OTUKE- National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has commenced restoration of Oliduru Central Forest Reserve (CFR) in Ogwete Sub-county; Otuke district.
Before Oliduru CFR had been encroached upon, the forest reserve largely comprised of Shea nut trees; that have since been declared an endangered species. Encroachment on the forest was a result of the illicit trade in charcoal from both within Uganda and across borders in Kenya, where charcoal traders prefer buying charcoal burnt from the Shea Nut, because it is a hardwood species. The Shea Nut tree is a species with several benefits. It has medicinal values known to treat many ailments, the fruits are very nutritious and can be eaten; oil can be processed for cosmetic attributes and to be added as an ingredient to food. It is a slow maturing tree that takes about 20 years to bear fruit and can live for 300 years.
In this restoration exercise NEMA with support from the National Forestry Authority, Ngetta Zonal Agriculture Research Institute and the Otuke district local government will plant 15,000 Shea Nut seedlings in the bare parts of the forest reserve, covering up to 222 hectares of land.
Restoration of Oliduru CFR follows a pilot exercise carried out under the Kidepo Critical Landscape Project that registered a 90% success rate.
Speaking at the launch of the activity, NEMA’s Natural Resources Manager in charge of Biodiversity and Rangelands, Mr. Francis Ogwal disclosed that the United Nations is likely to declare the years 2021-2030 as a Decade for Restoration. “It is therefore prudent that even before that declaration is made, as a country we must start restoring the aspects of nature that we have destroyed,” he added.
While speaking to the community of Ogwete Sub-county, Otuke Chief Administration Officer Joshua Mabiya urged the residents to consider the Shea Tree as a cash crop that can effectively get them out of poverty. Currently, a litre of locally processed Shea oil costs sh10,000 while machine processed Shea Nut Oil costs 20,000 per litre; compared to other crops that thrive in the area such as cotton, millet and soya that cost between 1500 and 2000 per kilo. “It is a problem of the mindset for anyone to believe that they can earn more money from burning this tree for charcoal other than processing the oil for sale,” he said and reminded the residents that a presidential decree had been issued in 2006, declaring that no Shea Nut tree should be cut.
Otuke Resident district commissioner Robert Abak, quoted Deuteronomy 20:19 saying even in the Bible God did not approve of cutting trees. “… When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them..?”
The restoration of Oliduru CFR has also enabled locals to realize that investing in green jobs can be a profitable venture. This is because some of the seedling that were acquired for the restoration exercise were purchased from individual tree farmers at a cost of sh3000 per seedling. Mr. Godfrey Munu, aged 25, is among the individual farmers who supplied some of the trees for the restoration exercise. He said venturing into tree growing has helped him earn a decent living and he is able to provide for his family and dependents.
Oliduru is just one of the areas in the country that the NEMA is restoring. This is one off the efforts that NEMA is undertaking to combat Climate Change and the effects of Global Warming.