NEMA supports Katakwi, Napak & Nakapiripirit to protect threatened tree species from the dangers of charcoal traders

By Mukatsinda Irene

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) with support from the Environment Protection Force (EPF) has undertaken an operation to support the districts of Napak, Nakapiriprit and Katakwi to fight against rampant charcoal burning.

Charcoal traders have targeted the trees in the area especially the Tamarind and Shea Nut trees that were recently declared as endangered protected species following Presidential Directive.

Earlier, at a high level meeting attended by officials from the three districts, a resolution was made to ban the cutting of trees and suspend the issuing of licenses for a period of three months.

During the operation, a total of 72 bags of charcoal were impounded near the home of newly elected LC1 chairperson Yokana Leo, who said disclosed that a tractor belonging to an unidentified person was being used to ferry charcoal from the nearby swamp.

At Lubuyo village, Iriri Parish in Napak district, 43 bags of charcoal were found stashed under a tree for sale. Here officers led by EPF Deputy Commandant ACP Simon Peter Okoshi had a sensitization meeting with the locals in the area who promised to stop the practice of cutting down trees. However the locals blamed their decision to deal in charcoal on a strange weed that had attacked their gardens and caused poor yields.

At Lorengecora the team also had a sensitization meeting with the community. The members if the community were willing to stop tree cutting and embark on a deliberate tree planting campaign if they were given seedlings. The community was also concerned about the trees that were being cut to pave way for the expansion of the main road to Moroto; and said it was peoplw from outside the region who were facilitating the cutting of trees for charcoal.

Following the operation two people, Moses Weka and Elizabeth Akol were arrested, taken to court and remanded to Katakwi prison. Weka pleaded guilty to wasteful use of natural resources involvement in tree cutting and charcoal burning while Akol pleaded not guilty; despite the fact that 135 bags of charcoal were found at her home.

The operation is still ongoing and will be extended to other districts in the region where illicit commercial charcoal trade is rampant.