Saturday, March 21, was international day of forests. Coming at the tail end of an extended dry spell in Uganda, the timing could not have been more coincidental.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), because of widespread deforestation, rainfall patterns are changing and this has a negative impact on food production and food security. Dry spells are longer and rainy seasons are shorter but “stormy and destructive”, the conservationist body says.
Forests that used to cover large parts of this country have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Pressure on land as a result of population explosion coupled with poor farming practices; illegal timber and charcoal trade are behind the wave of destruction that is threatening to destroy our world.
Yet the importance of forests can’t be overemphasized. We need forests to maintain a friendly ecosystem; to get rainfall, oxygen and feed water bodies. We also need forests to sustain the construction industry, provide energy and food, among other benefits. In short, we need forests to live.
However, despite clear evidence that forests and people’s livelihoods are intertwined, we continue to be oblivious of the destruction going on around us.
According to the ministry of water and environment, global deforestation is now rated at 13 million hectares annually, accounting for 12-20 per cent of the global carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.
Forest degradation in Uganda is estimated at about 92,000 hectares annually, which some experts suggest is roughly the size of the well-known Mabira forest reserve.
According to the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Acode) deputy executive director, Onesmus Mugyenyi, Uganda’s forest cover has reduced from 53 to 24 per cent in the last 50 years. What is left, Mugyenyi says, will be gone within the next 50 years at current degradation levels.
Fortunately, we can do something about this state of affairs. First, we must match our words with actions. Leaders at all levels have said a lot about this trend but done very little on the ground. We can reverse the deforestation and then go out there and plant many more trees.
With our abundance of light, we can also invest in solar energy to reduce our people’s over-reliance on charcoal. The future is truly in our hands.