Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The National Forest Authority-NFA has halted organisations and individuals from growing pine and eucalyptus trees in excluded zones of the central forest reserve under restoration.
As one of the measures of restoring the highly depleted forests across the country, NFA accepted individuals to grow fast growing trees and crops as they restore indigenous trees in forests.
Paul Buyerah Musamali, Director Policy and Planning at NFA, says there were areas which were considered to be eco-sensitive and unfriendly to the fast-growing trees and individuals were told not to tamper with them by planting Eucalyptus and pine. They included areas near, swamps, lakes, and on banks of rivers.
However, individuals who were granted permits have failed to adhere to the policies and are planting trees in excluded zones.
In the Mpanga sector, which covers over 49 forest reserves found in districts of Mpigi, Gomba and Butambala, many individuals who got permits in the sector have since replaced almost most of the forests with fast-growing trees.
Sam Akol, the Kamengo L C3 Chairperson, says that the fast-growing trees planted in the swamps have already caused challenges. He says that several water sources have since dried up.
Kigongo Mulindwa, a businessman who ventured into planting in the restored forests in Kamengo says although they are much aware of the said zones and other forest guidelines, sometimes a businessman may be tempted to plant in swampy areas for profits.
“The truth is many people applied to get money out of the fast-growing trees because government was offering free land and it is common sense that trees planted in such area grow fast and at the end one get profits,” he said.
However, Musamali says that NFA will conduct operations and individuals found to have violated the guidelines risk having his permit cancelled or fined.
Charles Kato Kasujja, the head of project development at VI Agroforestry says if government is after restoring forests they should not allow private individuals to plant environment unfriendly trees in central forests.
He notes that there are very many environments friendly but fast-growing and economically viable tree species other than pine and eucalyptus.
Uganda’s forest cover, according to NFA has tremendously decreased from 24 percent (4,933,271 hectares) of forest land area in the 1990 to less than nine percent (1,956,664 hectares) in 2018. Records indicate that if nothing is done, the forest cover is to continue to reduce.