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Control Wood Value Chain To Mitigate Climate Change – Conservationists

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Deliberate value chain management in timber production will mitigate environmental degradation and its dangers amid increasing pressure on forests for energy, conservationists have said.

As the demand for energy increases with a rising population, the Country Representative of United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Dr Antonio Querido, says a well-managed forestry sector will contribute to mitigating climate change, improve protection of biodiversity and contribute to Uganda’s economy.

He says one of the tasks to managing planted forests in a climate-friendly way is the utilisation of wood residues such as sawdust, pruning, and thinning.

According to FAO, most of the planted forests have a very low recovery rate estimated at less than 40%. This means that for every tree that is cut down, less than 40% of it is utilised. Consequently, more than 60% of wood product is waste.

He proposes promotion of technologies and efforts to turn the waste into biomass energy such as briquettes.

“Besides economic losses, wood residue accumulation poses environmental and social risks. Investing in biomass carbonized and non-carbonized briquettes helps to promote diversified clean and renewable energy options,” Querido says.

Posiano Besesa, CEO, BESEPO Uganda Limited, says modernised production of briquettes can save trees that are cut down for firewood and charcoal burning, revealing that one tonne of briquettes can be an alternative to seven tonnes of firewood.

According to FAO, 90% of energy needs in Uganda are supplied by biomass energy. 

The country also relies on heavily on wood for construction, furniture, panels, and electricity transmission poles.

Experts say while these products are critical, their extraction is one of the leading causes of deforestation in Uganda. 

Uganda’s forest cover plummeted from 24% of its area in 1990 to 9% in 2015, said a donor-funded report, State of Uganda’s Forestry.

Swedish Ambassador to Uganda, Maria Hakansson says there is need to find ways of ensuring that wood products are available in a more sustainable manner without aiding the current high rates of deforestation, especially in the face of increased threats of climate change.

She saus innovations such as the use of forest waste for energy can play an important role in achieving the objective.

National Forestry Authority (NFA) executive director, Tom Obong Okello, acknowledges the challenges of wood production sector including unsatisfactory implementation of policies, low skills and technologies, and inadequate capital.

He observes that investment in wood product development and utilization requires specific financing instruments given its long-term nature of operations.

“Uganda aspires to shift progressively from dependence on solid biomass for energy to modern, clean energy alternatives such as solar, electricity and liquefied petroleum gas, in line with global development goals, which aim to achieve universal access to clean energy. However, due to logistical and technical constraints associated with a transition to energy alternatives, the shift remains a challenge,” Okello says.

Godfrey Kimuli, an energy officer in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development says developing markets for these technologies is critical since the largest population still know charcoal as the best source of energy for cooking.

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