Elijah Lyagonda makes and sells carbonized bamboo.
ENVIRONMENT | FORESTS
According to a globally respected internet publication on rain forests - Mangabay, Uganda has about 3,627,000 hectares of forested land.
The publication also states that between 1990 and 2005, Uganda lost 26.3% of its remaining forest cover, and deforestation continues today at a rate of 2.2% per year, mostly due to subsistence farming and cutting tree for fuel.
Most people involved in cutting trees for fuel firewood are jobless youth, trying to make a living.
Experts note that if such youth paid attention to the Bamboo tree, they could carbonize it to make charcoal and earn a living.
According to Andrew Ndawula Kalema the Ugandan co-ordinator of Bamboo and rattan programme, Bamboo is one of the plants that can provide youth employment.
PIC: Elijah Lyagonda shows off his carbonized bamboo and items made from the tree (Credit: Stella Naigino)
"Items such as cups, glasses and bicycle frames can be made out of Bamboo and sold for an income," Ndawula says.
The Bamboo tree takes between four to eight years to mature and is recommended for carbonization.
Elijah Lyagonda is one of the youths who have taken this direction and earns from carbonized bamboo.
A resident of Kamuli, he learnt how to carbonize Bamboo upon graduation, targeting charcoal users.
How he does it
Lyagonda buys Bamboo from farmers in Kamuli, at sh10,000 a heap and dries it under the sun.
After drying, he puts it in a retort, a machine used to carbonize Bamboo. He says that those without a retort can use a carbonizing drum but they should be careful.
"After six hours, the Bamboo is expected to have been carbonized. Remove it from the retort and allow to cool, before selling as charcoal," Lyagonda says.
Like any other firewood, it burns well and can be used with ordinary charcoal stoves to serve the purpose that the user wishes.
Lyagonda sells three pieces of three feet Carbonized Bamboo at sh3,000 and this money has greatly changed his life.
"I have decided to grow my own Bamboo, so in future I will not have to buy. This is now my job," he says.