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Uganda’s forest cover depleted to 8%, environment minister warns encroachers

By Wilson Manishimwe

Added 20th April 2018 02:12 PM

She warned that once people don’t embrace conservation of nature, they will suffer climate change effects such as prolonged drought, floods and landslides.

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This part of the forest reserve has been cultivated. Photos by Wilson Manishimwe

She warned that once people don’t embrace conservation of nature, they will suffer climate change effects such as prolonged drought, floods and landslides.

The State Minister for Environment Mary Goretti Kitutu has said Uganda’s forest cover has been depleted to 8% up from 24% in 1990s, attributing it to human encroachment for different activities like agriculture and tree cutting for timber and charcoal.

She warned that once people don’t embrace conservation of nature, they will suffer climate change effects such as prolonged drought, floods and landslides.

“The rate of deforestation in Uganda is high and the country will soon become water-stressed if citizens do not pay attention to environmental management. All other organisations ought to take part in planting trees as a priority to manage the climate change challenges,” said Kitutu.

Kitutu said this while launching tree planting session at Gandu Central Forest Reserve in Butambala district, where over 5000 trees were planted. The event was organised by Rotary Club Uganda in partnership with Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) and National Forestry Authority (NFA).

“I want to begin a crusade of gazetting community forests. Through that process we can be able to recover the forest cover losses and the target is to recover 16 % which has been lost over past two decades,” she said.

Kitutu noted that most of the forest reserves were occupied by population during the era of Idi Amin and the government is fighting hard to send them away, although it is sometimes lenient with communities. She added that there’s also sensitisation of communities about the importance of forests and wetlands so that they become agents of conservation.

Mark Ocitti, the UBL Managing Director said deliberate afforestation activities will make a milestone in ensuring supply of clean water resources for people since over 40% of rain water is contributed by forests and wetlands.

“We contributed sh250m to Rotary Club for the restoration of forests within the next five years. This is not the first time that we are stepping in to partner with government and Rotarians for a good cause,” said Ocitti.

Kenneth Mugisha, the governor for Rotary district 9211(consisting of Uganda and Tanzania) explained that planting of trees is one of the activities under the programme dubbed Rotary Mission Green aimed at nature conservation.

“It’s our responsibility to take charge of the future of our country irrespective of one’s religious or political affiliation. By involving local community, we are ensuring sustainability of this project,” he stated.

He said the bigger target for rotary club is to plant 20 million trees every year for the next five years.

He said the set target will be achieved through bringing more people, schools and organisations on board as far as tree planting is concerned.
The NFA’s acting executive director Paul Buyera said: “The country loses about 100,000 hectares of forest cover every year, a situation that is worsening the effect of climate change.

Government prioritized forest restoration as envisaged in existing targets in Vision 2040.”

He added that the restoration of forest cover can be achieved through collective efforts from individuals, communities, corporate organisations and religious institutions.

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