Water resources, wetlands, biodiversity and ecosystem, and forests are some of the natural resources that make up our environment. However, the increasing number of people means more pressure on natural resources. People will need firewood, water, and money hence encroachment and degradation.
A report released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) in 2018 revealed that Uganda’s total population size increased to 37.7 million, up from 36.4 million in 2014.
Ms Helen Namirembe Nviri, the UBOS director of population and social statistics also indicated that Uganda’s current population growth rate per year is 3.03 per cent.
Naomi Kwarekaho the Nema spokesperson, notes that due to the increasing number of people, there are been more deforestation as people are looking for money as well as firewood for cooking.
“This makes conservation hard as most people end up encroaching on forests,” she adds
A report released by Hon. Sam Cheptoris Minister of Water and Environment during the NRM manifesto week indicated that forest cover is estimated at 1,956,664Ha down from 2,196,631ha in (2010), 3,220,546ha in (2005), 3,785,167 in (2000), and 4,933,271ha in (1990). This shows that the main cause of decline is agricultural expansion in forested areas, biomass energy (fire wood and charcoal) and timber for construction industry.
According to Aisha Alibhai the PR NFA (National Forestry Authority) 70 percent of the forests in Uganda are privately owned therefore people destroy them as much as they want which affects the government efforts to conserve forests.
What government is doing
Cheptoris notes that the government has put in place elaborate policies, laws and regulations to guide the management of environment and natural resources for the betterment of society.
“The Ministry supplied a total of 1,856,696 seedlings to the districts of Bududa, Bukwo, Namisindwa and Mbale, catchment areas of Ngenge (Kween), Tochii (Oyam), Wadelai (Nebbi), Mubuku II (Kasese), Doho II (Butaleja), Olweny (Lira) and Agoro (Lamwo) irrigation schemes as well as the districts of Luwero and Nakaseke,” he adds.
According to Kwarekaho, there has been demarcation of government forests so that people don’t encroach on them, she says this has helped a lot as people fear the law and rarely invade them.
“We are also carrying out tree planting drives in different areas as well as encourage people to conserve the environment on top of telling them the importance of conserving the environment or disadvantages of encroaching on them as some of them do it ignorantly,” he adds.
She adds that the government is encouraging family planning among married couples to reduce on the number of birth rates.
Alibhai notes that NFA has put up a collaborated forest management agreement with people living near forests where the government gives them grass lands and seedlings to plant their own trees where they can get firewood, timber, charcoal and others so that they don’t go to the government forests.
We also involve them in day activity products like providing them with beehives and bees so that they get a source of income and don’t go to encroach on forests.
“We are to enforce public education on the importance of conserving the environment and how to effectively live within the environment,” Kwarekaho notes.
She adds that there has been more enforcement on the rule of law where whoever breaks it is punished. Communities living near the forest have also been fully educated on forest law so that they don’t break it.
Alibhai adds that there has been awareness and information given to people around forestry areas about the importance of conserving the forests. She adds that they also hire the locals to guard the forests so that they won’t have to destroy them.
“We have also provided Eco Tourism sites, hotels, lodges where the community is given jobs and return this reduces forest destruction in the urge to make money,” she adds.
“We acquired brand new road equipment valued at UGX 2.522Bn (for opening and maintaining forest roads) – a grader/caterpillar, excavator and low bed with financial support from USAID,” Cheptoris says.
Alibhai notes that inadequate funding is the major challenge as the lack of funds slows down all the work. She says they can’t hire more man power, or buy more cars for staff to reach the forests easily as money is not enough.
People don’t respect the rule of law and they destroy forests without caring which leaves conservation process worthless.
Kwarekaho adds that some forests are not gazetted which makes it easy for people to encroach on them as nothing shows the property is prohibited.
Alibhai adds that low deployment is also a challenge as a few guards may not guard the whole forest therefore a bigger number of guards need to be on ground for effective conservation which is not possible because of inadequate funding.
Cheptoris adds that encroachment on ecosystems due to high population growth rates and the need for arable land, continues to be a big threat to the sector as they experience increased levels of environment degradation and uncontrolled encroachment on the already fragile environment and natural resources remaining beyond the restoration efforts.