As Uganda’s population continues to grow, the Masindi District Senior Environment Officer, Mr William Nsiimire, is up to scale up efforts and advocacy to guard against the destruction of the trees.
His present struggle is not to tone down but to prevent climate change likely to occur as a result of over exploitation of forests for firewood and charcoal fuel in the country.
Mr Nsiimire is among local and international environmental lovers who say with the destruction of forests Uganda will not survive the brunt of climate change if all stakeholders do not draw a line between environmental conservation and economic gains that necessitate the use of firewood and charcoal fuel as prerequisites of meeting their targets.
He warns that if not checked, the current wave of tree destruction for firewood and charcoal is likely to affect the contemporary and future human generation.
He wants all stakeholders from the grass root level to ensure that trees are stalwartly guarded against degraders to avert any deplorable conditions that will leave people languishing due to neglected efforts by certain classes of people who are mindless about environmental conservation.
The environment officer also warns that if not accurately handled, firewood fuel will trigger a climate disaster in the country since majority of Ugandans in rural and urban areas depend on firewood and charcoal for domestic fuel respectively.
Mr Nsiimire observes that the increasing demand for firewood in Masindi specifically, leaves trees in sheer tatters, thus, exposing and subjecting people to excruciating effects of climate change.
He says though trees are valuable in mitigating adverse effects of climate change, they are vulnerable to destruction as many people see them as major sources of fuel.
The environmentalist warns that the current raging tree felling for firewood and charcoal in the district will result in detrimental effects being wary that the next generation will not have any trees for use if efforts to restrict tree cutting are not augmented as re-planting programmes are also jealously encouraged even at household levels.
It is against this backdrop that the environment officer calls for stringent penalties against the perpetrators.
Citing numerous charcoal burning sites in forests in Masindi, Mr Nsiimire advises that although some are legally operating, there is need to have sustainable fuel wood production for the benefit of all generations.
Mr Nsiimire told Kazi-njema News that tree destruction in Masindi was escalated by the absence of the District Environmental Action Plan and failure to implement the Natural Resource Ordinance which mandates residents to commit 10 percent of their land for tree planting.
“We have failed to implement the ordinance and people have used that as an advantage to clear our forests. The problem is that these farmers clear forests and plant rice for sale which is happening in most degraded forest land,” Mr Nsiimire said.
Following this observation, the environment officer says authorities in Masindi have now strategised the district by ensuring that the enacted ordinance aimed to salvage natural resources from merciless destructive forces are implemented.
The ordinance is embedded in the District Renewable Energy Strategy Plan 2025 which is a resource mobilisation tool that every stakeholder will abide by for the conservation of trees in Masindi.
Under this strategy, anybody who contravenes with the ordinance will be culpable.
Only 20 out of 62 forests existed in Masindi by 2010 due to encroachment, according to the 2019 statement by the Assistant District Forestry Officer, Mr Anthony Akok.
About 80 percent of the exploited forests is done by timber and charcoal dealers and settlement by farmers.
Authorities in Masindi would reclaim all land of the degraded forests and allocate a third of it to tree farming, as revealed in 2019 by the District Secretary for Production and Natural Resources, Mr Titus Ariyo.
The degraded forests include Kaitampisi, Kyamasuuka, Bineneza and Ntuuma.
Tengele, Motoka alimugonza, Kaitampisi, Kyamasuuka and Bineneza forests had their land titles secured by the district administration so they could be protected from encroachment, Mr Ariyo continued.