The decline of the economic fabric of the people of Northern Uganda as a result of the almost two decades of war, left people with limited options to fend for their domestic needs.
Many districts in Lango sub- region have enacted by-laws to protect the environment but why do communities look to trees as their only source of income generation and livelihood?. IMMACULATE AMONY explores the continued charcoal sale trend.
Despite its effect on the environment, the felling of trees for charcoal business still thrives amid the restrictions and penalties meant to control it.
In Lango Sub Region, a sack of charcoal sells at Shs.25,000 in Otuke, Shs.20,000 in Alebtong, Shs.15,000 in Oyam, Shs.20,000 in Kole, Shs.18,000 in Amolatar and Shs.15,000 in Apac districts.
Charcoal dealers in Dokolo district and Lira Municipality continue to benefit most, with a bag going for between Shs.40, 000 to Shs.50, 000.
Evaline Akech, a charcoal dealer in Kirombe- Lira town who has been selling charcoal since 2002 confesses that she has achieved much in life from charcoal business.
“From selling charcoal, I have been able to pay rent for this house, build my two bed roomed house in the village and pay my daughters’ school fees,” Akech says.
Geoffrey Eling Owera is the Councillor representing Chawente Sub County in Apac district Local Government; he admits that even districts do get revenue from charcoal business though he is quick to add: “but the fees levied on the charcoal business are meant to discourage the people from cutting down trees. It is also to save the environment but to the contrary, it is not deterrent enough.”
In early September 2016, Otuke Resident District Commissioner then, Robert Abak launched an operation against charcoal burning and especially on the felling of Shea trees. However, his efforts to save the environment met with mixed reactions.
On the 15th of September 2016, over 14 heaps of logs that were to cremation into charcoal were destroyed in an operation against illegal charcoal burning in Akuta village, Anyalima parish, Ogor Sub County in Otuke District by Environmental Protection Police Unit. To Abak, this would send a signal to charcoal dealers to ensure that they save valuable environment.
Earlier, the Environmental Protection Police Unit commander Simon Peter Okoci together with the Abak had stormed the village only to discover that some locals had sold over 40 acres of forested land to unidentified people.
Alternatives to save environment
Qunitoe Odong is an officer at Eco Stove, an organization promoting an Eco friendly cooking stove. He says eco stoves are energy and environment saving.
Many companies have also embarked on protection of Shea tree in Lango sub region though there continues to be a wide spread cutting down of trees.
What could be the biggest challenge?
Ongom Pius an officer with Guru Nanak Shea Oil Company says there are others who are still cutting Shea nut trees down.
‘‘We have indirectly employed 2000 farmers to supply us with Shea nuts, meaning they should protect the Shea nut trees within their locality,” Ongom says.
Ongom also said efforts to sensitize the communities on the dangers of tree cutting as well as encouraging the local leaders to pass by- laws against tree cutting are underway.
Despite all those efforts, the puzzle still on is why charcoal has become more of a business and whether it will get back to being the mere consumables, it used to be 20 years ago.