Funding private sector to acquire modern wood processing machines to promote efficient utilization of forest resources

With support from the European Union and the Government of Uganda, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is supporting forest owners and/or wood processors to acquire wood processing machinery to promote more efficient utilization of wood and value addition. Through the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) III project, FAO is working with small, medium and large holder forestry enterprises to acquire a range of improved wood processing machinery, including highly efficient mobile sawmills (Slide Tec and the Wood Mizer LT40) and their related saw sharpening and setting equipment, briquettes (biomass and carbonated) manufacturing machinery, wood chipper, an automated finger jointer and timber drying kilns. The project has supported acquisition of about 25 wood processing machines on a cost-sharing basis. All the wood processing machines are new in Uganda and will help to significantly reduce wood residues and therefore increase the profitability of investment in the industry and further develop the commercial forestry value chain beyond plantation establishment. FAO is also supporting the Uganda Timber Growers’ Association (UTGA) to set up a Timber Hub as a one-stop center for information and demonstration on wood processing and technology.

On 8 December 2021, a mobile sawmill- Wood Mizer LT40 was officially handed over to J.C. Holdings, one of the beneficiaries, in Gulu City (northern cluster). Other beneficiaries are based in the south western, Western, and Eastern clusters.

Speaking at the hand-over ceremony in Pece, Gulu City, Nadia Cannata- Head of Section for Sustainable Development at the European Union delegation to Uganda, reassured sector players of the EU’s support to advancing sustainable wood production and forest management, ensuring wins for both people and the environment.

Council Dickson Langoya- a Director at J.C. Holdings, commended FAO, the European Union and the Government of Uganda for the commitment to developing commercial forestry, which plays a key role in reducing pressure off natural forests and inadvertently reduces the rate of deforestation in the country. The EU has provided funding for sustainable commercial forestry through the SPGS since 2004.

“The machine we have received is very robust and will save many trees. Compared to low grade and inefficient technologies like the chain saw which results in a daily loss in timber of about UGX 1.2million, this machine will save forest owners about UGX 542 000 daily”, he said.

Langoya also noted that the machine is environmentally-friendly because it has a low carbon emission and low fuel intake. He stressed the importance of adhering to standards in commercial forestry, from production of seedlings to grading of timber, to reduce forest degradation and deforestation.

According to Leonidas Hitimana- SPGS III Project Coordinator at FAO, the procurement of the wood processing machinery was informed by the business plans of beneficiaries, an assessment of available wood resources and the most appropriate and efficient technologies available on the international market. The assessment paved the way for future interventions to support wood processing and utilization of wood products in Uganda.

Advancing the case for sustainable charcoal value chain in Uganda at inaugural project steering committee meeting

Alongside the handover ceremony of wood processing machinery, the inaugural steering committee meeting of the Forest Management and Sustainable Charcoal Value Chain Project was held. Funded by the European Union, and implemented by FAO and the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) as government counterparts, the objective of the Project is to promote sustainable charcoal production practices, to reduce negative social and environmental impacts of charcoal production, while at the same time promoting cleaner energy alternatives.

During the meeting, stakeholders pledged to tackle deforestation and forest degradation by addressing irregularities in charcoal production, which has been a major cause of deforestation and land degradation in Uganda, where about 90 per cent of the population depends on biomass energy. The four-year intervention (2021- 2025), will promote sustainable charcoal production practices such as the use of more efficient charcoal kilns, promoting the concept of farmed charcoal (deliberate efforts to plant trees for energy), regulated harvesting in woodlands, promoting the adoption of clean energy alternatives in Uganda- where only one percent of the population currently use clean energy. The project will be implemented in the Northern, West Nile, Central and Mid-west regions, covering Adjumani, Yumbe, Obongi, Moyo, Amuru, Nwoya, Gulu, Kitgum, Lamwo, Kassanda, Kiboga, Luwero, Mubende and Nakaseke districts, where substantial charcoal production is taking place.

Alfred Okot Okidi- Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE), called for enhanced governance and awareness creation about sustainable charcoal production. He noted that greater sensitization and increased use of improved efficiency kilns for charcoal production will result in a significant lowering of wood biomass demand from woodlands for charcoal production. “I appeal to local leaders, especially in Gulu where illegal charcoal production is rampant, to increase their vigilance and take serious action or else all these efforts will come to naught”, he said.

Brian Isabirye- Commissioner for Renewable Energy at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, commended the steering committee for providing the space to discuss sustainable management of energy resources, especially charcoal, which forms a major part of Uganda’s energy mix. “Charcoal will be a major energy source in the short and medium term. We therefore have a learning and innovation platform that has already increased awareness, knowledge and research about better technologies for charcoal production. We need local leaders, rural populations, national level actors and the private sector to work collectively to increase advocacy, governance, markets, research, data and finances to promote sustainable natural resources management in Uganda”, he said.

Members of the steering committee, who included officials from MWE, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, the European Union, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and FAO, visited Kijani Forestry- a social enterprise focused on combatting deforestation by promoting climate-smart agricultural practices among farmers in northern Uganda. KIjani is currently rolling out sustainable charcoal farming using innovative technologies such as improved charcoal drying kilns (Casamance), supporting communities to plant trees for charcoal, building skills and capacity of the locals to restore the degraded woodlands In Uganda, 65 percent of the urban households depend of wood for their energy needs, particularly cooking, as access to clean energy alternatives is generally low. Consequently, the demand for charcoal is high and is estimated to increase by three percent annually. This demand is a major cause of deforestation and forest degradation through unsustainable production of charcoal.

Also present at the steering committee meeting, hand-over event and field tour were officials from Government agencies, Gulu District Local Government, the EU and FAO. They included: Tom Okello Obong- Executive Director of the National Forestry Authority, Gulu District Resident District Commissioner- Odong Latek Steven, Gulu Resident City Commissioner- Dennis Odongpiny and Christopher Opiyo Ateker- Gulu District Chairman.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021