Local leaders destroying endangered tree species

Thursday August 22 2019

Unlawful. A police officer at a site in

Unlawful. A police officer at a site in Kitgum-Matidi where beyo logs were intercepted before being transported to Kampala in June. PHOTO BY DENIS OPOKA 

By DENIS OPOKA & CISSY MAKUMBI

Some Kitgum District leaders are blaming those at the sub-counties of connivance with illegal timber dealers to harvest banned tree species of afzelia Africana, commonly known as, beyo.
The district chairperson, Mr Jackson Omona, said the most affected sub-counties are Labongo-Amida, Orom, Kitgum Matidi, Akwang and Mucwini, all in Kitgum District.

“From July this year to date, three trucks have been impounded with fresh logs that have just been cut, yet we have leaders on the ground who are tasked to prevail over such activities,’’ he said.
“There is no doubt that the leaders connive with those who are enemies of environment and cut the trees on their watch. Such a vice has made the implementation of the ban very hard,’’ Mr Omona told Daily Monitor in an interview on Monday.

In 2017, the State Minister for Environment, Ms Mary Goretti Kitutu, issued a temporary suspension of cutting, transportation, and sale of afzelia Africana trees, shea nut trees, and their products, saying government was still in the process of reviewing and harmonising the licensing, harvesting and movement of the products.
He, however, did not name any of the leaders involved in the illegal trade.
The tree species are endangered due to rampant illegal harvesting and trade in the logs.

There is a lucrative market for afzeila Africana timber in Asian countries where they are used for making furniture and crafts.
Mr Omona said the district has put in place vigilantes to keep watch.
He said chairpersons at both sub-counties and village levels have been compromised.

Mr Wilfred Nyeko, the Labongo-Amida Sub-county chairperson, said some loggers carry with them licences offered by technocrats at the districts, which escalates the vice.
Mr Kenneth Oketayot Aro, the Kitgum Matidi Sub-county chairperson, however, accused Mr Omona of failure to take charge.

“He is blaming us for his failures instead of getting back to the drawing table and putting things right,” Mr Oketayot said.
He said some of the banned tree species are on private land under which they have no control.

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“Most sub-county chairpersons are sometimes not even aware of the deal that might have taken place between the two parties, ’he added.
One of the residents, Mr John Bosco Ocula, said if they stop them from selling the trees, government should come up with other alternatives.

“Not all of us benefit from the government programmes geared towards household income improvement. We can only sell what we have at hand to improve our livelihood,’’ he said.

Mr Ocula added that some land owners opt to sell off the banned species to meet basic needs such as medical care and education.
“How do you expect me to keep my child at home yet I can sell one tree and have the basics in place?’’ he asked.

District Police Commander Moses Bwire said they have intensified mass sensitisation on the benefits of environmental protection among the population.

Forest cover
Today, forests and woodlands cover is about 15.2 per cent of Uganda’s land surface, meaning that Uganda has lost 16.5 per cent of forests and woodland cover.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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