This will automatically skyrocket prices, exacerbating the economic distress of fellow citizens.

By Guest Writer

OPINION: Latterly, the President of Uganda issued an executive directive banning the cutting of trees for charcoal.

This came as a result of the increasing complaints stemming from a section of leaders in the Acholi sub-region in Northern Uganda.

They believe that their forest cover has almost entirely vanished because of the charcoal trade.

Local leaders in the region have mobilized the youth to do more to protect the forests through civic action against the charcoal trade. The authorities have embraced this move as an alternative way to address the production and transportation of charcoal outside their region.

Meanwhile, many Ugandans use charcoal. The National Charcoal Survey for Uganda (2015) indicates that 65.7% of households in urban areas use charcoal for cooking.

Charcoal is the most preferred fuel for heating and cooking in urban areas by both households and commercial enterprises due to its low price relative to alternative fuels. It is also more flexible in usage, handling, and storage.

Other fuels used in urban households include kerosene, Liquefied Petroleum gas, and electricity. However, their usage is largely limited due to the high installation costs and expensive fuels.

Even for households connected to the national electricity grid, the majority only use electricity for light tasks like ironing and watching television and then resort to charcoal for cooking. This energy consumption pattern has persisted despite the government’s scaled-up investments in rural electrification.

Therefore, with this huge dependency on the charcoal sector, a ban on charcoal trade in Northern Uganda is poised to accelerate the discrepancy between demand and supply of charcoal in the country.

This will automatically skyrocket prices, exacerbating the economic distress of fellow citizens.

Admittedly, the charcoal sub-sector is a remunerative business that is greatly contributing to the country’s economic development. It employs a significant number of people in Uganda, both semi-skilled and unskilled, at all levels of this trade, from production, transportation, and distribution.

When you move around across the country, it does not take long to discover that the charcoal trade is not only an economic activity but also a source of livelihood for several households.

That said, my humble appeal to the President is that he consider addressing the environmental consequences of charcoal production on forest cover through other means other than banning charcoal production. One strategy that can assure a win-win situation for both the investors in the charcoal sector and the environment is what I refer to as “charcoal farming.” This involves the deliberate planting of trees for charcoal production.

The main sources of wood for charcoal production in Uganda are privately owned forests and central forest reserves. There are no dedicated forest plantations for charcoal production.

The concerned authorities can turn this around by zoning unutilized land and leasing it to investors strictly for charcoal farming in each district.

Environmental authorities also need to step up and enact policies that will provide regulations governing charcoal farming. The screaming urgency to embark on mass reforestation campaigns in forest reserves to restore lost forest cover cannot be amplified any louder.

Sensitization is equally strategic in this pursuit. We can put all systems and policies in place, but without heightening awareness, we will be in for a wild goose chase.

The compliance of citizens will surely and gradually be realized when they are sensitized. Therefore, the central government, together with the cultural institutions, needs to spearhead several interventions, including public awareness and sensitization for behavior change.

The provision of fast-growing tree species to investors for charcoal production is a judicious approach to navigating a balance between economic welfare and ecological prosperity.

The author is Peter Bukama Mulinzi, a Form Six Leaver at Mengo Senior School.

Disclaimer: As UG Reports Media LTD, we welcome any opinion from anyone if it’s constructive for the development of Uganda. All the expressions and opinions in this write-up are not those of UG Reports Media Ltd. but of the author of the article.

Would you like to share your opinion with us? Please send it to this email: theugreports@gmail.com.

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