FAO and EU launch 15 million euro project to boost sustainability of Uganda’s forestry sector

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The project seeks to increase the quality and value of planted forests ©FAO/Marco Boscolo
The project seeks to increase the quality and value of planted forests ©FAO/Marco Boscolo

The initiative focuses on legal wood raw material, enhanced processing capacity and access to finance

The project seeks to increase the quality and value of planted forests©FAO/Marco Boscolo
The project seeks to increase the quality and value of planted forests
©FAO/Marco Boscolo

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched a 15 million euro ($16.29 million) project funded by the European Union (EU) to help Uganda’s forestry sector contribute more sustainably to the economy and the environment.

The five-year Sustainable Wood-Based Value Chains in Uganda initiative, to be implemented by FAO, aims to ensure the sustainable supply of legal wood raw material from planted forests, enhance the processing capacity and market demand for wood products and improve the availability of and access to affordable finance.

Forests at risk

The country’s forests are increasingly at risk from encroachment, deforestation, illegal timber logging and forest degradation. Almost one quarter of Uganda’s land was forest in 1990 but by 2017 that had nearly halved to only 13 percent.

“The European Union takes pride in its ongoing commitment to significantly invest in advancing Uganda’s commercial forestry industry. By leveraging the collaborative efforts of the Team Europe Forestry Partnership and providing supplementary funding for the processing and marketing of wood products, the EU is dedicated to fostering the growth of a robust and sustainable sector that thrives both environmentally and commercially,” said EU Ambassador to Uganda, Jan Sadek,

The project seeks to increase the quality and value of planted forests by promoting better practices and more efficient processing facilities, which, in turn, will add more value to raw wood material. This is essential to incentivize the maintenance and expansion of forest assets while enhancing livelihoods.

“This initiative is all about unleashing the potential for Uganda’s forest resources to contribute more sustainably to inclusive economic growth, global efforts to address the climate crisis and loss of biodiversity and to promote women’s economic empowerment,” said FAO Representative in Uganda Antonio Querido. “We look forward to working with the EU, the Government of Uganda and our other partners to move this important project forward,” he added.

Economies of scale

Another goal is to achieve economies of scale by aggregating more of the country’s smallholder tree farmers and wood processors.

Access to affordable finance for small and medium enterprises in the wood sector is another challenge the initiative seeks to address, through measures such as provision of financial literacy, business management advisory support, and improved connections with the financial sector.

As demand for wood products increases domestically and regionally, it’s both economically and environmentally crucial for Uganda to develop a sustainable wood-based value chain which could help the country transition towards a carbon-neutral economy. An essential requirement for this is combating the illegal timber trade. This causes substantial losses in tax revenues and along with continued reliance on charcoal for energy in many urban areas, contributing  to deforestation.

“The project, which is part of the broad action under the EU-GOU Forest Partnership, is in line with the National Development Agenda for the forestry sector focused on enhancing value addition to forestry resources, reducing environmental degradation and the adverse effects of climate change as well as improving utilization of natural resources for sustainable economic growth and livelihood security,” said Alfred Okot Okidi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water and Environment. “The Ministry is proud of this collaboration and is fully committed to playing the policy and regulatory, and technical coordination role necessary for this programme,” he added.

Reducing pressure on natural resource

If Uganda’s forest plantations are managed sustainably and environment-friendly, the pressure on natural resources can be reduced and legal and deforestation free economic growth enabled.

Over the last 15 to 20 years, with support from the EU, FAO and other partners, substantial investment has been made into the forest sector, meaning that the volume of wood produced is expected to grow substantially in the coming years.

Upgrading value chains is crucial if they can absorb the expected supply, provide additional employment and income, and continue to incentivize sustainable practices rather than illegal logging.

FAO’s Forestry division oversees more than 200  projects in 80 countries, and FAO is a lead partner for joint globl initiatives such as the global Sustainable Wood for a Sustainable World (SW4SW).

Source:FAO

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