To-date, there are 506 CFRs in Uganda located in various parts of the country. The forest cover in CFRs represents about 15% of the total forest cover in the Uganda. The other forests that represent about 85% of the forest cover in Uganda are owned by Local Governments, private individuals and institutions.
By acting as catchment areas, forests ensure availability of water for agricultural production, and are habitat for forest biodiversity. Trees also suck up large volumes of carbon dioxide, thus cleaning up the air /atmosphere and provide forest goods like timber to the people of Uganda. Forests are national assets that add to the natural beauty of the country thereby attracting tourism revenue for the national coffers.
Uganda’s Forest Reserves were created by Acts of Parliament mostly between 1932 and 1965 after the Government negotiated for the land with the respective District Administrations and Kingdoms. This means that it would require other Acts of Parliament to degazzette them for other uses.
The forest reserves were gazzetted to be an adequate estate representing a sizeable fraction of the country. The colonial government negotiated with the different administrative structures (kingdoms) to offer portions of their land for gazzettement as forest reserves. Buganda for instance offered 8% of her land area for gazzettement, while other kingdoms offered varying portions of their land for the same purpose. The sum total of what was offered is to a large extent present day forest cover in Uganda.
A Forest Reserve is an area of land designated, reserved/gazzetted by Act of Parliament for development of forests or tree growing activities. It can be an open land without forests on it or with forests. A Forest is an area covered with vegetation, majority of which are of tree communities, occupying a large extent and in climatic equilibrium with the environment.
First of all there is no problem with NFA; the actual problem is with the law that gives NFA the mandate for its operations. The law limits NFA to only operate in CFRs and these are few compared to the private and local government forests. So basically, the forest cover that is disappearing at a higher rate than before is largely under ownership and jurisdiction of private individuals/institutions and local governments and not CFRs.
Plants utilize carbon dioxide as they grow and store it in form of tissues both below and above the ground. About a half of dry wood matter is carbon (cell walls and other carbohydrates). Forests (after soils) act as one of the largest terrestrial carbon stores because of their big volumes per given area (e.g. in hectares) or biomass which is weight (say in tons) per unit area (e.g. a hectare).
When forests are cut the stored carbon and other elements are released in various forms. Burning them results in rapid lease of carbon dioxide and various nitrous oxide gases. If forest material decomposes under limited supply of oxygen say under water, methane and carbon dioxide are released.
These gases are known to be among the major human-induced Green House Gas (GHG) emissions linked to global warming effects.
Various areas are gazzetted as CFRs for different purposes including conservation of biodiversity and critical habitats, protection of water catchments, environment protection and production in terms of goods and services.
Most natural forests were gazzetted for protection of biodiversity and water catchments with limited amount of timber production. They are also production centers in form of non-timber forest products and services like ecotourism. These values are to be supplied in perpetuity.
There are woodlands that perform environment and water protection functions and are in some cases habitats to unique plant and animal species. However, most woodlands and grasslands were conserved for future production of timber. Most of them were gazzetted when the per capita forest cover and use were still low and with increase in demand for forest products resulting from population growth, these are the areas now being planted to bridge the gap. Therefore, a forest reserve doesn’t necessarily have to be always forested.
NFA is in the process of demarcating the river banks as required by the Environment statute. For lakes, areas of 200m are being left with natural vegetation and where this has been cut, they are being replanted with the indigenous species, for big rivers, 100m is being left and for the small ones, 50m is the recommended area to be left. This is a standard procedure that is applied in NFA own tree planting as well as the private tree planters.