The Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has urged Ugandans to invest in tree growing to safeguard the country’s forest cover which is currently under threat by deforestation and also increase the supply of wood products in the country.
The Premier said investing in tree planting; a long term investment was a big sign of confidence to the country and the forestry sector.
Dr Rugunda made the remarks during the 2nd Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) high level policy stakeholders meeting at Sheraton hotel, Kampala on Friday.
SPGS, a project of the Ministry of Water and Environment under public-private partnership is responsible for supporting private sector investors mostly small-medium land owners interested in growing trees commercially for timber, poles and fuel wood.
Since 2004, with the support of the European Union (EU) and Government of Norway, the project had subsidized the establishment of 47,000 hectares of timber plantations with over 1000 beneficiaries.
Rugunda said more innovative ways were needed to reach farmers in the countryside to ensure that they invest in tree growing to prevent environmental degradation and also contribute to economic growth.
He said prominent tree farmers who had distinguished themselves in other fields should use their skills and knowledge to develop the forestry sector.
“Uganda is at the equator with a lot of rain and it takes a short time to have trees. Let us take advantage of our favorable climate to grow trees,” said Rugunda.
He said the completion of Karuma and Isimba hydro power stations and increased investment and use of alternative sources of energy such solar, will spare trees for more important commercial purposes.
The Minister of Water and Environment Prof.Ephraim Kamuntu said Forestry was one of the five primary sectors of the economy and a major source of employment especially for the youth.
He noted that 92,000 hectares of forest cover are depleted annually and wood fuel accounted for 85% of the energy needs of the country.
Kamuntu also said forestry was a long term investment that required sustainable long term financing.
Some of the key issues raised include the need to lift the ban on leasing of central forest reserves to enable more planting of trees and the operationalisation of the Tree Fund as enshrined in the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act of 2003.
The meeting was attended among others by the Minister of State for Environment, Flavia Munaaba, Chief of Defence Forces (UPDF), Gen. Katumba Wamala, Gen. Elly Tumwine and Makerere University Chancellor, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera.