What you need to know:
- Urgent action is required to address this issue, and sustainable solutions must be explored, like alternative cooking fuels, energy-efficient stoves, and reforestation efforts.
When a forest is degraded it still exists, but becomes a shell of its former self, and its health declines until it no longer filters the air we breathe, the water we drink, and other bigger problems leading to higher temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns.
According to the National Forest Authority,2022 report, Uganda lost nearly 25 percent of its forest cover within two decades from 1990 to 2010.
Last week, Mr Hilary Onek, the state Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness, and Refugee revealed shocking news in a press briefing that Uganda is annually investing a staggering $1.3 billion (Shs4.944 trillion) in refugee response, of which 80 percent is used for purchasing firewood for cooking.
This is a lot of money to spend on firewood as much as it is essential to take care of refugees, making sure they are safe and treated with respect, nonetheless, not at the expense of our environment.
This clearly shows that in response to the needs of refugees, the government is indirectly playing a role in deforestation. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), World Bank, and World Food Programme’s research 2021 report, 97 percent of refugees use firewood, each consuming 1.6kg annually.
Different research also indicates that wood fuels are the primary energy source for over 90 percent of households in Uganda and an even greater proportion in the refugee community.
As the demand for energy increases, the situation becomes more complex due to diminishing tree cover. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2020 report, stated that refugees are responsible for about 61 percent of the deforestation in refugee-hosting areas.
With the substantial number of people seeking refuge in Uganda, there is an urgent requirement to devise sustainable strategies for both refugees and host communities that focus on energy access and forest resource management.
The reliance of refugees on firewood as their primary fuel source has significant and detrimental environmental consequences.
Urgent action is required to address this issue, and sustainable solutions must be explored, like alternative cooking fuels, energy-efficient stoves, and reforestation efforts.
This can help mitigate these environmental challenges. It’s crucial to approach this issue with a balance between environmental concerns and the immediate needs of the refugee populations.
In this case, the government should not only take the effective action to save the environment for both humans and nature but also the funds spent in purchasing the firewood can be redirected into economic empowerment initiatives for the refugees so they can get jobs and avoid dependence on donation handouts.
In a world facing both humanitarian crisis and environmental challenges, finding sustainable solutions for Uganda’s refugees’ energy needs is not just an obligation but an opportunity to build a more selfless and sustainable future for all.