Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Environmental activists in Acholi sub-region have called for expedited law to regulate the unending depletion of trees for logs and commercial burning of charcoal.
In 2018, the eight districts of Acholi sub-region under Joint Acholi sub regional leaders’ forum – JSRLF drafted a policy to regulate charcoal burning activities but the document has dragged on.
The Acholi sustainable charcoal production and marketing bill, 2019 seeks to outlaw adverse methods of charcoal production, unlicensed charcoal burning and taxing charcoal being transported from the region.
Desmond Anywar of Inter-generational Agenda on Climate Change – IGACC is dismayed the draft ordinance has delayed despite assurance by technical working group led by Michael Tebere, a governance consultant that it would be ready by July.
Anywar contends that the absence of such crucial guiding policy document continues to encourage indiscriminate tree cutting for commercial charcoal burning and illegal practices felling of endangered tree species like Afzelia Africana and Shear Nut.
But Arthur Owor, a researcher at the Gulu based centre of African studies who sits at the Acholi technical working committee on charcoal – ATWCoC Secretariat disclosed work is still in progress.
“We have set for ourselves a target of March next year. Legislative processes are bureaucratic and the draft ordinance will be presented to both local and international experts for review”, Owor said.
Jimmy Owona, the National Forestry Authority – NFA Range Manager for Aswa River Region, says that charcoal dealers disregard proper procedures of cutting trees in contravention of Section 32 and 43 of the NFA and Tree Planting Act of 2003.
According to Dr Walter Odongo, a Don at the Faculty of Agriculture and the Environment of Gulu University, the masses need sensitization to plant more trees to replace those that are cut to salvage the environment.
Dr Odongo asserts that in order to mitigate the current crisis, government and development partners should jointly embark on encouraging people to embrace diversification of alternative energy sources.
Backed by police and soldiers, the district officials have been set ablaze or confiscating thousands of bags of charcoal worth millions; arresting and forcefully evicting hundreds of charcoal dealers but the illicit business continues to thrive.
According to the renewable energy policy for Uganda 2007, Acholi sub-region has the highest concentration of biomass at above 13,000 tons per hectare.
The Ministry of Water and Environment reported in the National Forest Plan 2011/12 and 2021/22, that within a period of 15 years from 1990, Uganda’s forest cover reduced by approximately 1.3 million hectares.
The report represents an average annual deforestation rate of 1.8 per cent, a trend that implies serious repercussions for sectors like energy, agriculture, food security and the livelihoods of forest-adjacent communities.