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Kibaale, Nakasongola lose most forests

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th July 2008 03:00 AM

THE loss of forest cover in the country is most severe in Kibaale and Nakasongola, posing risks of fuel wood scarcity and food insecurity, according to a study by the National Forestry Authority (NFA).

THE loss of forest cover in the country is most severe in Kibaale and Nakasongola, posing risks of fuel wood scarcity and food insecurity, according to a study by the National Forestry Authority (NFA).

By Gerald Tenywa

THE loss of forest cover in the country is most severe in Kibaale and Nakasongola, posing risks of fuel wood scarcity and food insecurity, according to a study by the National Forestry Authority (NFA).

Both districts lost over half of their forests in the last 15 years.

The study, which compared satellite images of 1990 and 2005, shows that out of the 80,000 hectares of high forests in Kibaale in 1990, only 26,000 hectares were left in 2005, representing a loss of 68%.

In Nakasongola, the forest cover reduced from 127,000 hectares to 60,000 hectares over the same period, or a loss of 53%.

The land conversion, for farmland in Kibaale and for charcoal burning in Nakasongola, is to blame for the looming disaster.

Central Uganda is cited in the report as the most affected by deforestation. It consists of the charcoal- producing districts of Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Luweero, Kiboga, Mubende and Wakiso.

It is followed by western Uganda, where forests in Kibaale, Kyenjojo, Hoima and Masindi are being mowed down by Bakiga immigrants who come from the heavily populated southwestern Uganda.

Uganda’s total forest cover has halved in the last two decades. In 1988, 26% of the country was covered by forests. This has reduced to 13% in 2008, says John Diisi, NFA’s coordinator for Global Information Systems and Mapping. The country loses an average of 86,000 hectares of trees per year, or 2.1%.

Most of the destruction is taking place on private land, outside Government protected areas, according to NFA.

“The future is not good. What is being destroyed is not restored,” Diisi noted.

“This is because what is being destroyed is on private land, where the Government has no control and where it can not touch people who cut down trees.”

Within the protected areas, encroachment is the biggest problem. Since President Yoweri Museveni issued an executive order in 2006 stopping evictions from the reserves, the number of encroachers has increased from 180,000 to 240,000, according to the NFA report.

It points out that the declining forest cover has resulted in a shortage of fuel wood.

“The result is that people walk longer distances every year to get fuel wood. On average, the distance moved to collect firewood has increased from 0.73 kilometres in 2000 to more than one kilometre,” says the report.

In districts like Kitgum, Nebbi, Gulu, Amuru, Nakasongola, Sironko and Adjumani, households now move more than four kilometres to collect wood.

In other districts, like Iganga and Kamuli, households have started using plant residues and cow-dung to cook food. This has far reaching effects on soil fertility, NFA warns.

“With these residues now used for cooking, the soil nutrient status will quickly go down, with accompanying crop yield reduction.”

Paul Dritch, NFA’s director of technical services, points out that the rapid deforestation is already disrupting agriculture since climatic variations have started hitting farming communities, particularly in the dry land areas.

The massive cutting of trees in lake areas has also led to declining water levels. “Deforestation in the Lake Victoria catchment areas has contributed to the reduction of water levels in the lake, which has in turn contributed to a reduction in hydro output.”

This, according to the report, had affected industrial production, with growth in industrial output declining from 10.8% in 2004 to 4.5% in 2005.

The most alarming thing, Dritch noted, is that trees are being cut down at a faster rate than new trees are being planted.

“NFA and the private sector will have planted 200,000 hectares by 2012 but over 400,000 hectares will have been cut down,” he said.

Kibaale, Nakasongola lose most forests

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