Uganda is experiencing unprecedented and worrying loss of tree cover. A recent report by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) indicates that Uganda has lost 41.6% of its forest cover in the last 100 years (1921-2021). In 1900, Uganda’s forest cover stood at 54% and by 2017, it stood at a miserable 12.4%.
Although subsistence farming, and charcoal burning are often blamed for this colossal loss of tree cover, analysts have tended to ignore the drivers of these problems: poverty and an unsupportive government policy towards energy for cooking.
The depletion of tree cover has led to a spike in the price of charcoal across the county. This has in turn motivated people to venture into the lucrative charcoal burning business despite the many sanctions placed in their way by the government.
Although it may appear that only those who use charcoal and firewood are the victims of this price hike, in fact everyone including the future generations will pay a huge price for the forest destruction.
The cost of cooking energy in most households has become unbearable to most people simply because the government has kept the electricity artificially high.
The government recently introduced a few initiatives such as discounted LPG for urban dwellers, as well as arrangements for cheaper electricity for institutions.
We can confidently say that these initiatives are dismally inadequate to address the huge challenge of cooking energy.
We wish to urge the government to urgently address this cross generation problem by lowering the cost of electricity for cooking purposes.
A few suggestions here could provide immediate benefits and save our forests.
Introduce an incentive system for heavy wood-fuel dependent institutions, to transit from biomass to electricity use.
Possible candidates for this incentive system would include all schools across the country, hospitals, the armes forces and markets. The above listed have greatly contributed to the heavy loss of our forest cover.
Other measures such as removing taxes on LPG gas, can be adopted to save Uganda’s forest cover, before it’s too late.