Deforestation and Uganda

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Deforestation is the elimination of forest and woodland areas on the large scale. Deforestation emerged as a major problem because of large scale losses evident particularly in tropical regions. Evidence of deforestation dates back much further than modern times, owing to the fact that deforestation is also a natural process.

Uganda is a small African country located in East Africa and is crossed by equator in the south. The location in the equatorial region, a number of lakes in the country and fertile soils has given Uganda a favourable climate and terrain for growth of tropical forests. The tropical forests are mainly located in the central and south western parts of the country. These include the likes of Mabira forest located in Jinja district and Mpanga district forest reserve in Masaka district and Bwindi impenetrable forest in kabala district. Like most the African countries Uganda is a developing country with a large rural population dependent on nature for many of their needs. This makes forests in the country vulnerable to deforestation.

Uganda's annual deforestation rate has climbed 21 percent since the end of the 1990s. The country lost an average of 86,400 hectares of forest—or 2.1 percent of its forest cover per year between 2000 and 2005. On a generational time scale, Uganda lost 26.3 percent of its forest cover (1.3 million hectares) between 1990 and 2005. This forest loss is directly threatening some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in Africa: Uganda is home to more than 5,000 plant species, 345 species of mammals, and types of 1,015 birds.

The very high rate of deforestation in Uganda has been attributed to a number of reasons ranging from the population explosion and the energy needs of the population. The loss of forest cover has become focal point in conservation of biodiversity in the country. Here are the causes of deforestation in Uganda.

Uganda has experienced a very large growth of population in the recent years to an extent that Uganda has been ranked by the UNDP to have the fastest growing population in the world. The increase in population can be said to be the root cause of deforestation because it has an effect on all the other causes like settlement fuel etc. Most of the forests in Uganda are located around the Lake Victoria basin and this same region has the highest growing population in Africa. The population of the basin in Uganda increased from about 8.57 million in 1960 to about 25 million in 2000. This led to the need for land for the people to settle on and firewood and charcoal for fuel. These could only be provided by the encroachment and destruction of the forests. The population increase is very important cause of deforestation because the need of shelter, food and basic necessities render other uses of forests seem irrelevant to the people.

It is a known that like other developing countries, most of Uganda’s population is rural. This implies that most of the people depend on wood and other natural products for their energy needs as 92 percent of Ugandans depend on forest products for their cooking, lighting etc. This has placed a large amount of pressure on the remaining forests which a being cut down without restraint to feed the energy hungry population of the country. And to make matters worse the alternative fuel sources like hydro electric power and fossil fuels have recently experienced upward spikes in their prices. This has made fuel from the forests not only easier to attain but also the most affordable source undermining calls by the conservationists and the government for people to change to other energy sources.

Commercial logging to get timber for construction and other needs is another leading cause of deforestation in Uganda. The urban areas in east Africa are experiencing a construction boom due to the high infrastructural growth and this has made commercial logging very profitable. This commercial logging has encouraged the cutting...