Activists punch holes in government’s plan to certify legal timber

Ugandan Water and Environment minister Sam Cheptoris recently instructed National Forestry Authority to stamp on all legal timber sold in the market to reduce illegal timber cutting that has led to irreversible ecosystem degradation but environmentalists say this will instead abet corruption tendencies leading to biodiversity loss and irreversible ecosystem degradation.

Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of projects at National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) says with connivance between timber dealers and those in charge of protecting the forests, the stamps can as well be misused.

Mr. Bwengye is instead calling on government to work towards ending corruption that is greatly facilitating deforestation and illicit timber trade. He also believes government should work towards harmonizing working relations been the forestry authority and the District Forestry Officers in a bid to strengthen protection of forests.

“We have seen district forest officers conniving with illegal timber dealers and even lending them stamps. What can work is NFA and DFOs to have harmonized positions in protecting the forests,” he noted

Joan Akiiza, the legal officer at NAPE, says District Forestry Officers are mandated to collect revenue from forests and the pressure that government piles on them to hit certain revenue collection targets partly accelerates illegal timber cutting.

While addressing journalists in Hoima after his visit to Bugoma Central Forest Reserve last month, the Minister said timber dealers were given two weeks to get rid of all the timber in the stores after which the government would start impounding all timber without stamps.

Stuart Maniraguha, the manager for Budongo Systems welcomed the move saying it would extremely make it hard for thieves to find market for their timber.
It remains to be seen whether the implementation will yield results.

Latest findings by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) indicate that Uganda loses over 200,000 hectares of forest cover annually and plants less that 7000 hectares annually.

In Bunyoro, NAPE has been working with communities to protecting the forests through sensitization and supporting them to plant indigenous trees.

Compiled by Precious Naturinda