Uganda recently launched phase III of EU funded project boosting commercial forestry

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations Deputy Country Representative has commended the contribution of the private players in the establishment of commercial forests in Uganda, saying the trees are of great importance.

“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”, Priya Gujadhur said.

The official made remarks during a recent media dialogue in Kampala where he said private sector investors in commercial plantation forestry are contributing to uplifting of the forestry sector in through the 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.

“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, adding that about 96 per cent of the population in Uganda relies on biomass.

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.

According to the official, the 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.

FAO/SPGS III Coordinator, Leonidas Hitimana notes 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. He says that investment in forest plantations is economically viable and if all operations are done properly, the return on investment is good. An investment of 100,000 Uganda Shillings can yield a profit of approximately 30,000 Uganda Shillings.

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. 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 billion in 2015,” he says.

Byaruhanga further states that demand for charcoal, fuelwood and industrial wood is forecast to grow to 70 per cent by 2030 and commercial forest plantations will provide a natural and sustainable resource base to meet this demand.