By Abraham Kizza
The Food and Agriculture Organisation and European Union have promised to support government in planting of over 31,000 hectares of commercial trees by 2020 in the country.
This was revealed by Leonidas Hitimana, Coordinator FAO/SPGS III Project at a media dialogue on commercial forestry in Uganda which was held at Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala on Friday.
“In this project, Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) will support more on processing to add value and increase job creation, market development and skills development in particular for new areas,” said Hitimana.
The project targets to plant about 31,000ha of commercial forest plantations by 2020, 25,000ha by private individuals and companies, 4,000ha by small holder community groups and 2,500ha of fuel wood plantations by Government and public institutions.
The dialogue was part of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Uganda’s activities to commemorate the 2018 International Day of Forests which will be held on March 21 in Entebbe under the theme ‘Forests and Sustainable cities’.
The dialogue which brought key players from commercial forestry sector in the country was aimed at raising public awareness about the importance of commercial tree plantation in improving livelihoods and sustainable development.
Priya Gujadhur, FAO Country Deputy Representative who also serves as acting Representative said FAO believes that by supporting private investment in commercial forest plantations, it can help to reduce the pressure on natural resources particularly forests. She added that FAO also aims at increasing income of rural populations by promoting investment in commercial tree planting by the private sector and local communities, through provision of grants and technical support.
“Forests are key to supporting the booming construction work in cities and also act as a sink for heavy emissions of carbon from mushrooming industries in and around cities,” she emphasized while justifying the choice for this year’s International Day of Forests theme.
The project which started operations in 2016 and continues to 2020, operates in eight clusters countrywide which are Albertine, Eastern, Western, Central, Northern, South-Western, West Nile and Karamoja.
Since 2004, SPGS has supported private sector tree planting in Uganda, attracting substantial investment in timber plantations by small, medium, and large-scale investors.
According to Jalia Kobusinge, the Operations Advisor from European Union, more than 10,000 hectares were planted in Phase I of 2004-2008 while 32,000ha of commercial plantations and woodlots were planted by private growers in Phase II of 2009-2014 with support from European Union.
“The EU’s new consensus for Development (2017) puts emphasis on sustainable development, green and circular economy and job creation as key priorities under the Planet and People perspective,” she said.
Kobusinge appealed to other partners such as Civil Society Organizations to support EU, FAO and the Government in increasing commercial tree planting in the country.
According to National Forestry Authority, forest cover stands at about 4.9 million hectares (ha), which is 24% of Uganda’s land area. The forests comprise both natural and man-made plantations.
The dialogue was attended by Dennis Kavuma, General Manager Uganda Timber Growers’ Association, Levi Etodu, the Director in charge of Natural Forests at National Forestry Authority, media representatives among others.