FAO intervenes as charcoal burning is responsible for deforestation in the north
An environmental activist from Gulu has appealed to FAO to empower the contracted tree farmers with skills for raising their own seedlings.
By Marko Taibot
Gulu, November 18, 2022: In an attempt to regain the lost forest cover in Northern Uganda and parts of Central Uganda due to the rampant charcoal burning, illegal logging, the Food and the Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has signed grant support agreements with private farmers to plant trees for and benefit from technical assistance in charcoal production under the Forest Management and Sustainable Charcoal Value Chain in Uganda.
The four year project will be funded by the European Union. As an intervention of the government of Uganda, it will be implemented by FAO in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and the Ministry of Water and Environment and District Local Governments.
While addressing the grantees before the signing of the agreements, Mr Josephat Kawooya 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, promoting sustainable woodland harvesting practices, and support to acquisition of improved charcoal production technology, among others.
“This project is targeting to subsidize the establishment of 1800 hectares in the districts of Adjumani, Yumbe, Obongi, Moyo, Amuru, Nwoya, Gulu, Kitgum, Lamwo, Kasanda, Kiboga, Luwero, Mubende and Nakaseke,” Kawooya explained.
He added that under the forest rehabilitation component, 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.
The technical assistance includes training for tree nurseries and plantation operations, nursery certification, on-site technical advice and linking farmers to service providers for quality inputs.
Mr Moses Onono an environmental activist from Gulu however, appealed to FAO to empower the contracted tree farmers with skills for raising their own seedlings, observing that seedlings from other private sources have been 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 planting in the region.
Ms Rose Margaret Opeli the Executive Director of Nutrifarm a local Community Based Organization in Adjumani District one of the contracted 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.
She maintained 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.
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“The rampant destruction of trees for charcoal production prompted Nutrifarm to take an initiative to promote tree planting,” Rose said.
Mr 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.
The Gulu District Local Council V Chairman- Mr 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 realizing that the rate of forest destruction in the district has gone high.
“Since I came to office, the district has been a highway for transforming charcoal, we have now reduced it from 60% to now 45%, but we are still struggling to eliminate the illegalities in the district.”
According to a recent report released by the National Forest Authority, Uganda’s forests and woodland stand at 24 percent of the total land area. Of these 9,242.08 square kilometers is tropical rain-forest, 350.60 square kilometers are forest plantations and 39,741.02 square kilometers is woodland. 30 percent of these areas are protected as national parks, wildlife reserves, or central forest reserves.
Mr. 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 is increasing 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 production is a significant cause of forest degradation in many parts of the region and that Uganda loses 72,000 hectares of the country’s forest cover each year resulting from harvesting 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 forests to meet energy needs.