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Residents Defy Ban on Cutting Shear Nut Trees

Patrick Onyanga, the Otuke District Forestry officer says they have continued registering massive cutting of shear nut trees for charcoal burning since the resolution was passed.
Bags of charcoal at Otuke CPS
Otuke residents have defied a ban on cutting shear nut trees for charcoal burning. Shear nut is used to produce both smearing and cooking oil locally known as Moo-yao. One can also eat fruits from the tree before they are dried for producing oil. In 2012, Otuke District Council passed a resolution banning the cutting of shear nut trees for charcoal burning in an attempt to protect them for extinction.

However, some of the residents in the district have ignored the ban despite attempts by law enforcement officers to enforce it. Patrick Onyanga, the Otuke District Forestry officer says they have continued registering massive cutting of shear nut trees for charcoal burning since the resolution was passed.

According to Onyanga, there is non-compliance on the part of the local people. Charcoal burning and tree cutting for firewood still remains the main stay economic activity for most people in Otuke and some parts of Alebtong district. Robert Abak, the Otuke Resident District Commissioner, says their operations to stop tree cutting are hampered by lack of facilitation including transport. 

He says the absence of enforcement officers like forests guards and environmental protection police doesn't help matters. John Bosco Odongo Obote, the Otuke District LC V Chairperson, says they will soon embark on the campaign to sensitise the community on the dangers of environmental degradation. Lira, Soroti, Mbale, Amuria, Busia and Kampala provide the biggest market for charcoal from Otuke and Alebtong districts. 

A bag of charcoal produced from shear nut trees in Lira town costs Shillings 50,000 because of its high quality while that from other trees costs Shillings 30,000. Section 31 of the national forestry and tree planting act 2003 states that any person who cuts, damages, destroys, disturbs, or remove any protected trees commits an offense and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding thirty currency points or both.

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