FAO holds media dialogue to celebrate International Day of Forests 2018
The Food and Agricuture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) III project, organized a media dialogue on “Commercial Forestry in Uganda”, on 16 March 2018, as part of activities to commemorate International Day of Forests 2018. The dialogue was attend by 50 participants, including journalists from key media houses in Uganda, as well as representatives from the European Union, Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA), Ministry of Water and Environment and National Forestry Authority (NFA) who constituted the panel discussants.
The theme for International Day of Forests 2018 is “Forests and Sustainable Cities”. According to Priya Gujadhur, the FAO Deputy Country Representative in Uganda, the theme is relevant as it points out the complex relationship between forests and cities. “Forests are key to supporting the booming construction works in cities, and also act as a sink for heavy emissions of carbon from mushrooming industries in and around cities”, she said. “We also know that about 96 per cent of the population in Uganda relies on biomass, with limited or no access to energy improved technologies that can allow energy saving” she added.
According to Charles Byaruhanga, Principal Forestry Officer at the Forest Sector Support Department of Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda needs about one million tonnes of charcoal annually and approximately 70 per cent of charcoal is consumed in urban centres, with only 30 per cent being consumed in rural areas. “African wood demand is booming and estimated to be $100Billion by 2030 from $50 in 2015,” he said. He added that demand for charcoal, fuelwood and industrial wood is forecast to grow 70 per cent by 2030 and commercial forest plantations will provide a natural and sustainable resource base to meet this demand”.
Towards sustainabale commercial forestry in Uganda
During the dialogue, private sector investors in commercial plantation forestry were praised for contributing to uplifting of the forestry sector in Uganda, through establishment of forests which reward a wide range of social, economic, and environmental benefits, including mitigating climate change effects, improving livelihoods through job creation and providing timber, wood fuel, and other non-timber forest products.
“The contribution of the private sector in afforestation is critical…” and “FAO believes that by supporting private investment in commercial forest plantations, we can help to reduce the pressure on natural resources, particularly forests”, said Gujadhur. She also thanked the media in Uganda for promoting discussion and information sharing on forestry in Uganda.
Over the last decade, FAO has been implementing projects and programmes aimed at increasing forest cover in Uganda. Through the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) Project, about 100 hectares of demonstration bio-energy plantations where established. These demonstration woodlots have inspired many communities to establish their own plantations which meet some forest quality standards. Currently, FAO is implementing the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) Phase III Project on behalf of the Government of Uganda and with funding from the European Union. SPGS III aims at encouraging private investments in commercial forestry through provision of grants for forest establishment and operations and technical support to small, medium and large scale investors in Uganda.
During the dialogue, FAO/SPGS III Coordinator, Leonidas Hitimana noted that the proportion of forest cover as a result of planted forests has increased by 68 000 hectares (from 33 000 hectares in 2005 to 101 000 hectares in 2015). In the third phase, SPGS targets establishment of 31 000hectares.
Jalia B. Kobusinge, Adviser for Sustainable Development Sector at the European Union noted the following as key enablers for the forestry sector to “become an income generator, providing economic opportunities” to the people of Uganda: good governance, functional institutions such as enforcement and research as well as private sector involvement.
UTGA’s Executive Director, Dennis Kavuma urged the media to develop interest in commercial forestry in Uganda and to report avidly about the sector. He noted that Uganda has a vast resource of forest plantations and with value addition to timber from these forests, the country stands to benefit immensely from local and international trade in its timber.
Finally, Levi Etwodu, Director of Natural Resources at NFA, revealed that NFA has dedicated 50 000 hectares to be allocated to private sector players for establishment of forest plantations.
The journalists were then taken on field tour of two medium scale and large scale plantations in Kiboga and Kyankwanzi respectively, which are supported by the SPGS III Project.
Journalists and key stakeholders in forestry who attended the Media Dialogue on Commercial Forestry in Uganda. Seated L-R: Leonidas Hitimana-FAO/SPGS III Project Coordinator, Charles Byaruhanga- Senior Forestry Officer, Ministry of Water and Environment, Jalia B. Kobusinge- Sustainable Development Adviser, European Union and Gaster Kiyingi- Team Leader, Tree Talk Plus