We should protect our forests

Thursday February 22 2018

Forests are the lungs of the earth. The air we breath, the stability of our climate and the rich variety of life all depend on forests. Forests are home to nearly two-thirds of all plant and animal species found on land and millions of people depend on them for survival. Without thriving forests, the planet Earth cannot sustain life. Yet our forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate.
The reason I am writing this article is because of the of trees being cut down for wood and timber. Recently, NTV featured stories about Mabira forest losing a number of trees, with only a few trees remaining along the Kampala-Jinja highway. There are reasons why our elders used to plant trees in their homes and those very reasons should be kept intact. Cutting down these trees may be a business to those who cut them as their economic activity, but the act affects many people.
As we cut down trees, we also lower the air supply. Trees breath out oxygen and we breath out carbon dioxide. We need trees and trees need us. I want us as a community to use less lumber. That is the reason I am worried about the many trees being cut down.
Illegal logging has spread across the country. While corruption, bribery and greed are often at the root of illegal practices in logging countries, importing countries are also to blame. Illegal timber operations involve many countries, with China being the largest importer of illegal timber from the rainforests in almost in the whole world.
Today, forests face another threat – climate change. When we destroy forests, we add to climate change because forests trap carbon and help to stabilise the world’s climate. When forests are trashed, the carbon trapped in trees, their roots and the soil is released into the atmosphere. Deforestation accounts for up to 20 per cent of all carbon emissions. This is why a country like Indonesia is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China. At the same time, climate change is a threat to forests on a worrying scale.
Ugandans should know that as they cut down trees for timber, millions of indigenous people suffer human rights abuse, increased poverty and disease. Their food and medicine sources are destroyed. Their drinking water is polluted by soil erosion. With less than 5 per cent of the logs’ value given back to the communities, the business of cutting timber is moving landholders from subsistence living to a desperate type of poverty.
In other parts of the world, forests have remained intact due to proper management by the indigenous communities. Such communities often farm and harvest timber on a small scale, but keep commercial and illegal actors out. In expanding the protected areas, governments and NGOs often replace indigenous governance structures with weak or non-existent enforcement regimes. These allow potentially destructive farmers and loggers to move in and many and cut down valuable forests.
Michael Woira, michaelwoira@gmail.com