Government secures Shs165bn for reforestation

Environmental police personnel standing on a heap of logs during one of their operations in Paibona sub-county Gulu district recently. Photos by Arnest Tumwesige

By Simon Wokorach

Gulu: The government through the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) has secured 40 million euros (shs165.7b) to facilitate plans to restore the lost forest cover in northern Uganda.

Alfred Okot Okidi, the Permanent Secretary at MWE, disclosed in an interview that the fund was secured from the European Union.

Okidi revealed that the ministry has already approved a plan for community tree planting, and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with both religious and traditional leaders to implement the project.

According to Okidi, the indiscriminate cutting of trees for charcoal and timber has destroyed 0.5 % of the tree cover in northern Uganda, causing a fall in the tree cover from 13. 9 percent to 13.4.

“The impact is huge on environment,” Okidi said.

Okidi explained that the reforestation campaign will not only be relevant for both conservation and for individual income, but restore the tree cover in the refugee hosting districts that have high demand for wood fuel.

Okidi on tree planting

According to a 2023 report by UNHCR, shortage of money to fund priority areas would among others lead to continued deforestation in and around settlements.

According to the report, the needed US$ 128.5 m (shs 20.9 b) to fund priority areas, such as fuel for cooking for otherwise at least 2,000 hectares of woodlots would be deforested for firewood. Okidi suggested that refugees should turn away from using charcoal and wood for ethanol.

“Why can’t our people turn to ethanol when we already have the factory for that in place established in Nwoya?” he asked.

Advise on alternative sources

Okidi revealed that besides the mass-tree planting drive which will be rolled out in the next financial year, the government has adopted a plan for enhancing value addition on its forest products.

Christopher Oruka, an environmental activist is glad that activism amidst other interventions is helping to reduce indiscriminate tree cutting in the region.

According to Oruka, some reformed charcoal dealers have started planting trees to restore what they destroyed.

John Giribo, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) Manager for Aswa Region, noted that the mass destruction of trees for commercial charcoal business in the region continues to affect the environment.

A hip of logs prepared for charcoal burning in Paibona sub-county Gulu district being set on fire by the Police Environment Unit during one of the operations of recent.

Giribo said whenever he goes to the field he still finds local government officials issuing movement permits to the charcoal transporters.

“Go to Gulu district and see what I am telling you, we can’t break down the chain in one day. The dealers are operating in powerful groups and have gone on to single us out individually and that’s why we need many stakeholders involved to fight this vice together,” Giribo noted.

Implementers welcome the move

Traditional and religious leaders have commended the government for the initiative.

Rwot Kasimoro Ongom, the Chief of Patongo, noted that the involvement of the traditional leaders will help to change the mindset of the locals to appreciate the co-existence with the environment.

“90 % of people listen to us but we hope the agreement won’t end on paper,” Rwot Ongon noted.

Rwot Kassimiro, however, revealed that despite the ban on charcoal and forest products, the illegal cutting of trees continues in Agago district with an estimated 2,000 trees cut in the district daily, with the most affected sub-counties being, Arum, Omot and Geregere.

The vice chair Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative Musa Khelil who doubles as the Northern Uganda Regional Mufti, is equally optimistic about the partnership with the government on reforestation.

“The Catholic Church has taken lead in the mobilization for household tree planting, but this collaboration will bring in the other seven religious groups to work together,” Khelil observed.

Trees targeted for planting include; Shea Nuts, Eucalyptus, and Mahogany from 2024/2025 financial. The exercise which is going to be implemented in the North will be expanded to the rest of the country once more funding is secured from the EU.

5 thoughts on “Government secures Shs165bn for reforestation

  1. Thanks for the initiative, karamoja is worsening on the cutting down of trees. Rescue please, reforestation and policies against deforestation are highly supported.

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