest cover loss was also attributed to deforestation for wood fuel, urbanisation, industrial growth, migration, problems of internally displaced people and rapid increase in population that has certainly increased pressure on forest ecosystems.
Forest governance in Uganda has had diverse functions such as ecological resources, home and basis of livelihood for many poor people and a source of potential profit to large commercial interests, productive assets and also a source of biodiversity.
Forests have emerged as the most visible ecological resources on climate change. But with rain forests across the world more carbon dioxide is staying in the air and would be checked by benefits of conservation.
Uganda is losing immense opportunities for carbon mitigation through forest conversion for example, the giveaway of Bugala Forest in Kalangala Islands to Bidco, a palm oil producing company. In 2007, the Government considered giving away an estimated 7,000 hectares of Mabira Forest Reserve, about to a sugar company to plant cane.
The President’s argues it is easier to relocate the forest by planting trees elsewhere than to relocate a factory.
Recently on February 4, Arua Municipal Council favoured the building of public infrastructure in the de-gazetted Barifa Forest Reserve. We are losing assets that could have a real value interms of carbon finance and people depending on forests for their livelihoods are losing out economic activities.
According to the Human Development Report (2007/8) deforestation makes sense only because markets attach no value to carbon repositories.
In effect, standing trees are obstacles to collection of money lying on the ground.
The way forward is for Uganda to ascertain and implement its beautiful policies such as the Forestry Policy (2001). This policy clearly stipulates the practice of urban forestry.
The Government should also implement the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act (2003) that stipulates for the establishment of a tree fund that should be put to operation.
We should also embrace and adopt the Plant for the Planet Billion tree campaign, which encourages the planting of trees in degraded natural forests, wilderness, sustainably manage plantations and urban environment.
Uganda should use her position at the UN forum on forests and implement article 3.3 of the Kyoto protocol that specifically calls for the maintenance of forests by afforestation and reforestation.
The article also calls for controlling deforestation and lastly, embracing the green new deal to building a green economy.
The green economy can be built by making a transition towards an economy adaptive to preserving the environment despite development.
The Government should invest in opportunities for wealth generation and creation of clean and efficient technologies.
Technologies like renewable energy, biodiversity-based business including agriculture, forestry and nature based tourism. Additionally the Government should invest in ecological infrastructure including nature reserves, watersheds, manage chemicals and waste this is the only way they will ensure low carbon in the cities.
We need to mobilise and refocus Uganda’s economy towards investments in clean technologies.
Emphasise natural infrastructure such as forests since this is the best way of growth while managing climate change in the 21st century.
The writer is the executive director of Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement
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