Voice of Lango

Lango communities plant trees for charcoal, firewood to save endangered species

1 June 2023, 1:15 pm

Locals of Te-cwao Village, Ating Parish, Orum Sub County in Otuke district engaged in tree planting

By Odota Adubango Moureen


Charcoal and firewood are the most widely used source of cooking fuel in Uganda with 94% of the country’s population utilizing them according to 2014 housing and population census.

In Lango sub region, most of the indigenous trees especially Shea among other tree species have become endangered due to increased demand for durable charcoal and firewood derived from them.

But following mass sensitization campaigns against deforestation undertaken by local leaders, government and Non-Governmental organizations, a section of communities in Lango have embarked on planting trees for wood fuel to limit destruction of indigenous tree species for charcoal and firewood.

According to John Ogwal, the chairperson of Dwokcan-ipur farmers’ group in Bar Opok village, Lwala parish, Agweng Sub County, Lira district, with support from Kijani forestry, a Non- Governmental Organization that aims to reverse climate change by empowering farmers with economic opportunity through tree planting and sustainable charcoal production, they are growing different indigenous tree species for charcoal as well as timber.

John Ogwal on tree planting

Okello Albert, the project coordinator of Farm Radio International (FRI) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Omarari and Baya parishes, Omoro Sub County, Alebtong district says a total of 21 villages in the area are engaged in tree planting for firewood and timber, among other uses. He adds that the tree seedlings will be distributed to other locals for planting at no cost and they expect each household to plant at least 1,000 trees.

Okello Albert on conservation

A tree nursery bed in raised by locals of Omarari parish, Omoro Sub County, Alebtong district

In Otuke district, the chairperson of Okere Shea Cooperative Society in Adwari Sub County, Ojok Okello, says the group which has currently planted 5,000 Shea trees is projecting to plant 100,000 more Shea trees by 2030 to protect them from extinction.

“We have planted 5,000 trees now and our target is to plant 100,000 Shea trees by 2030.”

 “In addition to planting Shea trees, we also add value to Shea nuts.”

Eveline Menya and Eunice Toli, who are locals of Ating Parish, Orum Sub County in Otuke district said they are equally engaged in planting indigenous trees for charcoal, firewood, fruits and conservation purposes with support from IUCN and Farm Radio International.

Voxpop of Women engaged in tree planting in Ating parish, Orum Sub County, Otuke district

Catharine Nagadya, the northern Uganda coordinator of Kijani forestry says they are supporting communities with fast maturing indigenous tree seedlings for planting, which trees will provide timber and charcoal as a mechanism to conserve the environment and economically empower local communities.

Nagadya on tree planting project

Meanwhile, Tekwaro Lango cultural institution has partnered with and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to plant one million trees in Lango sub region in the next five years to conserve the environment, according the paramount chief of Tewkaro Lango cultural faction, Eng. Dr. Michael Moses Odongo Okune.

Odongo Okune on environment conservation

Local leaders get involved

Isaac Apenyo Okwas, the LC3 chairperson of Omoro Sub County, Alebtong district says they have instituted a by-law to fight destruction of trees, with the offenders being subjected to a penalty of Shs. 120000.

Apenyo on by-law

Otuke Resident District commissioner, Gillian Akullo says they have heightened operations against destruction of trees for charcoal burning in the district and some of the offenders have already been arrested and tried in courts of law.

Okullo on operations against tree cutting

Otuke District Environment Officer, Patrick Onyanga said they are implementing directives from government against destruction of indigenous trees for charcoal burning which has scaled down the vice.

Onyanga on sensitization

Government intervenes  

In 2018, government of Uganda suspended any cutting, transportation and sale of Shea nut and Afzelia Africana trees and their products, following reports of widespread cutting of Shea trees and other endangered tree species for charcoal in northern Uganda.

Shea nuts produced from Shea Trees can be consumed through its oil or used to produce body lotions and hair products while Afzelia Africana produces logs used as timber in construction.

On 19th of May 2023, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni signed an executive order N0.3, banning charcoal burning and trade in northern Uganda following extensive destruction of indigenous trees like Shea in the region.

Every year, Uganda also loses about 120,000 hectares of forest to deforestation, according to the state of Uganda’s forestry report, 2015.