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Museveni directive on charcoal trade biting

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The National Forestry Authority has vowed to continue enforcing the president’s directive on charcoal products and trade despite the growing outcry over the skyrocketing prices. In May this year, President Museveni issued Executive Order No 3 which, among others banned the production of and trade in charcoal in Northern Uganda, as part of the efforts to protect the environment.

The Directive was largely dismissed by the public as another redundant pronouncement that would have no effect. However, Tom Obong Okello, the NFA Executive Director, says they are going on with the operations, having got more guidance from the government through the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Water and Environment, which explains the soaring charcoal prices.

Over the last month, charcoal prices have doubled to more than Shillings 160,000 a bag with the traders citing dwindling supplies. The failure of previous efforts to protect the environment has partly been blamed on government officials who either directly get involved in the trade or protect some perpetrators.

Speaking at the unveiling of newly acquired enforcement equipment at their headquarters Wednesday, NFA Board Chairman, Christopher Ebal, said the main challenge facing conservation was the growing population and governance among others. He, however, said that the staff who are implicated will not be forgiven, adding that others have been sacked already.

Obong, the ED, cautioned the public about buying land in forest reserves, a growing crime partner, especially in the Buganda region. He advised that before anyone pays for a purported freehold or mailo land title, checking with the NFA should be part of the authentication process on the land.

He vowed that no victim of this fraud will be compensated if got it.

The two men were commissioning a fleet of five vehicles and 42 motorcycles, GPS units, and a drone for the management of the reserves in the country. The five vehicles were procured with Government of Uganda funds, and twenty-eight motorcycles were procured under the Investing in Forests and Protected Areas for Climate Smart Development project supported by the World Bank.

Obong said two motorcycles were procured with support from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, while another seven motorcycles were procured under the Biodiversity for Resilience project specifically to be used in the Kidepo landscape in Karamoja and five others by the government.

It is hoped that these additions will greatly ease staff mobility and enhance capacity to patrol, monitor the forest reserves, and implement other forestry activities thus achieving NFA’s strategic objective of improving management of central forest reserves.

This investment is worth Shillings 1.66 billion. The special focus on Karamoja is because, the region, which has the biggest acreage of Uganda forest reserve, is also the most affected, according to Obong.

The National Development Plan Ill 2020-2025 sets a target to increase the land area covered by forests from 9.1 percent in 2020 to 15 percent by 2025. NFA says that currently, this cover has increased to 13.4 percent and that the increased support they are getting will make the goal easier.