By Evelyn Masaba
Over the years, the thick vegetation that used to cover the countryside of Uganda has gone down by almost 50 per cent. Every year, the country loses a huge chunk of forested land to encroachers, which has created an imbalance in the weather seasons that Uganda experiences throughout the year.
Of course there are several reasons that have led to encroachment on our forests, including land grabbing due to population presure, which has led to the destruction of one of the most diverse ecosystems on the continent.
Between the early 90s and 2000s, Uganda has lost over five million hectares of forest cover throughout the country — which number increases as the years go by.
Most of the forest reserves are handed over on a silver plate to future investors that have squandered away the forests and destroyed the rest around the factories with the residue from their activities.
Which begs the question: Do we understand why forests are important to our environment?
Reduction of carbon footprint
In any healthy environment, there has to balance between carbon dioxide and Oxygen compounds. Trees help prevent catastrophic climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, which is mostly stored below the ground within the roots and exhaled by human beings. Oxygen is important, given that it is what human beings rely on to live.
Regulation of landslides
When you see a forest’s root network, you will notice that it stabilises half of the soil, holding together the entire ecosystem’s foundation against erosion by wind or water. Not only does deforestation disrupt all that, but the ensuing soil erosion can trigger new, life-threatening problems such as landslides and dust storms.
Medicinal and food properties
Most of the tree species in our forests provide the general population with food that has been eaten for generations, as well as ingredients for the natural healing products in our medicines that keep us healthy and well. For example, the commonest “mululuza,” mango trees are used for medicine and food respectively. Mango tree leaves and it’s berk can be boiled and drunk for medicine.
Homes to nature
Yes, to us, trees are just the many leafy plants, but they are homes to a variety of different animals on Earth; they act as nesting grounds for birds and wild animals such as wolves. This means that destruction of forests renders all these creatures homeless.
Tree roots are key allies in heavy rain, especially for low-lying areas like river plains. They help the ground absorb more of a flash flood, reducing soil loss and property damage by slowing the flow.
Source of raw materials
Half of the world’s raw materials come from our forests; the timber we use in construction, woodwork used for furniture, and art, among so many others. Using them means we have to cut down some of the trees but that doesn’t mean we do not plant many more others to take their place.
The National Forest Association and the other concerned bodies in charge need to take a stand and educate several Ugandans as to why the forests shouldn’t be cut down. The laws put into place should also be properly implemented and understood by the people.
The writer is the public relations manager at Jumia Travel in Uganda. Travel.jumia.com is Africa’s No.1 hotel booking website, allowing you to get the best prices for more than 25,000 hotels in Africa and more than 200,000 hotels around the world.
Jumia Travel has offices in Lagos, Accra, Dakar, Abidjan, Algiers, Douala, Kampala, Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Porto and Paris.