By Nelson Mandela Muhoozi
Members of Parliament have urged the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) to consider enacting a policy requiring all large-scale commercial farmers to plant trees on a specified percentage of land.
The legislators said the policy would stimulate efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change through tree planting.
“If we do not plant trees at our farms, we will be left with small forest cover. Why can’t we put up a policy and say that if you have such a farm, a certain part should be left for tree planting,” Benjamin Kamukama (NRM, Ruhama East County) proposed.
According to Kamukama, the move would complement the national forests which he said were being degraded.
He raised the proposal during the recent meeting of the Committee on Climate Change where the state minister for animal industry, Bright Rwamirama provided updates on projects being implemented to mitigate climate change.
Anthony Esenu (NRM, Kapelebyong County) noted that the already manifesting effects of a degraded forest cover call for a robust campaign on agroforestry, that should not be left only to the line ministry and its agencies.
“Farming is the highest contributor to climate change next to infrastructure. Therefore, agroforestry is an area we need to look at so that farmers are helped to grow more trees,” Esenu said.
The MPs raised concerns over the near depletion of Mabira Forest which they said has been cleared to accommodate hotels and other facilities.
“Mabira Forest is gone; you only see the forest on the road but inside, there is nothing. They have built expensive hotels and it is no more,” said Hellen Auma (NRM, Busia District Woman Representative).
Rwamirama said that the ministry is running a campaign urging farmers to use biogas as an alternative for firewood use in cooking.
He said they have, as a ministry, been urging the Ministry of Finance to reduce taxes on gas such that people can reduce cutting firewood.
According to data from the NFA (National Forestry Authority), in the 1900s, the forest cover was 53 percent. However, by 1990, it had reduced to 24%, and 12 percent in by 2017.
This means Uganda lost over 2.4 million hectares of forest cover between 1990 and 2017. However, due to efforts by various stakeholders on reafforestation, there was a slight recovery in forest cover in 2019 to 13 percent.