Preventing total forest loss in Uganda

Alex Kyabawampi (L), corporate social responsibility manager with the New Forests Company, and Martin Asiimwe, forest and biodiversity program coordinator with World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Uganda speak at the launch of the short documentary, "A Journey Without a Map," at the Global Landscapes Forum conference in Nairobi. GLF Photo
26 September 2018

NAIROBI (Landscape News) — Uganda will be completely without forest cover by 2050 at its current rate of tree loss, say the creators of a short documentary film produced by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature in conjunction with its New Generation Plantations project.

The population of the East African country — now equal to almost 43 million — doubles every 12 years, according to the documentary, titled A Journey Without a Map. Only 1 percent of households can access clean fuels and cooking technologies, and 93 percent of people rely on biomass — mainly charcoal — for cooking, putting a huge strain on natural forests.

The documentary posits that plantations strategically planted around natural forests protect water availability, biodiversity and soil nutrients, while carbon absorption is improved and degraded areas restored. Additionally, plantations provide safe corridors through which wild animals can travel.

Well-managed plantations can be a part of a sustainable energy solution.

“We wanted to emphasize that if plantations are done well they conserve environment, reduce degradation and end poverty,” said Martin Asiimwe, forest and biodiversity program coordinator with WWF Uganda, explaining that another benefit is that they provide wood on less land than natural forests.

The documentary aims to encourage the big planters, private sector companies and profit making companies, Asiimwe told Landscape News during the launch of the 15-minute film at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) conference at UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi.

“We have a higher rate of forest loss than we plant, so we have to triple our efforts,” he said. “We think if this message is taken on and shared widely, everyone will be encouraged to plant trees, and if they plant trees they will save the existing natural forests. We’re losing natural forests, we’re losing water, we’re losing biodiversity, and we’re losing revenue on tourism.”

Through the sale of the equivalent of 5 acres (2 hectares) of plantation timber, the cost of a child’s school term can be paid, Asiimwe said. Currently, one plantation is raising 500,000 seedlings each year.

“Action is needed now, action was needed yesterday in terms of getting people to invest in plantations, getting people to plant a tree, plant two trees, put up a small woodlot and getting the national consciousness raised on the importance of maintaining the watershed, maintaining biodiversity of our remaining few natural forests,” said Alex Kyabawampi, corporate social responsibility manager with the New Forests Company, a continent-wide socially responsible sustainable timber business.

WWF’s New Generation Platform designs and manages forests in cooperation with local people and other stakeholders, by respecting and strengthening rights to land and resources. Initiatives improve socioeconomic circumstances by attracting managerial, harvesting and other jobs.

“It’s about people, it’s about transformed lives, it’s about access to electricity,” said Patrick Mugenyi, chief executive and head of mission with the New Forests Company in Uganda.

“We currently have approximately 23 percent penetration,” Mugenyi said. “What this means is that the burden on our forests is significantly higher. We as private sector actors see ourselves as part of solutions to bringing value for money to green electricity expansion. We work with the government to make sure more people have access to power. As a company we’re playing our role over a period of nine years. We are actively supporting 28,000 students at a time.”