The department of forestry, biodiversity and tourism at Makerere University, has stepped in to champion a campaign to protect and conserve the shea tree in Otuke district and other shea parkland areas.
Prof. John Bosco Okullo from the department of forestry, said there is need to promote, plant and protect shea trees, as well as to mobilise the shea stakeholders in Uganda and beyond.
Other stakeholders in the campaign targeting to protect the shea nut tree include Vitellaria Nilotica Consortium, agriculture and water ministries.
The shea nut tree is an indigenous tree, which mainly grows in West Nile, northern and eastern parts of the country.
The fruit consists of a thin, tart, nutritious pulp that surrounds a relatively large, oil-rich seed from which shea butter is extracted.
The trees are highly valued by the local communities, not only for the economic and dietary value of the cooking oil, but also for other products.
In 2019, the Uganda Export Promotion Board set a target of supporting and enabling shea nut producers to have at least 200,000 to 500,000 tonnes of shea nut produced by this year after realising that there is demand for its products.
Okullo said the campaign is geared towards saving the shea nut from extinction because of its high economic value and health benefits. Moses Okao, an agroforestry scientist at Ngetta Zonal Agriculture Research and Development Institute, said they were carrying out research to reduce the time the indigenous tree takes to grow, fruit and harvest.
“Because of our research and awareness creation, many farmers in northern Uganda have started growing the plants,” he added.