According to UNEP (2011), forest degradation and deforestation account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Broadly, there are three main sources of forest degradation: commercial logging, fires, and gathering wood for fuel. Insects and pests also cause considerable forest degradation. For example, at the beginning of the 20th Century, Uganda’s tropical high forests covered 3,090,000 ha or 12% of the country’s area. Over the years, the forests have been gradually cleared and today estimates indicate reduction to about 730,000 ha, which is only 3% of Uganda’s area (NEMA, 2009).
Based on the above situation, this year’s World Environment Day theme on Forests: Nature at Your Service is like a notice to users that this service is soon closing if nothing happens to address the current human-induced lapses – deforestation and degradation.
For East Africa, degradation (the loss of quality of the forests, rather than coverage) manifests itself prominently in the need to meet the insatiable, growing demand for fuel wood and charcoal.Looking at the charcoal production process, in addition to the above inefficiencies, it results in loss of future trees as the burning, trampling on them occurs, while other forms of life and life support systems (biodiversity) just vanish due to forest clearance (which is a habitat and source of food for birds, and other innumerable animals).
As we celebrate this year’s World Environment Day we pose the crucial questions: How we make charcoal production a viable and sustainable income generating activity; what interventions can be taken up in a holistic manner to address the bigger energy demand, while securing economic growth and poverty reduction? What technology is available to contain the ‘demand’ at the local levels where charcoal production takes place?
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