With a growing demand for wood products, Uganda must expand its wood resources substantially to reduce the strong pressure on the remaining natural forests. Uganda has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world at approximately 2.7 percent per year. Only a few thousand hectares of timber plantations remain, but at least 65,000 hectares of high yielding plantations are necessary to meet the domestic demand. Investment barriers have hindered tree planting for timber production, which is only viable if public incentives are provided.
The Uganda Nile Basin Reforestation project establishes 2,000 hectares of pine and mixed native species plantations in the Rwoho Central Forest Reserve, grassland areas previously degraded due to deforestation and erosion. The project promotes private- and community-based tree-planting initiatives with different investor shares.
The project design can be easily replicated, and it is planned to extend across the country to a number of deforested public forest reserves. The project became the first African forestry project to be registered under the CDM in August 2009. This project is being implemented by Uganda’s National Forestry Authority (NFA) in association with local community organizations. The Rwoho Environmental Conservation and Protection Association (RECPA) will manage 17% of the project area within the framework of a collaborative forest management agreement. NFA will provide seedlings and technical advice to RECPA, which will in return be in charge of protecting the plantations from fire and the remaining patches of natural forest. RECPA will also link the project with communities in the area.
The expansion of available timber in Uganda is crucial for the country to meet a growing demand of wood and to reduce the pressure on its remaining native forests. In a country with only a few thousand hectares of remaining timber plantations, this project stands as an example of sustainable forest management. The reserve is also an upper watershed of Lake Victoria with several small rivers. The permanent land-use is also providing several environmental benefits, including the reduction of erosion-induced discharge, the increase of dry-season flows, and the mitigation of ongoing land degradation.
The project is generating income from the sale of carbon credits, as well as creating local employment for nursery work and weeding, fire protection, thinning, and pruning. Nearby communities will also benefit from the production of wood fuel. Forest plantations based on native species are very limited in East Africa, and the learning experiences from planting native tree species will decrease the technological barrier and risk of future projects.