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38 NEW VISION, Thursday, April 21, 2016

FEATURE

Charcoal burning: A cancer

For three years, Rofel Losia


has made effort to adjust to
a new productive livelihood.
Losia, 55, from Nakalale
village in Lorengedwat subcounty, Nakapiripirit district,
has had to switch from
nomadic pastoralism and
cattle rustling to charcoal
burning. Like many of his
counterparts in the charcoal
trade, the post-disarmament
era brought calm along with
redundancy.
In the past, we had intertribal cattle raids. Many of
us, both young and old, were
preoccupied with cattle raids.
Though deadly, it was a
means of livelihood. Livestock
attained
from
successful
raids would be shared out
amicably among the raiders.
The disarmament exercise has
made cattle rustling risky. You
either die during the raid or
are captured and prosecuted,
Losia explains.
As calm prevails throughout
Karamoja sub-region, a new
form of insecurity is gradually
destroying the future of the
semi-arid
area:
charcoal
burning! The environmental
insecurity is spreading like a
wildfire throughout the seven
districts of Karamoja.
At Doctors Corner, a
junction located about 7km
from
Nakapiripirit
town
council, two rows of nylon
charcoal bags line either side
of the dusty murram road.
Losia and three others sit
under an acacia tree close by
waiting for clients. Each sack
costs between sh12,000 and
sh18,000, depending on the
size. The clients are mostly
travellers returning from work
or tours in Karamoja.
The big buyers, though, are
the commercial traders who
purchase in bulk and retail
at a profit within districts
in the Elgon region, Teso,
Sebei, Bukedi, Kampala, and
even across to the boarder
in Kenya. A sack of charcoal
purchased at sh12,000 in
Karamoja, for instance, goes
for between sh30,000 and
sh35,000 in Mbale town.
Those purchased at sh18,000
go for between sh45,000 and

Zulia CFR
Mt. Zulia
Morongole CFR
Lwala CFR
KIDEPO NP.
Mt. Morungole
Mt. Lonyili

Timu CFR

KAABONG
Nyangea-NaporeCFR

AlerekCFR

Key:
Mountain (Mt.)
National Park
Central Forest
Reserve (CFR)
Water body

KOTIDO

Mt. Napono
Mt. Labwo
KanoCFR

ABIM

Mt. Toror

MOROTO

Akur CFR
Nangolibwel CFR

National Boundary
District Boundary

Mt. Nyakwa

Mt. Moroto
Moroto CFR

NAPAK
Napak CFR
Mt. Napak

L. Kyoga

NA

PIRI

IRI
KAP

Kadam CFR

Mt. Kadam

UD
AT

By Daniel Edyegu

Forest reserves in Karamoja

AM

As a key corporate
social responsibility
activity to mark its 30th
anniversary, New Vision
in conjunction with
the National Forestry
Authority, is mobilising
Ugandans to plant
one million trees. As
part of this campaign,
we shall publish daily
stories highlighting the
challenges facing the
forestry sector in Uganda
and giving tips on tree
planting

sh50,000 elsewhere.
Apart from clients, Losia and
his counterparts keep a close
eye on the road for any district
local government vehicles
approaching the corner from
either side of the road.
To mitigate the dangers
of
charcoal
burning,
Nakapiripirit district council
in February last year, passed
a by-law banning commercial
charcoal
burning
and
transportation by unlicensed
persons.
I have lost count of the
number of times they have
confiscated our bags of
charcoal. A district pickup vehicle with the Police
appears unexpectedly, loads
our bags of charcoal and
cruises back to the district. We
cannot follow up because you
will also be arrested, Losia
says.
But that cannot deter us
from burning charcoal. They
confiscate and we go and burn
more. We shall do this until
they tire and let us be. We
do not have any alternative
means of survival. Without
this, the family starves, Losia
adds.
Like Losia, 24-year-old
Chillia Lokong joined charcoal
burning trade in 2014 to earn
a living. The mother of three

As calm prevails throughout


Karamoja sub-region, a new
form of insecurity is gradually
destroying the future of the semiarid area: charcoal burning
residing in Kanalobai village
in Rengen sub-county, Kotido
district, first tried to run petty
errands without success, at
Chamukok trading centre,
located about 7km from her
home village. These ranged
from sorting beans, washing
plates at food joints to
cleaning business premises.
At times, I would leave
home without a meal. Then,
I would reach the trading
centre, only fail to find work
but not find work. In case I
got, I would be paid a mere
sh1,000 after long hours of
work. It was not sustainable.
With charcoal, we team up as
women and go out to clear the
shrub, Lokong says.
The clients in Kotido,
according to Lokong, are
mainly Bagisu traders who

fetch the charcoal from the


area on trucks. In Kotido, the
main areas where commercial
charcoal burning is thriving
are Panyangara, Kacheri and
Kotido sub-counties.
That commercial charcoal
burning is thriving nearly
unchecked in the area, with
no replacement of the cut
trees, is enough reason for
the Government to worry.
Christine Lokiru, the Kotido
district
forestry
officer,
explains that the lack of
an explicit law on charcoal
burning, high poverty levels
in the district, plus the land
tenure system in Karamoja,
have made it increasingly hard
to check charcoal burning.
In
Karamoja,
land
ownership is communal.
Besides, there is no precise

Stumps of acacia trees that were cut in Lorengedwat


sub-county, Nakapiripirit district. Photos by Daniel Edyegu

FACTS ON FORESTS
Forests contributed 8.5% of Ugandas GDP in
2009.
Total annual consumption of wood is estimated
at 33 million tonnes.
Timber consumption for housing stands at
400,000m3 per annum (construction and
furniture) and growing by 10%per annum. This is
equivalent to about 1,200,000m3 of saw logs.
It is estimated that at the current rate of
harvesting of approximately 6000ha of existing
commercial plantations, there will be an acute
shortage of timber on the market soon.
For the harvest to be sustainable, Uganda needs
an established 200,000ha of plantations, of
which at least 6000ha should be mature trees
ready for harvest per annum and translated over
the years.
legal act against charcoal
burning. The existing one (The
National Forestry and Tree
Planting Act, 2003) mainly
focuses on conservation of
forests, not the rangelands.
In Kotido, we do not have
any gazetted forest, Lokiru
explains.
Rangelands are shrublands,
woodlands, wetlands and
deserts that are designated
for domestic livestock or wild
animals. Rangelands primarily
comprise native vegetation,
rather than plants established

by humans. Rangelands cover


the most of Karamoja and are
mainly used by the ethnic
nomadic
pastoralists
for
grazing livestock.
Perhaps to drive the point
home, Lokiru says last year,
the Police made an impromptu
operation in which two
truckloads of charcoal and
10 charcoal burners were
arrested. When the suspects
were arraigned before Kotido
Magistrates Court, however,
they were released for lack of
a prosecutable offence.

Feature

NEW VISION, Thursday, April 21, 2016

39

eating Karamojas future away


Cox Apamaku, RDC,
Nakapiripirit district

Sacks of charcoal lined up at Doctors Corner, about 7km from Nakapiripirit town, Nakapiripirit district
This,
Lokiru
says,
discourages
enforcement
officers against charcoal
burning.
The practice, she says, is
slowly escalating to alarming
levels with visible devastating
effects.
Lately, charcoal traders,
mainly from Bugisu, have
penetrated deeper into the
villages. They come with
empty sacks, which they leave
with the charcoal burners.
As they come to collect the
charcoal, they bring along
saucepans and beer, which
they exchange for
sacks
of charcoal. This is done
alongside monetary trade.
There was a lot of forest
regeneration during the
insurgency because people
feared to venture deeper into
the rangelands. Barely three
years after peace returned,
the forest cover in Kotido is
no more. One can stand at
one spot and can see 5km
ahead, Lokiru adds.
The targeted tree species
for charcoal burning in
Karamoja sub-region include
the desert date (ekoreto in
Akarimojong),
faidahbia
albizia (egirigiroi), acacia
and
gum
(Nyekwakwa)
Arabic.
Each of these tree species
is vital. The leaves of the
desert date are eaten as
vegetables. The tree also
bears edible fruits. Acacia
restores soil fertility because
it fixes nitrogen in the soil.
Studies indicate that crops
in gardens with acacia yield
more than where the trees do
not exist. Gum Arabic is used
for dying clothes, Lokiru
says.
Since the start of the
disarmament campaign in
2000, a total of 29,357 guns

Lotyang explains.
In Amudat district, charcoal
burning is rampant in Karita
sub-county, while it is more
in Lolachat, Nabilatuk and
Kakomongole sub-counties in
Nakapiripirit district.
According Cox Apamaku,
the Nakapiripirit district
Police commander, the Police
have tightened enforcement of
the by-law against commercial
charcoal burning passed by
the district. Apamaku says
consequently,
the
Police
erected two checkpoints along
the Nakapiripirit-Muyembe
road; one in Namalu and
another way inside Pian
wildlife reserve. Other Police
check points, he says, are in
Alerek in Abim district on
the Kotido-Abim-Soroti road,
Nadunget on the MorotoSorti road and on Giriki route
that connects to Amudat.
All these checkpoints are
located along the major routes
to and from Karamoja sub-

region. No vehicle, either


private
or
Government,
carrying more than two bags
of charcoal, is allowed to
cross, Apamaku says.
But still they do. And not
one, numerous vehicles!
A district councillor in
Nakapiripirit who preferred
anonymity,
reveals
that
truckloads of charcoal cross
the checkpoints at night. The
charcoal ban, the councillor
observes, rather than check
the practice, has turned into
a cash cow for the Police
manning the checkpoints.
Apamaku denies these
claims of fraud. However, he
admits the charcoal traders
mainly use the AmudatGiriki-Muyembe road as law
enforcement there is slightly
lax.
However, a trader who has
been in the charcoal business
since 2012, says the rapport
one builds with the Police
at the checkpoints and local
politicians counts in the trade.
At the checkpoints, you
can part with sh30,000 to
sh50,000, depending on the
size of the truck. But this is
not fixed. It is not a receipted
transaction.
So it all depends on the
rapport, says the trader who
sought anonymity.
This, plus many setbacks,
confirms as to why commercial
charcoal trade in Karamoja
may take quite a while to be
eradicated and the reason
desertification may occur to
the semi-arid region earlier
than expected.

Women hawk sacks of charcoal to their different customers in Moroto town

IMPORTANCE OF FORESTS
l Forests release oxygen and absorb carbondioxide,
one of greenhouse gases that trap the heat escaping
from the earth surface into the atmosphere.
l Forests act as catchment for water bodies such as
lakes and rivers. The hydro-electric power produced
along the Nile would be compromised if forests are
cut down.
l Forests are habitats for wildlife, which attracts
tourists.
l Forests also protect water bodies from siltation
and also ecologically fragile areas, particularly the
mountainous areas.
l Forests are important for cultural heritage and they
are home to indigenous communities such as the
Batwa in the west.
have been recovered.
According to the Uganda
National Household survey
report 2010, 95% of Uganda
households use wood fuel

(wood and charcoal) as a main


source of energy for cooking.
Though Uganda has a total
forest cover of over 3.7 million
hectares, 92,000 hectares are

cleared annually.
Compared to the other
districts in the sub-region,
charcoal burning is relatively
low in Moroto. This is partly
due to the existence of the
Police and army barracks
in the area, who enforce
stringent
checks
against
perpetrators.
John Lotyang, the Moroto
natural
resource
officer,
explains that the impact of
the continued clearance of
trees in Karamoja is already
manifesting
through
the
changing weather patterns.
In the past, this region
would receive rains from
March to May, before a short
dry spell sets in. Then rains
would resume from August
to November. Lately, we can
even enter May without rains.
The result is frequent famine,

Traders in Kanalobai village, Rengen sub-county in


Kotido district stand near sacks of charcoal

Win free seedlings by filling and cutting out the coupon on page 51 of todays New Vision. Redeem your seedlings by presenting the coupon to
the participating National Forestry Authority seed centres at Banda, Namanve, Nandagi, Jinja, Gulu, Mbale, Mbarara and Masaka. Not-for-profit
institutions like churches, schools, and CBOs with at least half an acre to plant, can send their request to plantatree@newvision.co.ug Tomorrow we
bring you the profile and how to plant and care for Grevillea trees.