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NFA is the National Forestry Authority. It is a government agency that was established by an Act of Parliament i.e. the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act (NFTPA), 2003 to manage Central Forest Reserves (CFRs) on behalf of government and in trust for the people of Uganda. CFRs are forests owned by the central government of the Republic of Uganda.
While the general mandate of NFA is to manage CFRs and supply high quality forestry products to the public and private sectors, the detailed functions of the authority as laid down under Section 54 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, 2003 include:
Yes, NFA has appropriate charges for technical advice rendered. NFA gives basic advice for free to farmers on CFR. For farmers who require detailed advice like management plans, establishing nurseries, silvicultural operations, financial analysis and projections, the fees are a bit higher but realistic. This is the function of the private forestry promotion unit and is consistent with NFA’s mandate of supplying high quality forestry products and services to the public and private sectors.
Harvesting (cutting) trees is supposed to be in accordance with a management plan that promotes sustainability of the forestry (tree) resources. As such, it should be policy that a forestry office nearest to the area of the intended cutting (harvesting) should be informed first. This is also a safeguard against the increasing stealing of trees from other private growers and CFRs under the guise of harvesting from personal plantations.
Under the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, 2003, NFA is mandated to manage CFRs. The district forestry services on the other hand are responsible for local government forests, community forests and forests on private land in their respective areas of jurisdiction. The Forest Inspection Division currently the Forestry Sector Support Department (FSSD) offers supportive back-up to both the NFA and District Forest Services.
One of NFA’s key objectives is to be financially self-sustaining by 2008. NFA offers a range of services and products to raise revenue. They include ecotourism, consultancies on forestry and environmental issues to modern cartography and mapping. The products include seedlings, round wound and sawn timber. NFA also offers professional technical services to private plantation developers in form of forestry business plans, marketing strategies and forestry management plans.
What is the difference between NFA and Department of Forestry? How do their roles and responsibilities differ?
NFA is semi-autonomous and operates in a business-like manner. NFA can sue and be sued. It is managed by a Board of Directors who report to the Minister for Water and Environment. It has limited dependency on government and development partners as it is expected to be financially self-sustaining by generating its own revenue from the forest resource under its management.
On the other hand, the defunct Forest Department was a government department directly under the Ministry like any other government departments and 100% funded by government.
The mandate of NFA is to manage CFRs. However, If the local governments have a need for any form of assistance in the management of the LFRs, NFA may be contracted ay a fee to provide any of the needed services such as mapping, provision of seedlings or technical assistance.
To-date, there are 506 CFRs in Uganda located in various parts of the country. The forest cover in CFRs represents about 15% of the total forest cover in the Uganda. The other forests that represent about 85% of the forest cover in Uganda are owned by Local Governments, private individuals and institutions.
By acting as catchment areas, forests ensure availability of water for agricultural production, and are habitat for forest biodiversity. Trees also suck up large volumes of carbon dioxide, thus cleaning up the air /atmosphere and provide forest goods like timber to the people of Uganda. Forests are national assets that add to the natural beauty of the country thereby attracting tourism revenue for the national coffers.
Uganda’s Forest Reserves were created by Acts of Parliament mostly between 1932 and 1965 after the Government negotiated for the land with the respective District Administrations and Kingdoms. This means that it would require other Acts of Parliament to degazzette them for other uses.
The forest reserves were gazzetted to be an adequate estate representing a sizeable fraction of the country. The colonial government negotiated with the different administrative structures (kingdoms) to offer portions of their land for gazzettement as forest reserves. Buganda for instance offered 8% of her land area for gazzettement, while other kingdoms offered varying portions of their land for the same purpose. The sum total of what was offered is to a large extent present day forest cover in Uganda.
A Forest Reserve is an area of land designated, reserved/gazzetted by Act of Parliament for development of forests or tree growing activities. It can be an open land without forests on it or with forests. A Forest is an area covered with vegetation, majority of which are of tree communities, occupying a large extent and in climatic equilibrium with the environment.
Forests in Uganda have been under threat for some time. How come that even after NFA took charge, they (forests) are disappearing at even a higher rate than before?
First of all there is no problem with NFA; the actual problem is with the law that gives NFA the mandate for its operations. The law limits NFA to only operate in CFRs and these are few compared to the private and local government forests. So basically, the forest cover that is disappearing at a higher rate than before is largely under ownership and jurisdiction of private individuals/institutions and local governments and not CFRs.
Forests are said to play a significant role in reducing global warming. Policy makers, climate negotiators and proponents of the carbon market say forest conservation is a key ingredient in combating climate change. True or false?
Plants utilize carbon dioxide as they grow and store it in form of tissues both below and above the ground. About a half of dry wood matter is carbon (cell walls and other carbohydrates). Forests (after soils) act as one of the largest terrestrial carbon stores because of their big volumes per given area (e.g. in hectares) or biomass which is weight (say in tons) per unit area (e.g. a hectare).
When forests are cut the stored carbon and other elements are released in various forms. Burning them results in rapid lease of carbon dioxide and various nitrous oxide gases. If forest material decomposes under limited supply of oxygen say under water, methane and carbon dioxide are released.
I have seen some open grasslands and shrub areas in some parts of Uganda, which are referred to as forest reserves! Can such areas really be called forest reserves or the trees there have been cut by NFA?
Various areas are gazzetted as CFRs for different purposes including conservation of biodiversity and critical habitats, protection of water catchments, environment protection and production in terms of goods and services.
Most natural forests were gazzetted for protection of biodiversity and water catchments with limited amount of timber production. They are also production centers in form of non-timber forest products and services like ecotourism. These values are to be supplied in perpetuity.
There are woodlands that perform environment and water protection functions and are in some cases habitats to unique plant and animal species. However, most woodlands and grasslands were conserved for future production of timber. Most of them were gazzetted when the per capita forest cover and use were still low and with increase in demand for forest products resulting from population growth, these are the areas now being planted to bridge the gap. Therefore, a forest reserve doesn’t necessarily have to be always forested.
NFA is in the process of demarcating the river banks as required by the Environment statute. For lakes, areas of 200m are being left with natural vegetation and where this has been cut, they are being replanted with the indigenous species, for big rivers, 100m is being left and for the small ones, 50m is the recommended area to be left. This is a standard procedure that is applied in NFA own tree planting as well as the private tree planters.
Trees take relatively long (some species up to twenty years and above) to mature as compared to most agricultural crops. However, trees are a good investment because:
An applicant can be allocated more land depending on availability of the land, progress of other farmers and interest. In cases where there are none performers or land is still available its easier to allocate you another area but some times there may be many pending applicants with capacity in which case you have to be fair and give others a chance.
In such a case, you could be shifted to another area with plenty of land. NFA seeks to avoid situations of communities feeling that someone was given a forest reserve alone when they have the capacity. But in all cases, those interested are required to follow the same application procedures to have a fair process.
I am a private investor neighboring a CFR and had applied for land in the reserve. Am I allowed to plant starting from where the CFR boundary starts?
As to whether or not one can plant trees starting from the boundary of a CFR depends on the assessment of field staff in relation with the activities on the land and the owner’s relations with NFA. If the owner has demonstrated to be a peaceful neighbor who doesn’t involve in illegal activities in a CFR like grazing, settlement and growing cops such a neighbor would be considered and given priority.
However, a reformed encroacher may be given chance to change the land use of the potion neighboring a CFR. If there is reason to believe that such an individual wants land for other activities but is using tree-planting as a front to acquire the land, NFA would not allocate him land in such an area.
However, such an applicant can be considered for land allocation else where to reduce the temptation for illegitimate use related with land in his neighborhood. NFA’s field staff assesses such applicants to avoid illegal activities through a tree planting license and ensure that boundaries are very clear during implementation to guard against them being shifted.
NFA has a library at its head office with a range of information materials including those about tree species and the relevant areas suitable for them. Similar information can also be obtained from NFA’s field offices located in various regions of the country. People seeking such information can therefore visit the NFA head office or the field offices for assistance.
Land adjacent to tree plantations tends to be unproductive in terms of agricultural crops. Trees should therefore be planted a distance away from the boundary inside the planter’s land. What is the recommended distance from the boundary for tree plantations?
The distance should be the equivalent in height of the mature tree of that species at that site so that even at felling, it falls on the planter’s own land.
Planting is a professional and expensive exercise. In some cases it is not that NFA has not fulfilled the requirement of planting immediately after harvesting but it is a requirement to allow for a bit of time to allow some natural processes to take place, for example in cases where the stumps may be required to first ‘die’ before replanting takes place.
The second reason is that in order to replant, one must be ready in all aspects, including resources such as manpower, funds, equipment and documentation among others in case of a rotation crop i.e. changing the objectives and species. All this can cause replanting delays but mitigation measures are always provided for. Otherwise, NFA never harvests mature trees without a plan of replanting the area. Harvesting is the ultimate but replanting is the baseline requirement.
This is not acceptable. The land allocated for tree-planting belongs to the government of Uganda under NFA’s mandate. You can only transfer your trees to a third party if you request to have your license cancelled and if the third party accepts the conditions given to you.
In this case it is only the area planted by you that is transferred and the licensee continues where your license had reached e.g. if its 25 years and its year 17, he/she would have 8 years. NFA doesn’t encourage go-betweens (brokers) in tree planting business. If it’s a company one can buy shares in it and its shareholders/board would be required to inform NFA.
What is NFA doing to promote tree-planting as part of the efforts to address global warming? Any efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation?
NFA is working to prevent and eradicate encroachment and degradation in CFRs. Beyond the CFRs’ frontiers, NFA is promoting private sector investment into afforestation by providing land at minimal fees. The NFA is also encouraging individuals and institutions to plant trees countrywide in order to reverse the declining forest cover in the country. NFA’s other forms of support include providing quality tree seeds and seedlings at affordable prices and offering technical support towards tree nursery and plantation management.
Why does somebody growing trees on his own private land have pay to government a permit fee for harvesting his own trees? Doesn’t this discourage some people from planting trees?
This payment is a regulatory mechanism which aims at controlling the market. This is done to prevent the person who harvested on private land from underselling his competitors. Otherwise, there is no payment necessary if the produce is for his own use.
The National Forestry and Tree Planting Act No. 8, 2003, prohibits dealings on land reserved as CFRs without the authorisation of the NFA. Thus, in case of prohibited activities e.g. illegal pit sawing and charcoal burning, the timber and charcoal are impounded and other lawful measures taken. They include fining owners of vehicles/vessels impounded with illegal forest produce and fining owners of illegal forest produce, while others are prosecuted in courts of law. Illegal settlers on forest land are evicted and/or taken to court.
Unless specified by the Minister, any other tree not on the CFR is taken care of by the District Forest Officer (DFO) or any person authorized by the Minister in the case of NFA it is the Law enforcement Unit. On request, NFA offers advisory services on sustainable forestry practices to private tree-planters who may not necessarily seek permission prior to cutting their trees.
Why am I not allowed to use a power (chain) saw when am harvesting my trees, yet the NFTPA No.8/2003 does not talk about the use of such a chain saw.
In 2004, the NFA’s line Minister i.e. of Water, Lands and Environment issued a statutory instrument declaring the chain saw use contra band and it was widely published in the press. To-date, this is the legal instrument upon which the NFA’s interventions are based. The details of the instrument are available in the NFA library, which is accessible to the public.
If you find any one doing it and claims to be doing it on behalf of NFA let him/her give you proof of official authorization from NFA. Otherwise NFA cannot use such a tool for timber conversion. NFA operates by example!
Some people have been allowed to convert timber using a chain saw by the same Minister who declared it (chain sawn timber) contraband. Should everyone seek the Minister’s clearance before using a chain saw?
Yes. It is only the Minister, now for Water and Environment who has exclusive discretion to allow any one to use a chain saw after convincing reasons have been given by the person seeking clearance.
In case a tress-passer, say a cattle-grazer or cultivator destroys trees on land allocated to a private planter in a CFR, what does the planter do?
The Tree Planting License empowers you not to accept such activities. Section 32 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act authorizes that every activity done in a CFR must be with a license granted and in accordance with the Forest Management Plan of that particular Forest. Even for a tree farmer to graze, grow crops, keep bees, mine sand/clay, make bricks or engage in any other activity not prescribed in the license is illegal. These offenders should therefore be handled in the same way as other criminals.
You can, therefore, prosecute such offenders. However, where the situation is volatile, you should be assisted by the NFA’s field staff in conjunction with law enforcement unit. It is NFA’s work to remove encroachers from where land is allocated but a tree farmer must guard against new encroachers, tress passers and other illegalities in his/her plot. Allowing such activities in your plot can lead to cancellation of the license. People allocated land should note that growing crops with trees is not allowed on land allocated in CFRs.
Fencing off forest land as a pre-emptive measure against tress-pass is allowed in exceptional circumstances with strong reasons and requires clearance from the Executive Director of NFA.
Why can’t NFA allow people to plant some crops in CFRs as a way of improving their incomes to address rampant poverty?
Ideal conservation practices call for proper planning and land use, a whole area of study, considering that there is no way one can competitively utilize forest land for purposes other than conservation and non-destructive ventures like tourism and bee-keeping. Forest land is also never fertile for crops, the reason being that most of the nutrients are consumed and held up in the trees. When environmental concerns are considered, crops cannot be an effective substitute for trees because trees have global effects accruing from their long term stay and the related services derived from them.
Why doesn’t NFA fence off CFRs to prevent encroachers and illegal forest produce dealers from entering them?
CFRs are held in trust for the people of Uganda by the Government through NFA. CFRs are public goods for the common good of Ugandans. So the “people” should easily access them. “Section 5 (2) National Forestry and Tree Planting Act 2003” empowers any person or responsible body to bring an action against a person:
Furthermore, besides the prohibitive costs that would be involved, fencing alone may not completely shield CFRs as encroachers can still find ways of entering them. There is need to use other means which can be more efficient in reducing the rate of encroachment and other related illegal activities in the forest reserves.
He/She could buy the timber by participating in the timber auction when it is held.
Why does NFA move impounded timber to its head office (in Kampala) instead of auctioning it in the district of origin?
The law requires that the auction is done by registered auctioneers. These would be very expensive to move to most of the upcountry districts. Also, the upcountry markets may not be in position to purchase the timber at the same market as the timber market in Kampala at the Headquarters.
506 CFRs spread all over Uganda
8.4 million hectares
Ranges from 1.7M to 2.1M
Poles (Eucalyptus): 1.5 M
Rotation period for Eucalyptus: Construction Poles; 2-4 years, Transmission poles; 11-13 years, Timber; 15 years.
A total of 28 million tones of Biomass is used to supply energy