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Biodiversity and National Development
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Forestry plays a significant role in national development through its contribution to ecological balance, energy and industrial activities. The recommended level of national forest cover for Uganda to have a stable ecological system is 30 per cent. The national forest cover as of 2005 was, however, at 18 per cent, having dropped from 24 per cent in 1990. This decline which is estimated at 1.8 per cent per annum is largely attributed to increasing demand for agricultural land and fuel wood by the rapidly growing population31. Between 1990 and 2005, a total of 1,329,570 hectares (27 per cent of original forest cover) was lost.

The share of the forestry sub sector in GDP stood at 3.4 in 2008. The increasing share of forestry in GDP is a positive development. However, the improvement in the contribution of forestry has been characterized by recent declining performance. Between 1988 and 1997, forestry grew at an average rate of 4.7 per cent per year and between 1998 and 2002 at an average rate of 7 per cent. From 2004 to 2008, the sector grew by 3.9 per cent per annum, a trend that needs to be accelerated. This trend is partly due to declining forest cover which decreased from 4,933,746 hectares in 1990 to 3,604,176 hectares in 2005, representing a 27 per cent reduction.

In terms of forest management, there are 698 (1,266,000 hectares) gazetted forest reserves. In addition, another 730,000 hectares are located in national parks and game reserves. The majority of the reserves are less than 1,000 hectares. Of the total gazetted forest reserves, 506 are Central Forest Reserves (CFR) and 192 Local Forest Reserves (LFR). The central forest reserves, which account for 30 per cent of the national forest cover, are managed by NFA and UWA while the Local forest reserves are managed by Local Governments.


A significant portion of these reserves were degraded especially those under Local Government management. As a remedy to this problem, Government adopted a Public-Private Partnership approach to re-establish these reserves. By 2002, the level of forest cover in gazetted forest reserves (Protected areas) was 1.34 million hectares (43 per cent) and this reduced to 1.3 million hectares (42 per cent) in 2008 despite efforts by NFA to plant 35,000 hectares within the Protected Areas. Most private investors in gazetted reserves are small to medium scale (up to 500 hectares) tree growers. They have planted 15,104 hectares in CFRs since 2002, which is 69 per cent of the total planted area over the same period.

Besides the publicly managed forest reserves, there is a growing number of privately owned commercial forests. Central Forest Reserves (CFR); this category of growers constitutes 99.8 per cent of the number of investors in commercial forest plantations. This indicates that tree growing is becoming a more attractive venture to small-medium-scale investors.

In terms of investment financing for forestry, donor and local private financing are the major sources. While, on average, donor financing has exceeded local private financing and played a catalytic role, private financing is steadily increasing. The local private contribution has amounted to UShs 90 billion over the period 2002 to 2008.

Biomass Energy
The contribution of forestry to national energy demands is mostly expressed through woody biomass use by households and institutions for heating purposes. In 1994, charcoal production utilized 6 million m3 of round wood. This increased to 11 million m3 in 200732. In addition, the national consumption of firewood was estimated at 32.8 million m3 of woody biomass energy annually. The National Biomass Study (2003) indicates that 73 per cent of the districts in Uganda are experiencing a shortage of accessible woody biomass for fuel. On average, the distance travelled to collect firewood has increased from 0.73 km in 2000 to more than 1 km in 2007 (MWE 2007). In some districts like Kitgum, Nebbi, Gulu/Amuru, Nakasongola, Lira, Sironko and Adjumani, household members travel more than 4 km to collect firewood and this is done largely by women and children.

In addition to its contribution to ecological and energy concerns, forestry also supports the economy through forestry-related commercial products and services. These include timber products, ecotourism, arts & crafts, bee products, herbal medicine and rattan-cane. There is very little information to indicate trends in these products and services. However, ecotourism which is based on forest biodiversity is becoming a market niche for Uganda. The timber harvested and moved by licensed pit-sawyers increased from 51,000m3 to 90,000m3 between FY 1997/08 to FY 2004/05 (NFA Records, 2006). Round wood harvest increased from 215,723m3 (2003) to 258,522 m3 (2007). Despite this performance, Uganda remains a net importer of forestry products, and the gap between these imports and exports has been widening.

Tourism plays a key role in Uganda export earnings as demonstrated in 2004 statistics which had tourism accounting for 45% of the value of service exports in Uganda at US$317M. In 2010, tourism was the second leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda contributing US $662,000,000 inform of foreign exchange to the National Economy.  Tourist arrivals rose from 806,658 in 2009 to 942,000 in 2010 representing 17% annual growth rate. Uganda tourism relies significantly on wildlife and visitors to wildlife protected areas have been steadily growing. Annual visitor arrivals to wildlife protected areas rose from 44,800 in 2001 to 200,000 tourists in 2010  representing an average annual growth rate of 35%.


Direct revenue generated from wildlife protected areas into National revenues has been steadily rising, having grown from only UGX 3,305,000,000 in 2000 to now UGX 22,000,000,000 in 2010 . Uganda Wildlife Authority is now able to finance 80% of its annual budget as of 2010 from 27% in 2006. This is an indication that the sector in increasingly becoming sustainable. The 20% of all Gate entrance fees to all Wildlife Protected Areas flows directly to communities neighboring the respective Protected Areas. Over UGX 3,420,000,000 was collected and disbursed to the communities between 2002 and 2009. On average, UGX 700,000,000 is collected per annum for revenue sharing with the local communities. With increasing tourist arrivals and spending, this is bound to multiply very fast.


The Wildlife Act also provides for granting of wildlife use rights, including sport hunting. The pilot project around Lake Mburo National Park has yielded a total of UGX 1,786, 400,000 as of 2010 since it was initiated in 2001, giving an annual yield of UGX 178,640,000. Wildlife sector provides employment opportunities to Ugandans directly and indirectly through conservation, wildlife based tourism, trade and civil societies.  Over 80,000 people were directly employed in the wildlife sector by 2009. Uganda Wildlife Authority alone employs over 1300 permanent staff. The concessions given to private businesses to operate hotels within the protected areas have also boosted employment opportunities for local people. Hotels within and outside conservation areas employ a number of people from the surrounding areas and contribute to the National Treasury through taxes.


Uganda Wildlife Training Institute revenue has been increasing at an average annual rate of 52% having risen from UGX 127,286,457 in 2001 to UGX 787,193,286 in 2009. Annual Student enrollment also rose from 63 students in 2003 to 106 in 2009 representing an average annual enrollment growth rate of 11%.  Internally generated revenue by Uganda Wildlife Education Centre rose from UGX304,000,000 in 2003 to UGX 1,101,000,000 in 2009 representing an average annual growth rate of 44%. By the year 2009, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre was able to finance 101% of its operations from internally generated funds having moved from 16% as of 2003. Visitor numbers to the Centre grew at an average annual rate of 5% moving from 165,175 visitors in 2004 to 206,698 visitors in 2009.The Rhino sanctuary in Nakasongola has been generating community benefits over the recent period. Money spent on community programs by the Sanctuary grew from UGX 73,907,000 in 2008 to UGX 276,832,000 in 2009 representing an average annual growth rate of community benefits of 275%.


The interconnections between biodiversity and health may be seen in the health benefits derived from the full complement of species and genetic diversity, as well as the human basic need for food, water, clean air and shelter (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Therefore, human health cannot be considered in isolation as it depends highly on the quality of the environment in which people live. Therefore, there is a need to maintain a balance in biodiversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem level in order to sustain a healthy environment, which is essential for human health and well being.

A diversity of indigenous plants in Uganda is source of medicines used for the treatment of different ailments. Such plants therefore play a crucial role in sustaining the health care of rural people in Uganda. More than 90% of Uganda population depends on plants and their extracts for health and dental care. Any plant that provides health-promoting characteristics, temporary relief of symptomatic problems or has curative properties is considered a medicinal plant.
Mankind through trial and error discovered that some plants are good for food, that some are poisonous and that some produce bodily changes such as increased perspiration, bowel movement, urination, relief of pain, hallucination, and healing. The knowledge has been passed orally from generation to generation over time with each generation adding to and refining it.

National Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory (NCRL) in the Ministry of Health conducts research on herbal medicine efficacy and safety and its existence symbolizes Uganda efforts to address the development of its natural products with therapeutic value (Wright, 2002). NCRL has identified, tested and documented important medicinal plants (Table that are useful for the domestic market but also has international market potential.

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