According to Anywar, whereas other districts in the greater Sub-region passed ordinances banning the trade in Charcoal in 2015, Gulu didn’t despite the fact that the district security committee imposed a total ban on the commercial charcoal trade.
The Ministry of Water and
Environment has banned the issuance of all documents facilitating the commercial production, trade, and movement of charcoal and other forest products in Gulu District.
The directive issued by the State
Minister for Environment, Beatrice Atim Anywar stems from the growing illegal
charcoal production and timber logging, which has led to environmental
degradation in the Acholi Sub-region.
In a January 11, 2023 letter seen by our reporter, the Minister noted that Gulu District has been the epicentre of environmental degradation in the sub-region owing to its central location along major transit routes.
According to Anywar, whereas other
districts in the greater Sub-region passed ordinances banning the trade in
Charcoal in 2015, Gulu didn’t despite the fact that the district security committee imposed
a total ban on the commercial charcoal trade. In 2018, the government suspended
the cutting and trade of endangered tree species such as shea nuts, and
Afzelia Africana owing to the rapid decline in their population.
Anywar, however, says the vice
continued unabated in Gulu district mainly in the sub-counties of Owalo,
Bungatira, Palaro, Omel, Patiko, and Paibona. This, she says has seen a rapid
decline in the endangered tree species.
The district according to Anywar
is estimated to have lost a total of 38,700 hectares of forest cover between
2010 and 2021 accounting for about 6.2 per cent loss of forest cover. She says that whereas the
district no longer has sufficient biomass resources to commercially produce
charcoal, it remains a strategic point for charcoal dealers from neighbouring
districts to obtain clearances.
“It is against this background
that all issuance of forest produces movement documentation for charcoal or timber
from Gulu district, regardless of the source is forthwith suspended except the
harvests meant for local consumption within the district,” the Minister
Anywar has also recalled all forest
produce permit books issued to the district from the Ministry of Water and Environment
with immediate effect. The directive has generated mixed feelings among the leaders in the district.
Christopher Opiyo Atekere, the
Gulu District Chairperson told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that his
office hadn’t yet received an official copy of the Minister’s
directive. He, however, notes that whereas the
district has made strides in curbing rampant forest degradation in the past
years, it remains a gateway for the movement of forest products from other
districts, which have tainted its image.
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Atekere says while the directive is good, there was a need by the Ministry to call for a stakeholder meeting with the district authorities to look at the root cause of the problems
so that an appropriate solution is reached. He notes that key individuals in
government, security, and political leaders within and outside the district are
profiting from the vice making it impossible to curb.
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Charles Ichogor, the Gulu Resident
District Commissioner however welcomed the directives saying it will greatly
help in the preservation and protection of endangered tree species being
targeted for charcoal and timber.
He too says the letter hadn’t been
officially served to him but notes that once they receive it, they will hold a
security meeting to brainstorm ways of implementing the directives. David Ongom Mudong, the Aswa
River Region Police Spokesperson told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that
the police cannot start implementing the directives without a clear guideline issued
by the Minister.
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Northern Uganda has become the epicentre of charcoal production in the recent past with trees such as shea nut
and Afzelia Africana being most targeted for charcoal and timber leading to a general decline in forest cover.