Striking the balance between conservation and livelihoods crucial – Opinion

Ms Jemimah Babirye Kasibbo, is an Advocacy Officer at Citizens Concern Africa (CICOA).

In recent news, the President of Uganda has issued a ban on charcoal production citing environmental concerns and the need to protect the country’s forests.

While the intention to preserve Uganda’s natural resources is commendable and has for long been needed, as environmentalists, we really appreciate and recommend the president for it.

However, it is essential to take a holistic approach when evaluating the feasibility and potential implications of such a directive, considering the country’s high standards of living and prevalent poverty levels.

Uganda’s forests play a vital role in preserving biodiversity and maintaining ecological balance. Charcoal production has long been associated with deforestation and habitat destruction.

The ban on charcoal aims to curb these environmental consequences, reduce carbon emissions and protect the country’s natural resources.

These efforts align with global initiatives to combat climate change and promote sustainable practices.

However, it is crucial to acknowledge the potential socio-economic ramifications of the charcoal ban given Uganda’s high poverty levels and the reliance of many communities on charcoal as a source of income and cooking fuel.

Charcoal production is a significant economic activity for both rural and urban populations, providing employment opportunities and serving as a readily available and affordable energy source.

To mitigate the negative effects on livelihoods, it is imperative that the government implements effective measures to support the affected communities during the transition.

This includes facilitating the adoption of alternative energy sources such as clean cooking stoves and renewable energy solutions.

By investing in the development of sustainable energy infrastructure, the government cannot only address environmental concerns but also create new economic opportunities and improve standards living.

Rather than an outright ban, a more practical approach could involve implementing strict regulations and sustainable practices in the charcoal industry.

This could include promoting responsible harvesting techniques, reforestation programmes and improving supply chain management to minimise illegal logging and promote sustainable charcoal production.

Striking a balance between conservation and economic development can make Uganda achieve long-term sustainability while supporting the livelihoods of its citizens.

Education and awareness campaigns play a crucial role in fostering a culture of environmental consciousness and promoting the use of alternative energy sources.

Educating the public about the impact of deforestation, the benefits of sustainable practices and the availability of alternative energy options can ensure that the government encourages behavioural change and facilitate a smoother transition away from charcoal dependency.

While Uganda’s charcoal ban demonstrates the government’s commitment to environmental preservation, it is vital to consider the holistic implications of such a directive.

Balancing environmental concerns with the socio-economic realities of the country is essential to ensure a sustainable transition.

By investing in alternative energy sources, implementing robust regulations, and promoting education and awareness, Uganda can address environmental challenges while safeguarding livelihoods and improving living standards.

It is through comprehensive and inclusive approaches that Uganda can achieve a balance between conservation and the needs of its people.

The author, Babirye Jemimah Kasibbo, is an Advocacy Officer, Citizens Concern Africa (CICOA)


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