Mpigi District Local Government and stakeholders in the forestry sector want Environmental economists from Makerere University to conduct research into the impacts of centralizing the governance of national forests in Uganda.
According to section 54 (1) a of the National Forestry Act, 2003, management of all Central Forest Reserves is the mandate of National Forestry Authority (NFA) whereas that of Local Forest Reserves is the direct responsibility of the district forest officer as specified under section 48 (3) e of National Forestry Act, 2003. All forestry activities are guided by the National Forestry Policy 2001.
Poor forest governance has been blamed for the depletion of the ecosystem in Uganda. The people of Mpigi contend that since government mandated NFA to manage national forests, most of the forests have been depleted and they want national forests governance decentralized.
To achieve this districts officials and stakeholders say, Makerere University should conduct research into the impact of centralizing national forest governance to provide evidence for policy change. This call was made during the policy dialogue held at the district chambers organized by the Environment for Development Initiative (EfD-Mak) Centre on 22nd November 2022. The university team was led by the Director represented by Dr. John Sseruyange.
The meeting brought together representatives of the district political and technical arms, civil society organizations, the private sector, elders and opinion leaders, farmers leaders under the theme, “Forestry and Biodiversity: Addressing Challenges of Forest degradation and Enhancing Environmental Management in Uganda”.
The participants discussed the key governance issues in the forestry sector, how communities can be strengthened to participate in forest recovery programs and what best forest restoration mechanisms should be adopted to revert the forest destruction trends in Uganda.
Governance here referred to, “the norms, institutions, and processes that determine how power and responsibilities over forests are exercised, how decisions are taken and how citizens – including women, men, youth, indigenous people and local communities – secure access to, participate in, and are impacted by the management of forests”
Presenting the status of forests in Mpigi district, the Chief Administrative Officer represented by the District Natural Resources Officer Mwidyeki Anthony said the management of forests in Mpigi has been so challenging and has on a number of occasions raised many issues involving NFA, the district and the community living adjacent to the forests.
“It should be noted that, the once thick forests in Mpigi district which had a collection of Muvule, Setaala, Musizi and other indigenous tree species have and are still gradually being reduced to empty land or replaced with eucalyptus trees for many reasons.
The natural forests reported that indigenous species that had survived for ages are now being abruptly ruined. This tragedy has befallen all the natural forests in Mpigi, a district once blessed with a wide range of biodiversity. Most natural forests in Muduuma and Kiringente have completely gone”, Mwidyeki submitted.
Mwidyeki explained that all the central forest reserves in Mpigi district with exception of Mpanga forest have been faced with the problem of encroachment in form of cultivation, grazing and settlement while in most of all the reserves, conflicts resulting from unclear boundaries are very common and have sometimes resulted in court cases leading to loss of time and money.
The vegetation cover of most Central Reserve Forests in Mpigi according to Mwidyeki have been changed into eucalyptus plantations, boundary markers uprooted, increasing forest encroachment, land grabbing and conflicts between NFA staff and communities living adjacent to these forests.
Besides population pressure that has increased the demand for fire wood, charcoal and land for settlement, Mwidyeki alleged that there has been creation of illegal land tittles in these reserves, construction of roads and industrialization.
Mwidyeki however highlighted a number of initiatives undertaken to promote forestry. These included; Sensitization and training of communities in forestry management, distribution of tree seedlings across the district, establishment of the district nursery bed, training and supervision of nursery owners on acquisition of quality tree seed and conducting routine inspections to detect and deter illegal forestry activities.
Representing the Director, EfD Mak Centre, Research Fellow Dr. John Sseruyange underscored the importance of forests as major stores of atmospheric carbon contributing to the regulation of climate change, water quantity, mitigating the effects of high flows in wet periods and low flows in the dry periods.
He said forests contribute to soil and water protection and biodiversity conservation and supply well over 90% of Uganda’s energy requirements in the form of fuel wood.
“Sustainably managed forests give environmental benefits, sustainable economic development and improve the quality of life of people across the country”, Dr. Sseruyange said
Sseruyange reported that the Uganda forestry sector reforms (1998 – 2003) aimed at providing more efficient and effective forest administration, management and utilization of Uganda’s forest resources, through: The Forestry Policy (2001), The National Forestry Plan (2002),
The NFTPA (2003) and a new institutional framework for the management of forestry resources in the country.
These resulted in the birth of institutions such as: The NFA, the UWA, the DFS, private forest owners and community forests owners which distributed responsibilities between the central government, local government agencies, the private sector, NGOs, community based organizations and the local communities.
The reforms according to Sseruyange aimed at promoting multi-stakeholder participation, transparency, integrity and professionalism in management of the forestry sector.
“Despite these good intentions, the forest estate in Uganda has continued to shrink from 4.9 million hectares in 1990 to currently 2.3 million hectares, NFA (2015) a loss of over half of the forests in a span of 25 years. …. However, over this period, 46% of protected woodlands- mostly those under NFA, were lost.
The reasons for this decline are mostly attributed to poor forest governance, and particularly problems with forest law enforcement and governance, and associated institutional issues” , He stated.
The main causes of deforestation according to Dr. Sseruyange relate to issues of governance in the forestry sector, illegal and unregulated trade of forest products and the unsecured forest tenure rights. Other issues are the conversion of forest land to other land use types such as agriculture and urbanization, and rampant felling of trees for firewood and charcoal burning.
In her closing remarks the Deputy Resident District Commissioner Maria Lubega described the dialogue as timely, thanked the university for choosing Mpigi, pledging the district commitment to support efforts geared towards restoring the environment.
Lubega wants an evidence based report on forest governance from Makerere University for presentation to the relevant government organs.
“Two weeks ago, the President sent someone from his office to come because he was interested in the environment restoration, and we are working on this report. When the report about this dialogue is ready share with us because it is timely, and I shall share with it directly with the president because NFA is just an authority and the other one is a fountain of honor so we shall take our views to the president”. She said.
Participants speak out
During the panel and plenary discussions participants expressed the need to decentralize the management of all forest reserves to the district.
“The forest sector is the least funded. Officers vehicles get stuck with no fuel. The moral fabric of the people of Mpigi is filled with, I don’t care attitude. NFA has been nicknamed as “nfa” meaning I am dying. NFA efforts are not coordinated with the district office. The District Natural resources officer should have been a member of NFA, there is a lot of political interference while implementing policies with orders from above”, The District Senior Entomologist Onyango Oluoch decried.
The District Forestry Officer Ssengendo Micheal says the major issue is governance.
“When you look back, the forests were intact and management was proper. All regulations were being followed. With the new changes in the policy of 2001 when they brought in NFA, that is where we all lost it because there was confusion and no coordination because of the bad governance.
The first thing we need to do is to revert back the old system. We need to have staff at every level. We need the forest guards, forest rangers but all these were reduced by two per district which is really over whelming when it gets to implementation of our forest management”.
Nsamba Benon, a Political leader says, districts had powers to safeguard forests but more damage has been done when powers were shifted from local government to central government.
“Ever since NEMA took over, there is a very big damage on our forests as compared to long ago. It is our mandate to protect the environment. The business of centralizing powers has done more harm than good to our country.
It is possible to bring all stakeholders to board to protect the environment but it cannot be possible if people are seeing non-residents cutting away indigenous trees planting and owning eucalyptus trees. The biggest issue here is policy. It should be reversed and our Forest Officer takes charge”.
Opinion leader, Frank Kawooya says the laws are weak and segregatively applied to a few.
“These laws are weak. Those who are supposed to manage forests cut the forests and replace them with eucalyptus. Now we see that forests have begun being shared. Am touched, in the past forestry students at Makerere would not be awarded degrees without coming to study in Lwamata forest . Today no child ever comes to study because forests are no more.”
The District Environmental Police Commandant says those mandated to guard the forest are the ones that cut the trees. He is opposed to the idea of replacing natural forests by eucalyptus and says enforcement is also problem.
“In 1924 we had an inventory for counting trees in Masaka. We counted trees about 2000. There is a forest called Buzilango but, of recent when went there, I found that there are people living there. It was no longer a forest for government. Forest guards are the ones who cut trees and sell to bakeries and schools. Eucalyptus is not good because they drain water at a high speed and, were introduced by industrialists who wanted to build industries.
But we of enforcement have a problem. You go and see a person with a car carrying timber and there is no legal document showing. When you stop the car, you will hear the person referring you to talk to another person. Sometimes there is collaboration with NFA and timber dealers connected from above. I suggest the powers should be brought back, decentralize forest reserves so that districts own, oversee and manage the forests. We need to sensitisize masses to look beyond financial gains but the future generation because in 50 years, we may not have any natural forest”.
A representative from the NGO forum called for sensitisation of the people on district and national forests.
“Different roles must be emphasized. Demarcations for individual, district and national forests must be emphasized. After sensitization they will know the species to plant”.
The District Farmers’ Chairperson Stella Nantamba says farmers are in weather crisis.
“Farmers rely on land. Soil is infertile, weather patterns have changed and many have resorted to forests and wetlands. Information given to farmers is distorted and weather changes are adverse Intervention requires adoption of agroforestry for environmental conservation and food security”.
But for teacher Emmanuel, charity begins at home and community. Sensitization form the community level will help children internalize the importance of forests.
“There is need for mindset change of those mandated to protect the environment so that children learn from them. Privatization of forests should be discouraged to save forests”, he said.
Makerere University hosts CSAE Economic Development workshop 2023
Makerere University has hosted this year’s Center for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) workshop that brings together scholars across the world.
The workshop started on November 27and is expected to run up to November 30 at Makerere University Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility II (CTF).
The Center has brought together economic scholars from Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia among others to discuss how the economy of Africa can be developed through conducting research.
According to Prof Eria Hisali, the Principal of the College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS), they are looking at scholars doing research to the extent that it can help them to understand the problems hindering development, understanding the obstacles and finding the correct solutions to the development of the African countries.
“Researchers are presenting their research to get advice, get room for improvement and pave a way of translating the research finding into policies,” he said.
He noted that it is a great opportunity for researchers from different universities both on the African continent and outside the continent to present the work that they are doing and to understand the economies of the different countries.
This years’ conference is attended by about 40 speakers on the continent and around 10 speakers from Europe, Asia, and North America, Canada among others discussing different areas that are relevant to understanding the economies.
These include the Natural resources and environmental misuse, fiscal policies and monetary policies, agriculture, inequality and poverty and trade and structural transformation among others.
Prof Hisali said Uganda’s problems arise from her structural formation but there is need to look beyond just the physical problems like poverty and unemployment and establish the root cause of that.
“It is true we have unemployment in Uganda and we still need to grapple with issues of poverty but we need to appreciate that unemployment, poverty among others are not the primary problems, they are actually effects of certain underlying problems. So, we want researchers to understand what explains unemployment as we see it,” he explained.
Prof Stefan Dercon, the Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford who doubles as the Director of CSAE revealed that African researchers need to improve the quality of their work and create avenues for associating with policy makers to appreciate their work for the development of their economies.
“Scholars are presenting their research and we give them feedback, share knowledge and learn from each other. A lot of research is still academic because we don’t create space for advisors. Very many economists are not good translators of research not only in Uganda but throughout the world,” he noted.
Prof Ibrahim Mike Okumu, the Dean of the School of Economics said this forum brings together scholars to discuss issues of the African economy among their colleagues who appreciate the African context saying, “They are here for quality checks. We have an opportunity to improve the quality of research papers that scholars across the African continent have developed. By improving the quality, we are trying to get authenticity, proof that the methodologies, the quality of analysis that we have is of standard and consequently we can have credibility regarding policy recommendation that will come from research papers.”
African scholars have come from Cameroon, Morocco, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and Botswana among others…
He re-echoed the message from the Principal concerning the problems affecting Uganda noting that they are not unique to Uganda, she (Uganda) is just struggling with sluggish structural transformation and that is the transition from agriculture to industry which he says is the same story across Africa.
“For as long as industries are not able to create sufficient jobs, the economy cannot pick up because the industry is what moves agriculture forward and is what gives business to the service sector. For as long as industry is not robust enough then you tend to have weak service and agricultural sectors,” he emphasized.
Dr Oluwabunmi Adejumo, a senior lecturer at Obafeemi Awolowo University in Nigeria who is conducting research on the clashes between herders and farmers from different states of the country from which over 10,000 fatalities were registered in 2020, advocates for a law of migrating herders to a separate place and stay away from farmers.
She noted that herders in Nigeria graze their cattle on the crops of farmers when the green space is exploited as a result of climate change like drying out of Lake Chad.
“I am suggesting a policy that I think will bring back sanity in Nigeria especially among herders and farmers,” she said.
This is the second time that this workshop is being held on the African continent, the first one was held in Ghana. The rest of other conferences have been held at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Makerere University to set up an agro-processing skilling hub in 2024
Makerere University in partnership with Promote Uganda Company Limited (PROUL) is set to establish an agro-processing skilling hub next year to expose students to agricultural machinery.
The hub that will be based at Makerere University main campus in Kampala will house agricultural machines that add value to agricultural products.
While unveiling the initiative on Thursday, November 23 during the opening day of the three-day 2nd Innovation and Agro-processing machine exhibition at Makerere University’s Freedom Square, Mr David Nsubuga, the Director for PROUL said many youths remain unemployed despite their academic qualifications and it is high time they embraced new technology to create more job opportunities for the graduates. He revealed that the university will be signing a memorandum of understanding with PROUL next week.
“On top of the courses students are studying, we are going to establish a skilling center where they can be exposed to the machines that add value to agricultural products. We believe that when they start buying and selling finished agricultural products, this, will start them on the journey of industrialists.” he noted
The Vice Chancellor, represented by his deputy Prof. Umar Kakumba, revealed that the university has student innovators who just need backup funds to transform the agricultural sector.
“They have innovated machinery that can do irrigation. We are partnering with Promote Uganda Limited to showcase some of the innovations and to be able to connect them to banks which can give them credit and be able to promote their machinery that they are producing including those that do a lot with production of finished goods.” He said in a message delivered by Prof Umar Kakumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academics.
Student innovators of agricultural machinery are those pursuing degree programmes related to bioprocessing engineering, water resources engineering, dealing with mechanical engineering and students of business management sciences among others.
The 2nd innovation and Agro-processing machine expo is a three day exhibition that will run from Thursday, November 23 to Saturday, November 25.
Prof Kakumba understands 80 percent of Makerere graduates fail to get formal employment and revealed the need to inject money in such innovations to harness surging number of unemployed youth flooding the streets of Kampala looking for what to do saying, “Every year, higher institutions of learning and tertiary institutions produce about 150,000 students and yet government job slots are around 30,000 only which is a great blow to students who want white collar jobs,” he added
Mr Steven Byantwale Tibeijuka, the Director Crop Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Fisheries and Industries who represented the minister for Agriculture, Mr Frank Tumwebaze pledged on behalf of the government to support the skilling hub that will be established at Makerere University next year.
“I ask the University to put it into writing and address the letter to the minister, the government cannot fail to give you funds once everything is ready,” he pledged
Dr Cathy Mbidde, the manager of the Makerere University Innovation hub said the hub was established in August 2022 under the office of the Vice Chancellor to commercialise the innovations from basically research that the university does and their main goal is to create awareness of the agro-processing machinery.
She added: “When you look at the current Uganda National Development Plan III government’s agenda goal one is agri-industrialisation. As the University, yes we do research and teach but how do we work with the private sector to achieve that goal. We have students who have done research and discovered nutritional values but they don’t have the machinery and access.”
She believes this expo will act as an eye opener to young innovators to team up and purchase the agricultural machinery they need to start up small companies and food processing enterprises while still at the university.
According to her, every year Makerere University graduates around 13,000 students and they can’t find jobs anywhere so there is a need to come up with financing models through financing companies, Non-governmental organisations, and the government to help them to get machinery on credit.
Promote Uganda limited is a company that produces agricultural machinery and their partnership with the university is to introduce the idea of using machines to add value to agricultural products.
When many students graduate, they fail to get formal employment, and end up going to Arab countries where many have lost their lives.
Mr Nsubuga wants the skilling training on operation of agricultural machinery to be added to the students’ courses.
The skilling center will help students to become entrepreneurs and know how to utilise raw materials that are readily available from agriculture to make value added products. The expo is a cross-cutting student exhibition.
Mr Anthony Akandwanaho, a student from Busitema University, said had come to exhibit a day and night dryer invented by his lecturer.
“The machine uses solar thermal during the day to dry the products which it collects directly from the sun and transpires the heat to the products for drying and solar energy during the night,” he said
He noted that this machine dries products from both animal and plant types including meat, chicken, fruits and vegetables. And the maximum drying time for products is 24 hours, for those with higher moisture content like pineapples. However, for products like meat, it dries them within eight hours.
“The unique beauty with it is that you collect the water from the product and can be used for domestic purposes.” Mr Akandwanaho explained
The student also exhibited a chicken de-feathering machine which is able to rip all feathers from the chicken. The mode of operation is that you slaughter the chicken and soak it in warm water for about one minute and transfer the chicken to the machines and in 15 seconds, the feathers are all removed. Its production rate is three chicken per minute.
Some of the exhibited machinery include a garden sprayer, a maize mill, grain grinder stainless, potato slicer, electric chips cutter, vacuum sealer, food dryer, bone Shaw, meat cutter among others.
EfD Uganda Stakeholders Propose Sustainable use of Biomass
The Inclusive Green Economy program of the Environment for Development Initiative in Uganda on 17th November hosted stakeholders across the country’s sectors to get their perspectives on biomass transition to clean energy sources in Uganda.
Uganda’s IGE engagement specialists Dr. Peter Babyenda says this is one of the work plan item on on social inclusion where stakeholders were identified by IGE fellows during the 17th EfD Annual meeting in Ghana.
In a meeting held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, stakeholders gave the situation analysis of biomass use in the country, where they want to go, how to go there and who should take the country there.
“We found out that almost 90% of our households depend on biomass whether in rural areas or town. This is attributed to cultural issues where certain foods are believed to have good taste when cooked on firewood or charcoal, the fear to use electricity and gas that may result to shocks and fire explodes, inaccessibility to clean energy sources and affordability issues.”
The meeting resolved to primarily focus on behavioural change efforts of the sustainable use of biomass and gradual transitioning to clean energy sources.
’We concluded that for now we cannot say let us move to clean energy but go slowly go slowly on sustainable use of biomass by planting more trees so that instead of depending on natural forests, we depend on plantation forests, use energy saving stoves and those that can save users on effects of smoke and slowly move to clean energy sources by connecting households to electricity and make it affordable and make gas available at an affordable cost’´Babyenda said.
The meeting also proposed the need for more awareness creation about alternative energy sources such as biogas for schools and prisons.
Representing the Principal College of Business and Management Sciences, Dr. Yawe Bruno thanked Sida through the EfD Global hub at the University of Gothenburg for funding the IGE program and the EfD-Mak centre.
“The use of biomass in Uganda has persistently remained high. 80% use firewood and 13% charcoal for cooking but there is a proportion that use a combination of those two. This imposes great implication for household welfare.
Biomass usage affect our productivity, schooling of children, labour market participation especially by women and children. On health, the use of biomass especially firewood causes eye defects, breathing difficulties, snake bites, body dislocations and sexual abuse,” He explained.
Besides household effects, Yawe noted that reliance on biomass has effects on the environment.
Yawe reported that Uganda’s forest cover is being threatened by biomass usage reducing it from 24% in 1990 to less than 9% to date. Transiting to renewable and clean energy requires clear understanding of supply and demand relationship for both biomass and clean energy.
“We must know what drives the uptake and while many can afford gas and electricity, why are we insisting that we should have charcoal? Comparatively, a 6kg gas cylinder costs 60 thousand and today a bag of charcoal costs not less 70 thousand but some households find it cheaper which is expensive and because of the felling of trees, the quality of charcoal may not last more than a week,”
He challenged stakeholders to find out why the supply and demand for biomass is still high amidst detrimental effects and why the supply for clean energy is still low amidst numerous innovations.
Representing the Director EfD-Mak Center, the Dean, School of Economics Dr. Mike Okumu said many households are struggling to transition from firewood and charcoal due to socioeconomic characteristics that define them.
Okumu attributed the climate change effects to the household behaviours and enterprise behaviour and challenged stakeholders to find innovative ways of co-existing with the environment to enhance productivity and also feed communities
He congratulated the IGE engagement specialists for being intentional in identifying the participants taking into account that the majority and poorest population resides in the rural Uganda, and Uganda’s biggest population being the youth.
The meeting comprised specialists in environmental conservation, researchers in renewable energy specifically biomass energy, persons dealing in innovations in sustainable productivity, those working with rural energy transition and renewable energy through use of waste plants and animal residues and persons engaged in youth environmental initiative particularly agroforestry.
Okumu also congratulated the EfD-Mak centre for bringing on board collaborative partners from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies , the private sector and Civil Society organisations.
He expressed the centre’s commitment to engage in similar engagements for purposes of having a drive into a cleaner Uganda and mitigating climate change effects on Uganda’s economy and a drive to having persons making informed decisions towards a better climate sensitive Uganda.
Jane Anyango is the Communication Officer EfD Uganda
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