KAMPALA – The Government of Uganda in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union (EU) have launched the Forest Management and Sustainable Charcoal Value Chain project to reduce the number of trees cut to produce charcoal.
Speaking during the launch, the Ministry of Water and Environment Permanent Secretary, Alfred Okidi said that under this project, instead of cutting a hundred trees, one will be cutting not more than thirty to produce the same quantity of charcoal.
This was during a seminar on investment in sustainable commercial forestry value chains in Uganda organized by FAO to dialogue and reflect on the achievements and contributions of the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme – SPGS project to the commercial forestry value chains, and propose the next steps for the development of commercial forestry in the country.
The event was held at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on Friday under the theme: “Investment in sustainable commercial forestry value chains in Uganda: Building on the achievements of SPGS Project.”
Mr. Okidi said that the project is one of the best ways of mitigating the negative impacts of increased demand for biomass for energies.
“It may sound ironical but those of us who are in the environment space are advocating for charcoal. We need to be clear, Uganda’s strategy is to migrate clean energy, that is where we are heading. For the next ten or fifteen years, we are going to live with energy for cooking specifically from biomass, in the rural and urban areas. So what this project is trying to do is instead of cutting ten trees, let us come with technology and improve processes that will allow us to cut only three instead of ten trees.”
According to him, the project is saving 70% of trees without being cut to make the same quantity of charcoal.
Okidi commended the European Union and FAO for supporting the project, saying that it is going to address the negative environmental social and economic impact of charcoal production.
“This should be done by focusing on the primary two pillars. The first one is promoting the best practices for sustainable charcoal production and two, we are going to promote clean energy alternatives such as solar gas and others in line with our national inspirations to shift progressive from dependence on solid biomass to alternative clean energy sources,” he said.
“It is also promoting the growing of trees that are necessary for charcoal production. So people will now start in the very near future getting charcoal from trees that are specifically grown for charcoal production and the value chain from transportation up to selling will be monitored.”
In her speech, Beatrice Atim Anywar – Minister of State for Environment first lauded the partners for their continued effort in funding forestry interventions in Uganda and in particular, the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme.
The SPGS project started in 2004 to promote private sector investment in commercial forestry plantations in Uganda.
The European Union-funded project has to date supported the establishment of more than 70 000 hectares of forest plantations with over 12000 jobs created in their direct management, tree nursery business and other support services. With the anticipated significant supply of round wood from private plantations that are nearly reaching full maturity, and the inability of the local industries to absorb within their current capacities, the last phase of the project (SPGS III), focused on supporting the sustainable development of local downstream processing, and value addition.
To date, FAO says the project has set up over eight modern processing facilities/units across the different timber hubs in the country not only to demonstrate downstream processing but also to catalyse investment in sustainable downstream processing, value addition, and markets.
The minister revealed that through the SPGS-3 project, about 30,000 hectares of commercial plantations have been planted by small, medium, and large scale planters, built the capacity of stakeholders along the value chain, supported the development of standards, and provided machinery for downstream processing for better recovery and provided systems useful for data capture and storage for commercial forestry plantations.
“You are aware that the 2040 Uganda vision highlights Forestry as one of the key pillars in transforming the economy through industrialisation and job creation; and MWE is committed to this agenda, on with the overall target of restoring Uganda’s forest cover to 24% through tree planting and forest conservation,” said the minister in her speech read by Mr. Collins Oloya, the Director of Environment at the ministry of water and environment.
Anywar said that such engagements in commercial forestry will solve Uganda’s continued challenges of drought, floods, lack of fuelwood and timber and high levels of unemployment.
“The Government of Uganda is committed and pledges its full technical support to provide an enabling environment, through policies and legislation that promote commercial forestry in the country.”
On the Forest Management and Sustainable Charcoal Value Chain project, the minister said that extreme dependency on wood biomass, coupled with unsustainable harvesting and cooking practices, contributes significantly to deforestation and forest degradation.
“You are aware that Charcoal is the main form of biomass energy used by the urban population, with over 65 percent of households using it as their major source of energy. It is my hope that through this project, this situation will be appropriately addressed.”
The EU Head of Cooperation, Ms. Caroline Adriaensen said that the EU/FAO/Ministry of Water and Environment collaboration through the SPGS project has made available the building blocks for further exploration and growth of commercial forestry
She said that SPGS phase one was intended to demonstrate and popularize commercial forestry as a viable enterprise, kick-start and incentivize investment.
“SPGS phase Il followed with the aim of promoting skills, knowledge and develop services to support the sub-sector plus further plantation establishment. These results were successfully attained and by the end of the second phase, 47,000 hectares were established by both commercial planters and communities. In addition, another 11,000ha of commercial forest plantations were established outside the jurisdiction of SPGS project and using own resources; which is indeed a notable positive outcome,” she said.
Adriaensen said that with the SPGS phase lll emphasis has been on promoting value addition, product development through downstream processing.
According to her, value addition comes with not only looking at enhancing processing skills, capacities, and technologies but also assessing the volumes of raw material (current and potential) within specified locations and professionally planning the appropriate extraction and processing investment.
“As we mark the end of this SPGS phase III, there is also reliable information, analyses demonstrations and trainings in this field that provide a firm basis for additional collaboration by the EU and other partners to develop the sector even further.”
She called for the need to acknowledge the importance of biomass as a source of fuel for the majority of the population in Uganda and neighboring countries.
“To this end, the Forest Management and Sustainable Charcoal Value Chain project worth Euros 5 million that will be launched today as well, is an opportunity to regulate and improve the efficiency of biomass fuel production in the short-term and even more importantly facilitate the dialogue on promoting cleaner and renewable sources of energy with the relevant partners. Am very glad to note the already existing collaboration of the Ministry of Water and Environment. Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, FAO and the local authorities on this.”
She revealed that the EU recently passed a regulation to minimise EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation aimed at promoting the consumption of ‘deforestation-free’ products and reducing the EU’s impact on global deforestation and forest degradation.
“We will closely follow the application of this resolution on key sectors like the coffee one for example.”
She said that the EU intends to continue support to the forestry sector though in a more holistic approach to target and enhance the benefits of the forest resource from the commercial plantations, natural forests and e agroforestry.