What you need to know:
- The issue: Forest cover
- Our view: It is government’s duty to ensure that these invaluable national treasures are safeguarded.
Uganda is heavily reliant on wood and charcoal as fuel for cooking, which has led to devastating degradation of the forest cover in the country.
According to the National Forestry Authority, in the last 30 years, Uganda’s forest cover has declined from 24 percent to only 12 per cent.
The deforestation has led to drastic changes in the weather patterns, with increased occurrences of drought. This has impeded agriculture sector that heavily relies on rain. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics estimates that about 70 percent of Uganda’s working population is employed in agriculture sector.
Therefore, with the low profits from agriculture because of climate change, many Ugandans, especially those in the rural areas will continue to wallow in poverty unless government moves fast to conserve forests and wetlands in order to prevent climate change.
The Minister of State for Energy, Mr Sidronius Okassi Opolot, admitted on Wednesday last week that overreliance on charcoal is jeopardising the country’s fight against the ravages of climate change (see Daily Monitor, November 24 story titled, “Tackle illegal charcoal burning, says EU”).
At the same function in Paloga Town Council in Lamwo District, where 25 solar-powered mini grids were commissioned, the European Union head of delegation, Mr Attilio Pacifici urged the government to provide Ugandans with environmentally friendly cooking fuel alternatives.
We call upon the government to heed this advice and treat this issue with the urgency it deserves. The government should consider teaching people how to establish biogas plants at their homes. Biogas is a renewable energy source that can be produced from raw materials such as agricultural waste, manure, sewage and food waste. Technicians can be sent by government to rural areas to show residents how these biogas plants are made and how to maintain them.
Currently a few homesteads, most of them in urban areas, use liquefied petroleum gas to prepare meals because the price is too high for most people to afford. Subsidising the cost of cooking gas will increase its use and therefore, save our precious forests from destruction.
The government should also consider reducing the cost of electricity to enable people use it for cooking. Currently most people who are connected to the electric grid avoid cooking with it because of the high costs. Solar power is another energy source that is underutilised in a country with abundant sunshine.
If the power of the sun is tapped for cooking, this will significantly reduce the dependence on wood and charcoal.
Apart from contributing to the formation of rainfall, forests are homes of animals and birds that attract tourists who bring foreign exchange to the country. Forests are also a source of medical herbs that locals have used for generations.
It is government’s duty to ensure that these invaluable national treasures are safeguarded.