By Ocitti Robert

GULU-Charcoal and log dealers have devised sophisticated methods of carrying out their operations to counter the strategies being deployed by some environmental activists in Acholi sub region.

Mr. Owor Arthur-environmental activist

Arthur Owor, a researcher at Centre of African Studies-Gulu who is also the coordinator of “Our Trees, We Need Answers” an environmental pressure group revealed this during an engagement with media practitioners in Gulu town. “The group unleased a one-year report of its operations. There has been a serious change of tactics. The charcoal dealers have moved away from using open trucks to using container-like trucks. Some of them travel along the Nile river towards Packwach to avoid arrest. Some culprits bribe officials from institutions mandated to enforce the law to get free”, said Owor.

Some of the charcoal dealers have now turned into land grabbers, according to George Obwola Ebola, a member of the pressure group. “Some of these lands, people have not yet gone back to them after the LRA insurgency. They are being given to the charcoal dealers to cut trees widely. If our people are not properly guided, these dealers will go and return to claim these lands. Some of the documents these people put their signatures on are about land, yet they claim to be hiring trees. We want justice for our people”, Obwola said.

Nelson Obol another member of this pressure group said, “Our people were being exploited and so we had to intervene to open their eyes. We sensitised them on how they can best use their land and benefit from it apart from cutting and selling of trees”.

Impounded bags of charcoal being burnt in Amuru district (Credit: URN)

The environmentalists intend to come up with new strategies that will include more comprehensive research, networking with the other environmental protection organizations, more community engagements, among others.

Backed by police and soldiers, the district officials have been setting ablaze or confiscating thousands of bags of charcoal worth millions; arresting and forcefully evicting hundreds of charcoal dealers but the illicit business continues to thrive.

According to the renewable energy policy for Uganda 2007, Acholi sub-region has the highest concentration of biomass at above 13,000 tons per hectare.

The Ministry of Water and Environment reported in the National Forest Plan 2011/12 and 2021/22, that within a period of 15 years from 1990, Uganda’s forest cover reduced by approximately 1.3 million hectares.

The report represents an average annual deforestation rate of 1.8 per cent, a trend that implies serious repercussions for sectors like energy, agriculture, food security and the livelihoods of forest-adjacent communities. End