THE EFFECTS OF DEFORESTATION
Prof. Oweyegha-Afunaduula, an environmentalist and former Dean of Environment School at Makerere University, says destroying forests can cause serious drought and make crops vulnerable to pests and diseases.
“Many of the pests attacking maize and other crops came from forests that are being cleared making government and farmers lose money as they have to buy pest control chemicals that also have their challenges,” he said. The recent approval of the clearing of forests in Kalangala that were acting as wind breakers for strong winds from Tanzania, by government, he says, will lead to consequences in future.
The professor notes that although the government is encouraging people to plant trees like pine, eucalyptus and palm, they can never play the role of indigenous trees.
“Forests are homes to many primitive societies and have precious medicines like Prunus Africana (pictured) that will never be got anywhere when the forests are cleared,” he states.
There is need for analogue forestry where people collect various indigenous tree species and plant them. We can also encourage leaders to restore seeds preserved in soil profiles to restore forests if Uganda is to avert the negative effects of forest degradation,” he says.
He adds that the recent floods in Kasese were a live example of the consequence of clearing natural forests, for plantation forests, as some of these trees, like pine, have fewer advantages for the environment.
Efforts made to protect the trees
Care International in Uganda in collaboration with Joint Effort to Save the Environment (Jese) are working on in an initiative to empower communities neighbouring forest reserves on monitoring and using forests sustainably. They are encouraging people to engage in other income activities. The team is running a campaign in western Uganda dubbed “Forest governance”.
Sam Nyakooja, an environmentalist and coordinator at Jese, says one of the reasons we are losing cover is that some encroachers get licenses to cut trees in private forests and end up in forest reserves.
Mr Patrick Baguma, the team leader at Jese says NFA needs to provide alternative livelihoods such as bee keeping and coffee production. It is necessary, he says to do this and to teach the people about sustainable harvesting rather than just tell them not to cut trees.
“Government needs to know that the population is increasing and the demand for timber is increasing; people leaving near the forest need to have a livelihood,” he says.