FAO urges media in Uganda to prioritize reporting on commercial forestry and environment

The Food and Agricuture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) III project, organized a media dialogue on “Commercial Forestry in Uganda”, on 16 March 2018, as part of activities to commemorate International Day of Forests 2018.

Under the global theme: “Forests and Sustainable Cities, the dialogue was attended by 50 participants, including journalists from key media houses in Uganda, as well as representatives from the European Union, Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA), Ministry of Water and Environment and National Forestry Authority (NFA) who constituted the panel discussants.

The FAO Deputy Country Representative in Uganda, Priya Gujadhur, noted that the theme is relevant as it “points out the complex relationship between forests and cities”.

“Forests are key to supporting the booming construction works in cities, and also act as a sink for heavy emissions of carbon from mushrooming industries in and around cities”, she said. “We also know that about 96 per cent of the population in Uganda relies on biomass, with limited or no access to energy improved technologies that can allow energy saving” she added.

Gujadhur thanked the media noting that: “the role of media in promoting forestry in Uganda is essential”. She called upon journalists to “inform the public on achievements by different stakeholders involved in forestry but also on challenges which we have to overcome in order to mitigate deforestation”.

According to Charles Byaruhanga, Principal Forestry Officer at the Forest Sector Support Department of Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda needs about one million tonnes of charcoal annually and approximately 70 per cent of charcoal is consumed in urban centres, with only 30 per cent being consumed in rural areas. “African wood demand is booming and estimated to be $100Billion by 2030 from $50 billion in 2015,” he said.

Byaruhanga further stated that demand for charcoal, fuelwood and industrial wood is forecast to grow to 70 per cent by 2030 and commercial forest plantations will provide a natural and sustainable resource base to meet this demand.

Towards sustainabale commercial forestry in Uganda

During the dialogue, private sector investors in commercial plantation forestry were praised for contributing to uplifting of the forestry sector in Uganda, through establishment of forests which reward a wide range of social, economic, and environmental benefits, including mitigating climate change effects, improving livelihoods through job creation and providing timber, wood fuel, and other non-timber forest products.

“The contribution of the private sector in afforestation is critical…” and “FAO believes that by supporting private investment in commercial forest plantations, we can help to reduce the pressure on natural resources, particularly forests”, said Gujadhur.

Over the last decade, FAO has been implementing projects and programmes aimed at increasing forest cover in Uganda. Through the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) Project, about 100 hectares of demonstration bio-energy plantations where established. These demonstration woodlots have inspired many communities to establish their own plantations which meet some forest quality standards.  Currently, FAO is implementing the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) Phase III Project on behalf of the Government of Uganda and with funding from the European Union. SPGS III aims at encouraging private investments in commercial forestry through provision of grants for forest establishment and operations and technical support to small, medium and large scale investors in Uganda.

During the dialogue, FAO/SPGS III Coordinator, Leonidas Hitimana noted that the proportion of forest cover as a result of planted forests has increased by 68 000 hectares (from 33 000 hectares in 2005 to 101 000 hectares in 2015). In the third phase, SPGS targets establishment of 31 000hectares. He noted that investment in forest plantations is economically viable and if all operations are done properly, the return on investment is good. An investment of 100,000 Uganda Shillings can yield a profit of approximately 30,000 Uganda Shillings.

Jalia B. Kobusinge, Adviser for Sustainable Development Sector at the European Union noted the following as key enablers for the forestry sector to “become an income generator, providing economic opportunities” to the people of Uganda: good governance, functional institutions such as enforcement and research as well as private sector involvement.

The journalists were also addressed by officials from the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA). NFA is an agency of the Government of Uganda, with a mandate to manage all central forestry reserves while UTGA is an umbrella association for private sector players in commercial forestry in Uganda.

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