Uganda’s shrinking forests – nearly 90.000 hectares lost in 2011

When figures became available yesterday, that Uganda had once again lost nearly 90.000 hectares of forest cover to converted agricultural land and for producing charcoal, environmentalists were shocked and saddened, some of them clearly too stunned to comment even.
In 2010 a similar forest loss figure was released by the governments own biomass report and the forecast indicates that for 2012 no change is expected, as growing populations demand to be housed and fed. With electricity now not only not regularly available but also expensive, and set to cost more if government makes good of their intention to remove power subsidies, most of Ugandas households use charcoal and firewood to heat water and cook meals, contributing to the rapid deforestation seen across the country.
National water towers, like the Mabira Forest, are now in danger of being progressively eroded, and a report last week right here showed that clearing activities in Mabira apparently enjoy senior protection with armed guards keeping prying eyes and forest wardens away from the scene of the crime.
Yet, globally there is a rush to monetize forests through carbon trading schemes, with even Uganda having a carbon trading bureau, ensuring long term financial benefits for participating governments and private sector owners of forests, but such opportunities are often brushed aside to cater for immediate needs of exploding populations and in particular to cater for voters by promising them land, political protection when they invade and occupy forests while turning a blind eye to the immediate, medium and long term impact of such short sighted actions.
Foresters in Uganda fear that if the trend is not halted and they are pointing to neighbouring Rwanda where determined government policy has not just halted but reversed the de-forestation trends Uganda may be bare of forest cover within the next 40 years, with undoubtedly catastrophic consequences for those living here at that time. Global climate change combined with failed local conservation measures will be a time bomb waiting to explode in our grand childrens faces, unless government and civil society can finally agree on an action plan to protect crucially important resources like forest, and to maintain and safeguard biodiversity. Watch this space.