More than 40% of Uganda’s land is covered in natural forests and reserves which is an estimated 4.9million hectares of Land. Many of the forests in Uganda lie along the Equator in central and South Western Uganda. The distribution of forest cover is such that 15% is under Park and Game reserves run by Uganda Wildlife Authority and the rest managed by National Forest Authority and other stakeholders.
Forests are vey important to Uganda’s economy since they define its weather and are a sustainable source of livelihoods to many Ugandans. The forests provide timber needed for export, construction, furniture making and packaging. Majority of the forests on private land in western Uganda are a source of wood fuel-charcoal that is used in many homes across rural Uganda.
Over the years, Uganda’s forest acreage has seen a drastic decline from 1960s due to increased demand for agricultural land, fuel, industrial growth and other private uses.
Key Sector Strengths
Uganda is gifted with excellent weather perfect for commercial tree planting projects. (Receives an average of 2000mm of rainfall every year and temperatures between 15-30ºC.)Under excellent management and monitoring, intensive farm forestry and commercial tree planting can feed the high demand for timber and forest products to march the best rates in the world. The key is to involve private partners and rural communities in commercial forestry.
Bio-diversity and wealth of Uganda’s landscape is very important to Uganda’s forest sector. Uganda is located in the great lakes region of East Africa sharing the biggest percentage of water resources and section of tropical Congo-Guinea rainforest. This benefits Uganda’s economy with a diversity of forest wood and timber products. In celebrating Uganda’s bio-diversity, varieties of trees in Uganda’s forests have medicinal properties and are important habitat for wildlife and growth of Uganda’s tourism sector.
More than half of Uganda’s land is suitable for tree planting and forestry. When compared to other countries in Southern and East Africa, Uganda has fertile soils and water shed to enable large scale forestry. Such renewable natural resources if managed well can sustain timber and wood demand for both Export and local needs.
Cost, Rates and returns on tree plantations
If tree planting and extensive forestry is encouraged, Uganda’s potential can exceed the previous saw log rate of 20-35 saw logs and surpass rates for countries like Tanzania, South Africa and Australia that are estimated at 14, 15 16 saw logs respectively. The returns on tree planting for timber productions are very lucrative in Uganda so far. Today, Eucalyptus tree investments are estimated to have 15-18% return for fully grown trees which favorably compares to the rates in Germany (1%), Australia (8.5%), Turkey (11%) and China among other countries.
Although the cost of commercial forestry in Uganda is estimated at USD 600 per ha for new plantations of Pinus Caribaea and Eucalyptus, in a period of 3 years, such cost are redeemed by the profits earned!
Forest reserves in Uganda
Mabira forest reserve
It is the largest forest reserve in Uganda occupying an estimated 306sq km in central Uganda. It is located along Kampala Jinja highway and is easily accessible (20km from Jinja town and 54km from Kampala). This tropical rain forest boasts more than 10 species of primates, butterflies, and endangered species of plants, trees and birds. It is very important to the livelihood of surrounding communities besides it endless tourist potential.
Bwindi Impenetrable forest
Budongo Central forest reserve
This forest is important eco-system in western Uganda and covers an estimated 780sq km near Murchison Falls National park and Lake Kyoga in the district of Masindi. Budongo is renowned for large tree species of Mahogany, chimpanzee tracking and excellent bird watching opportunities.
Kaniyo-Pabidi and Busingiro Eco-tourism Sites are part of the greater Budongo forest reserve. They boast more than 600 chimpanzees and elusive birds like chocolate backed kingfisher, lemon bellied crombec and white winged hornbill among other. They are very important tourist sites for birding safaris in Uganda.