It has been observed that Uganda is fast approaching a major shortage of sawn timber. Given the growing demand for timber and its’ products, the country faces a worrying likelihood of having to import timber as well as increased pressure on its remaining tropical forests.
As one way of addressing both these scenarios, Uganda is now encouraging investment in timber plantations, through both the public sector, National Forest Authority (NFA), and the private sector. As the Ugandan economy grows, people are getting wealthier, the middle class is surging and there is money for investing in long term ventures. In an era where saving and investment have become the major motivation for nearly all hard working citizens, everybody is looking at an easy way of investing and being assured of a sizeable return on their investment.
Most long term investment alternatives in Uganda are limited to stocks, land and real estate which coincidentally have increased demand for timber, while to those in stable permanent jobs, pension funds are their savings for the future.
GOAF mobilises private investment of commercial tree farming by individuals, investment clubs and cooperative societies as a long term business. This initiative keeps large hectares of otherwise dormant land productive while also reducing pressure on existing forests. It also provides long term employment to youths who tend to the plantations instead of cutting down trees for charcoal burning.
The current situation
a) The 12,000 hectares (ha) planted in the late 1960s and early 1970s have been ‘mined’ over the last 10 years and have only started to be replanted since 2003.
b) It has been estimated that at least 75,000 ha of timber plantations are needed just to meet the projected internal timber demand by 2025.
c) Uganda has excellent conditions to support commercial tree growth. With good management and the adoption of intensive silvicultural practices(Silviculture is the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values. The name comes from the Latin silvi- (forest) + culture (as in growing), growth rates can match the best in the world and there is also a solid return on investment. There is a 30 per cent deficit between demand for tree products like timber, electricity transmission poles, plywood, firewood and charcoal in the country and that in the next one year, the situation could get even worse.
The Cultural Approach to Environment Conservation
Uganda is richly endowed with cultural institutions that cherish environmental conservation. Most of such institutions are based on clan systems or totems, which are either plants or animals. Therefore conservation of natural habitats is of prime significance to such institutions.