Special report on forest degradation
The Military UPDF who were highly connected to the state house and they had guns; they can kill people with impunity, the so called Balalus from South of Uganda have destroyed Two Third of forest coverage in Northern Uganda.
The effect of environmental degradation has caused change in rain pattern desertification in Northern Uganda is leading to change in rain pattern.
However, the community in Acholi Sub Region has realized the effect on environmental degradation, Agago community has set fire on charcoal production in Adilang.
GULU CITY-UGANDA: As you approach the Adilang place, it seems God has endowed it with a beautiful scenario, surrounded by great hills, and very cool breathe.
And the number of cases of cutting Shea nut trees known to indigenous community of the Acholi as Yaa in the local dialect.
What was once a very good beautiful place is now destroyed by the looters of the environmental products, what all of us could now see are heaps of logs cut down and sacks of charcoals.
The beautiful coverage of Adilang has been turned into a factory of black Gold “charcoal.”
This destruction when you see will bring tears rolling down your eye, because the Shea trees are no more, they are on their ways to distinction.
Related story that appeared in Black Star News in the USA. read https://www.blackstarnews.com/global-politics/africa/uganda-northern-uganda-prone-to-global-warming-as-charcoal
Nelson Obol, the Manager of Choice FM, turned environmental activists, decries when they went to a mission to flush out Monsters destroying Shea nut trees in Agago district.
The environmental activist witnessed environmental degradation in Acholi Sub Region verses land grabbing by foreigners, he narrates that when they reached Adilang, and found people who were destroying Yaa trees by intruders who are not inhabitant of the place.
Our investigation found out why Yaa trees were being cut indiscriminately we found out that almost 5 square miles and more were left bare without any single tree, we have discovered that the people who are doing the operation in timber, logging and charcoal , are led by the person called Master, a notorious man and other people are Mr. Hraf Gigz, Mis. Susan Samanya and Simon, these are the people breeding violently on Yaa trees.
Those people have acquired huge chunks of land in the name of farms, employed over 300 people some of them are people from Central Region, Mid Western Region and Eastern Region and other places.
Those people, who are staying illegally in Adilang Sub County, are not even known by the Area Local Councilors LCs. They were dwelling in makeshift houses, small grass thatched huts temporarily built.
They were visible people who have left their comfortable homes and their areas of residence coming to destroy the environment.
We also discovered tools like machetes; power saw chains, panga and other rudimentary bludgeons, beside that those people were already settled and are farming in their new home.
Although the local community knew little about them, those people have created their own roads to ease those transporting logs, timber and massive charcoal.
Funny enough, the roads which are created, are bordering the Karamoja Sub Region, during their caravan, these roads are used as escape route to avoid law enforcement officers, they can either make their decision along the ways to return to Gulu City where they can link to their corrupt officials, or proceed to Lango Sub Region and they may make their way to Teso Sub Region to avert the levy penalty.
Why are monsters feared by people?
The charcoal dealers used a lot of money to bribe their way; they collected money and gave it to police officers and Sub Counties authorities.
We have also discovered that the charcoal dealers make their license.
A case in point, the charcoal dealers and Yaa cutter even attacked Leonard Opiyo Ojok, the Chairman Agago district Local Councilor V, during his visitation of creaking down on illegal logging and charcoal burners, he was caned by tree cutters.
“What I have witnessed, are the ignorance of the community that has led to exploitation, the community are not aware of their rights, they don’t know the prices of the charcoal, timber and logs in the world market, until after sensitizing them, when their eyes open, people became aware of their rights, they began to know that the prices of the charcoal in the world market is at UGX 100,000 and importance of Yaa trees
Willy Choowo, environmental journalist and social activist of the environment, one of the people who traveled to Agago district, is of the view that Three Quarter of indigenous forest trees coverage in Adilang Sub County are prone to forest degradation.
“Where we have reached all trees have been cleared off, what we were seeing was nothing, but a heap of charcoal.”
Else where we have been campaigning against tree cutting, where we have witnessed that there are a category of people who have settled in wetland, there are also people who are mining minerals from water streams and those who are collecting stone and sand.
The de-a forestation is the last one, what is taking place now is that the invaders are targeting hills, example, are the Kidere and Kijuu hills in Gulu district, even local people who are doing quarry works are destroying all the rocks.
Choowo is concerned that Northern Uganda is burning, we thought that after the conflict, there would be a marshal plan to rebuild the post LRA conflict areas by International Communities, UN and European Unions.
But, the new types of investors have become the perpetrator of deforestation, land grabbing and environmental destruction.
“People are engaged in forest degradation are highly connected to state power, or are being led by the army generals who once were pursuing war in Northern Uganda .” Choowo observed
Apart from destruction of the environment, there is also change in rain pattern, as result of heavy logging and charcoal burning, farmers are now experiencing climatic change due to greenhouse gas.
All the districts in Acholi Sub Region have been affected, including Agago district, other districts like Pader district, heavy tree logging were in Latanya, Acholi-bur, Pajule and Awere Sub Counties in places along the Aswa river belt.
Chowoo mentions places in Lamwo district, like Palabek Ogili, Palabek Padwat, Palabek Kal and Palugaa Sub Counties. Are heavily affected by these vandals.
He also noted that while in Gulu district places affected by these environmental vandals are, Palaro, Mede, and Labwor omor Sub Counties. We have also seen places where these tree cutting took place like in Oroko village, Paibona Sub County and Awach Sub County.
Chowoo disclosed that during their campaign in Omoro district, they found places like Ora-Pwoyo Sub County especially Ocim village, there was heavy tree cutting and in Odek Sub County places like Lukoto village and Lalogi Sub County.
Nwoya district, we have forest degradation in Koch Goma, Koch Lii, Lungulu Got Apwoyo and Purongo Sub Counties.
While in Amuru district, we have places like Amuru Sub County, Amuru Luima village, Pabbo, Apaa, Paumu, Pawel and Atiak Sub Counties , we also have area like Pupwonya parish where there is no more trees, likewise in Palukere Parish, Chowoo narrates.
The perpetrators who are involved in these vices first come and woo our local people, the land owners who are vulnerable and negotiate with them with the condition of buying trees. But, with the ignorance in our community, those people took advantage of their poverty; you find that in the same tree sales agreement, the person unknowing has sold his land to a charcoal dealer.
Places where we have visited we have seen crime which are increasing, young girls has been allotted to the charcoal dealers with the consent of their parents, trees cutters are defiling their young girls who have changed them to become their concubines to the extent of swapping them with their mothers, as such it has left our people especially in the affected areas in chaos, HIV are increasing. Willy Chowoo observed.
The hunter being haunted
Ojok Leonard, the Chairman Agago district who was caned by charcoal dealers, confirmed to the Black Star News that indeed he was clobbered; he could not narrate his ordeal.
However he says, what is happening with our people are the ignorance of the value of their property, although it’s the act of individual who thinks they are in money business with the charcoal burners, can you imagine that our people are selling an acre of mature trees at only UGX 2 million, and yet one acre would fetch 20 truck of lorries which can be sold in Kampala or across in Kenya. Each lorry full of charcoal is sold at UGX 20 million. Equally he insists that the land owners do not know the value of charcoal from Kampala, where a sack goes at UGX 100,000.
“As I talk to you now, our community who have gang up against me, after realizing that the charcoal burners are stopping rain, because of charcoal business, they have taken law into their hand, right now they have set fire on charcoal heaps, and they are claiming that the charcoal dealers are stopping rain.” Ojok Leonard mooted.
Margret Laloyo, a business woman in Agago district, lamented that what hell is going on, she says the worst thing is that our people are selling their young girls to the charcoal dealers.
Those people would first pick a girl from the area, and the family will treat them like in-laws, you know the brother-in-laws are treated specially by the father-in-law which gives them access to them even for cutting trees.
“In Acuru village, there are those people after getting young girls, in the day time they would be pretending to be working in garden, but at night they would go to destroy our Yaa trees, gin tongo tyen lapene ki odiko, ka iwii otyeno gin ceto ka tongo yaa. And yet the people who own those trees have nothing to say.” Laloyo decries.
Kidega Mike, a landlord from Palaro Sub County, in Gulu district where the massive forest degradation happened, says in 2019, the community flushed out the Balalu cattle keeper who had occupied their land.
“For us, our luck came due to the recklessness of the cattle keepers who were engaged in timber cutting, logging and charcoal burning. What happened, those people were herding their animals in people’s garden, and when we complained they were pulling guns on us. When the matter was reported to UPDF, it was the Division Commander who ordered them to evacuate Palaro Sub County.
Kidega says in the beacon of hope came in 2018, the order came from President Museveni when he realized that the charcoal dealer was the military operation of Gen. Kale Kayihura who wanted to topple his government.
The Palaro forest invasion was headed by Chairman Local Councilor III David Ngole, because when the community ordered him that he should forcefully evict the Balalus from Palaro Sub County, it was Ngole who was refusing, because he was getting money from them. And as a result, he was given a wife by Banyankole as a reward for forest degradation.
Gulu University Don, Arthur Owor the Coordinator of “Our Tree we need answer” says what we are seeing right now is an extension of violence in Acholi Sub Region in the form of victimization which is being seen in an extensive or massive tree cutting.
There have been an in pour of different perpetrator from Lwuero triangle, Mukono, Iganga, Nakasongola and western Uganda who are camping in this very remote area with very dent canoe trees cover especially in Agago , Pader, Lamwo, Omoro, Amuru and Nwoya districts.
The trees are being cut for the purpose of charcoal and the shea-nut trees are being targeted because of the quality of charcoal being produced. Having all securities forces being corrupted, especially police officers who deal directly in transports of charcoal.
“We have seen that some trees have been depleted Byeo Afrizela Africana has been depleted, there have also been reports that some fake messages from the management of the Forest Authority that allows these vandals to continue devastating our environment by dealing in tree cutting which is taking place by the perpetrators.
What is this entire fuse all about? To facilitate the protection the channel of looting forestry in Acholi Sub Region, Acholi women are being abuse and they are engaged in spying for the charcoal producers, and then child labor to a very high extent, where children from those regions are being brought in their farms as laborers.
Gulu University Don, who is championing “Our Tree protection,” elaborated that districts authority from the 8 districts of Acholi Sub Region are continuing to get involved in the proceeds of charcoal business, that made quelling vandals of de-a forestation difficult
“We have also realized a situation where, the state like National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), and local government lack collaborative efforts to contain the massive trees cutting in Acholi Sub Region.” Owor urged.
How do the region dislodge the tree cutters, there should be a required standard measures in dispensing justice, the perpetrator who is caught up by the law should be dealt with accordingly.
Adding that whoever falls victim, are to pay UGX 20,000. But the currency point is too weak now; we want the government to give them a strong alternative sentence to forest degradation teams to serve long term in jail.
Now there are double standards which are being shown by politicians who used charcoal burners as political tools, since they are their voters within the community who are also involved in charcoal trade, and local governments need to be checked on these issues.
The charcoal ordinances should be passed by all the 8 districts in Acholi Sub Region in order to reinforce the crackdown on illegal forest degradation. While the social campaign activists groups should continue their approach.
There is a need for public interest groups to take place on matters of public litigation, the cultural institution needs to rise up to their roles as custodians of environmental protection, including religious leaders and must come out with imitative measures to avert these destructive vandals.
Jimmy Owona, the Regional Uganda Forest Authority, remarked that our community is to be blame,
“The Acholi communities are to be blamed; because however much you talk to them they will not understand the danger of tree cutting which will affect the environment negatively. Every other day I have been telling people about the negative effect of cutting trees, they ended up turning deaf hear to my words. They should now prepare to bear the effects of ignoring my noble advice.” Owona lamented.