Edward O. Wilson famously said, “Destroying rain forest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.” Beyond those fascinated by classic and legacy art, what do the foregoing words mean for us as Ugandans and the nation we love? The Uganda National Forest Plan 2012-2022 reports that, within a period of 15 years, stretching from 1990, Uganda’s forest cover had reduced by approximately 1.3 million hectares. Mathematically, this represents an average annual deforestation rate of 1.8 percent. Going deeper, this also means that in less than twenty years, Uganda lost about 25 per cent of its forest cover. If this rate of loss of forest cover is not contained, it means that in the next 40 years, Uganda will hardly have any tree left. Such is the grave state of affairs when it comes to Uganda and trees.
Given the importance of trees to Uganda’s economic development, human well-being and the environment, this puts the Country in a state of uncertainty. This is because trees and forest cover have implications for the energy sector, tourism, agriculture, food security and the lives and livelihoods of many Ugandans – and especially so the forest-dependent and forest-adjacent communities. With all this illuminating evidence and projections into a bleak future, why are we instead of plating trees destroying them? Why was the much hyped and full of promise National Tree Fund never operationalized?