December 1, 2020

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Forest cover on private land to disappear in five years – Report

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Researchers document the destruction at the forest. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda is likely to be left with only the forest cover in gazetted protected areas within five years, as the rest of the forests could be destroyed.

According to the latest survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics-UBOS, supported by the World Bank, the country could run out of forests outside of gazetted protected areas by 2025, if the current rate of depletion is not checked.

The comprehensive survey of Uganda’s natural resources which was conducted over the last two years also takes into account that the demand for wood is projected to more than double between 2015 and 2040.

The study was part of the government’s road towards its vision of resource-led industrialization by developing a set of natural capital accounts for the country, dubbed the Uganda Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) program.

The study looked at both the physical and monetary asset account of wood and other selected forest resources and the forecast demand and supply between 1990 and 2040.

According to the study, there was a marked decline in resource stocks for example, by 2015, the national wood stock had declined by 45 percent that is from 356 million tons in 1990 to 197 million tons in 2015.

Two-thirds of the reduction was observed on private land and 18% was in the central forest reserves, while in wildlife reserves and national parks, the decline was up to 30%.

Apart from the moderating climate, forest cover also helps regulate carbon content in the atmosphere, helps prevent land degradation and also protects tourism among others.

The Director of Tourism, Barirega Akankwasa is hopeful that the natural capital accounts, basically a database and mapping of the natural resources will help inform policymakers to make policies that will effectively protect these resources.

The World Bank which committed to continuing to fund this program to expand it to other natural resources says the rate at which Uganda is losing its forest cover is alarming and already, forecasts show that demand for wood will more than double by 2040.

The Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank Office, Franklin Mutahakana says the World Bank Board already approved funding for investing in forests but the Ugandan government is yet to approve it.

The prices of wood products like charcoal, firewood, timber and poles are also being driven by the rising rate of urbanization, but the high demand, that comes with high prices is also attracting more people into activities that destroy the forests.

The export markets especially Kenya, have also abetted the destruction of forests with government attempted bans on exports hardly bearing fruit.

Edgar Niyimpa-Mfite, a senior statistician at the UBOS warns that the increasing value of the supplied forest resources will see more harvest in protected and conservation areas unless action is taken either to plant more forests outside the gazette areas or strengthening of laws.

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