Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ugandan farmers are demanding that the government addresses deforestation through a deliberate investment in alternative sources of energy.
They say that the approach should be integrated with the operationalization of the tree fund stipulated under the Environment and the National Tree Planting Act and implemented under their National umbrella association, the Uganda Farmers Common Voice Platform.
Mungu Acel Mario, the Chairperson of the Northern Chapter of Uganda Farmers Common Voice Platform says that investment in renewable sources of energy such as Solar, Biogas and energy-efficient cooking stoves will save the Country’s forests from being depleted.
Mungu-Acel says that the government should take action before it is too late for deforestation to drive agriculture to a complete failure.
Paul Katuriiba, the Chairperson of the Western Chapter of the Platform condemned the government inaction to curtail deforestation occurring on private forests. He says greedy people are capitalizing on the void left by the government to deplete the forest cover.
Pastor Felix Okwakol, the Chairperson of the Eastern Chapter says he would like to see the government waiving excise duty on imported renewable energy sources in order for rural communities to embrace them.
The farmers were speaking at a national dialogue on drivers of deforestation convened by the Catholic Relief Services (CARITAS) at Hotel Africana in Kampala. They said the government should introduce incentives for farmers to plant trees and save the environment.
They identified greed for wealth, corruption, insecure land tenure systems, wildfires, poverty, commercial farming and growing demands for forests products as some of the leading drivers responsible for deforestation in the country.
Dr Byakagaba Patrick, a Lecturer in the School of Forestry and Environmental science at Makerere University says unless curtailed, Uganda will lose its entire forest cover over the next 20 years. He said forests cover on private land has dwindled from 68 per cent in 1990 to 35 per cent in 2015.
According to Dr Byakagaba, new studies indicate that the Arua region where Zoka forest falls will lose its entire forest cover in the next eight years if the current trend of deforestation is not halted.
“Agriculture is facilitating deforestation in Uganda because forest lands are infertile by nature. They can only support agriculture production for only two seasons which explains the reason farmers must clear fresh areas of forests to find new crop production areas” he stated.
Betty Rose Aguti, the CARITAS Policy and Advocacy Specialist says it is wrong for the government to recruit extension workers in other critical sectors of the economy without prioritizing the forestry sector.
She urged that communities embrace agroforestry and renewable energy to resolve the looming environmental crisis of the country.