By Tracy Gwambe and Priscilla Muhairwe
Reversing effects of deforestation
Even if some land use practices like agriculture and settlement are not done for selfish purposes, the illegal encroachment on the country’s forest reserveshas resulted to deforestation with its attendant devastating effects to the tourism sector, wild life andclimate change.
According toMrLevi Etwodu,the Acting Director Natural Forests at National Forest Authority (NFA), Deforestationrefers to conversion of forested land to other land uses like agriculture and settlement. It is characterized by destruction of the natural vegetation mostly on permanent basis. Current rate of deforestation in Uganda is estimated at 92,000 Ha per annum. The effects of deforestation according to Etwodu, include among others the loss of forest products, water sources drying up, increased soil erosion and landslides, loss of livelihoods for the forest dependent communities and change in microclimate which is important for agriculture.
In the period 1990-2005 alone, 1.3 million Hectares (ha) has been lost to deforestation. Uganda has a total of 3.6 million hectares of forest land. This is a reduction from 4.9 million ha in 1990. As a proportion, in 1990 forests covered 24% of the land area but by 2005 the forest estate had reduced to 18% which is equivalent to 1.3million ha in the last 15 years. The cause of this deforestation is mostly the conversion of forest land to other land use types such as agriculture.
“There is a remarkable difference in the degree of deforestation inside protected areas as compared to forests on private land. Forest estate outside Protected Areas (PA) reduced from 70% in 1990 to 64% in 2005. Forests outside PA reduced from 3.46 million ha to 2.3 million ha; a difference of about 1.2 million ha. Inside Protected areas, forests reduced from 1.47 million ha to 1.3 million ha; a difference of about 0.20 million ha. The extent of deforestation is 92,000 ha per annum,” says John Diisi, CoordinatorGeographical Information System (GIS)/Mapping andacting Procurement Manager at NFA. He further states that most forests outside the protected areas have been destroyed and much of the remaining forests estate is under the protection of NFA and Uganda Wildlife Authority, (UWA).
Dissi saysthat even within the forest reservesdeforestation has been reported though its at a lowerrate than the previous years. He said that NFA is carrying out a mapping exercise which will give the factual state of the country’s forest estatesince a lot of forest plantations have been established since the last mapping or audit of the forest cover was carried out in 2005.
Most affected areas of deforestation
Etwodu, said that the most affected forest reserves are around Lake Victoria, Toro and Bunyoro Regions and also forests on private land in the same areas.
He explained that because of deforestation, there has been loss of forest cover and biodiversity that is needed for tourism. The government is also facing a high cost of restoration of degraded forests which money would be used for other sectors. Due to deforestation government has lost billions in revenue that would come from numerous forest products.
Gilbert u need to explain the para below a little more
Negation of the mandate of NFA to manage Forests Sustainably is yet another problem.The total (inside and outside protected areas) deforestation rate per year is 1.8%. Inside protected areas the deforestation rate is 0.7% while outside protected areas; it is 2.27 % almost double the rate in protected areas. The figures translate to an absolute loss of about 88,638 ha per year, overall.
Other activities that affect the forest cover
Mr. Edward Senyonjo, the Remote Sensing specialist at NFA says that illegal activities that are affecting the forest cover include cattle and goats, hunting or poaching of wildlife, mining and bricklaying.
John ……………Coordinator GIS/Mapping and Ag. Procurement Manager at NFA noted that illegal encroachment was a major challenge for the NFA since encroachers don’t want to leave the protected areas voluntarily and hence NFA has to take forcefully measures to evict evict those people who settle illegally settle in areasbeyond the boundaries set for the forest reserves.
HOW NATIONAL FOREST AUTHORITYAND GOVERNMENT ARE DEALING WITH THE problem of enroachment
NFA has set up guidelines to reduce and do away with the deforestation and the degradation problem in the forest reserves. MrPaul Musomoli, the Director of Corporate Affairs says that concrete boundaries have been erected in different forest reserves to stop and carb the vice of deforestation.
NFA has also been helped by its mother Ministry of Water and Environment to deal with the problem by deploying this mobile police patrol units . As a result ,encroachers have been evicted from forest reserves including the recent evictions carried out in Budongo forest reserve. Encroachers are also prosecuted in courts of law.
NFA has also worked closely with National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA)) to deal with the culprits.
The G.I.S at NFA has been the biggest driver in enabling the authority deal with the problem seeing that they use the Satellite imaging to tell the areas that have been affected in the forest reserves.
According to Musomoli, NFA has done a lot of awareness regarding the boundaries and this has been done through working with the district leaders to discuss and sensitize the communities about the open boundary conflicts. It has also worked with different companies to help support forestry, this way companies like Barclays, Coca Cola, MTN and many others, have made generous contributions towards planting of trees in different .