Friday, May 6, 2011


The type of sacks which are made longer than would be the size
It is not clear why dealers in charcoal in Uganda decided to have two sacks added to make one. The concerned authorities should intervene in this innovation. if you get a motor cyclist hired to take this type of sack, it is a real inconvenience to other road users.

The standard sack which charcoal dealers should be using
Uganda Bureau of Standards should get to move and see that those who trade in charcoal use the standard sacks for charcoal instead of combining two sacks to make one.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka


Charcoal prices in Kapchorwa have increased following a drop in supply by the charcoal burners from the lower belt of Sebei sub-region.
Violet Kissa and Judith Apil, both residents of Senior Quarters Cell, said a basin of charcoal, which originally cost sh3,000, currently goes for sh5,000, while a sack that used to cost 20,000, is being sold at 24,000.
Grace Nakoko, a charcoal dealer in Malat village, Kaptanya sub-county, attributed the low supply to adoption of farming by the charcoal burners. The district environment officer, Sam Chemusto, told a UNDP-funded workshop last year that some tree species had disappeared due to increased charcoal burning.
Kapchorwa district chairman Nelson Chelimo recently urged NAADS stakeholders to ensure environmental conservation. He said the district had faced several environment disasters such as soil erosion and landslides due to environmental degradation.
By Rashid Muzungyo, The New Vision

Publication date: Sunday, 21st December, 2008

A charcoal market in Nakawa. Only a few places get this kind of supply around the city
MOST Kampala residents have shifted from using electricity to charcoal, previously regarded as a cheap source of energy for the poor. But the charcoal prices have doubled within less than a year . Further increases are predicted if nothing is done to put things right. Gerald Tenywa tells how the masses are coping.
AISHA Kamara, a resident of Kinawataka, a Kampala suburb, leads a life full of challenges. “We have food, but no charcoal to cook with,” says the 33-year-old Kamara. “So we look for wood chips and gather sawdust, which we use to cook.”

She sends out her three young daughters to scavenge for whatever their little hands can get in order to have food ready. Charcoal, which used to be a cheap and easy source of energy for the poor like Kamara has become expensive.
“We can no longer afford to use charcoal everyday,” she says. In a survey conducted by The New Vision, a sack of charcoal goes for an average of sh30,000 up from sh25,000 in October-November. The average price of charcoal was sh 15,000 last year, but has remained unstable. In Byeyogerere, Kireka and Banda, the prices range from sh28,000 to sh30,000 per sack.
In other areas of Kampala like Portbell and Ggaba a sack goes for sh17,000 up from sh15,000 per sack. But the bags are smaller and the quality of charcoal coming from the islands of Lake Victoria is inferior compared to that from Nakasongola.
According to Paul Dritch, a biomass expert, the current crisis was predicted more than a decade ago, following studies on Uganda’s trees and shrubs used as a source of firewood and charcoal.
“The country is already neck-deep in the firewood crisis,” says Dritch. “Now, people are paying for not taking action.”
However, Dritch says the energy crisis is ‘localised’ meaning that some areas have been hit by the scarcity, while others have in abundance.
For instance, Kampala’s population is experiencing large deficits and can hardly meet the wood-fuel needs. The city, whose population is the largest in the country, depends on fuel wood from areas like Nakasongola. This has depleted the reserves that used to produce charcoal.
As a result, charcoal dealers have moved further to parts of Apac, Gulu and Kitgum from where they ferry charcoal to feed the energy-thirsty residents of Kampala.
In parts of Tororo, Arua and Kabale the energy sources are over-stretched and people find it cheaper to buy food than firewood.
Dritch says people spend a significant proportion of their income on fuel for cooking. “This, coupled with rent in reasonable areas of Kampala, takes over 40% of the incomes of average workers.”
To get round the crisis some people have turned to cassava and maize stalks, rice husks and sometimes grass. But the use of crop residues to cook is likely to trigger another crisis, says Dritch.
“This is depriving the soils of crop residues that would help to recycle nutrients in the soil,” he says. “It would further undermine food security and the well-being of the people.”
The use of more efficient cooking practices would reduce the amount of fuel consumed, but the adoption of such techniques has been slow.
Over 90% of the stoves are traditional, using a three-stone fire place or traditional metal sigiri fueled by charcoal. The efficiency of these is at only five to 15%.
Charcoal production methods are also wasteful, with 90% loss of biomass during conversion into charcoal, according to Dritch.
The energy crisis has put an unnecessary toll on the nation’s forests. Yet, according to the energy commissioner Paul Mubiru, “biomass will remain an important source” for the country given that electrification has barely increased over the years.
Dritch says in 1990, the forest cover was 4.9 million hectares, but had receded to 3.5 million hectares. “That is a big loss and if that trend continues, in 10 years we shall be left with only 2.1 million hectares.” he says, “The situation is likely to worsen.”
In Nakasongola, for instance, charcoal permits this financial year are expected to generate sh 500m to the district coffers, but this will not cater for replacement of the biomass stocks.
It is also strange that policy makers have dragged their feet in creating the District Forestry Services, an affiliate institution to the National Forestry Authority, charged with promoting sustainable exploitation of the woodland resources.
Instead, the officers have become springboards for unlicensed loggers and charcoal burners to destroy trees.
He warned that the loss of forest cover and scarce environmental resources could result in social, political conflicts and civil unrest.
While energy minister Daudi Migereko recently said subsidies had been introduced on alternative sources of energy like gas, the prices of gas has also been surging.
Consumers, interviewed during The New Vision survey, said the price of gas had also increased from sh39,000 per container of 15kg in 2006 and is now selling at sh62,000.
“I have tried a combination of all kinds of energy—electricity for lighting, charcoal for cooking and gas for warming food and making tea, but the cost is still high,” said Sarah Nantongo, a resident of Bweyogerere.
To cope with the crisis, some people, especially the low income earners, now buy cooked food from evening roadside markets, also known as Toninyiramukange.
In some cases they are opting to eat one meal a day. The average income earners cook a lot of food, which they store in a fridge and warm ahead of each meal.
Fewer homes now cook foods like dry beans that take long to get ready.
According to the survey, meals like posho, which were previously unpopular, are becoming a common sight on the dinning table.
But Dritch fears malnutrition could become a problem since foods like beans, supposed to be cheap sources of proteins are being shunned by consumers.
He also pointed out negative health implications of eating cold food from roadside markets. He cited cholera as one of the most likely threats.
Dritch says the Government should encourage use of fuel saving technologies like the improved stove that use less charcoal and efficient methods of charcoal production.
This is part of the interventions under the renewable energy policy, which was approved by Cabinet last year seeking to increase the use of renewable energy from the current 4% to 61% of the total energy consumption by 2017%.

Policies that have failed to deliver
According to Dritch the renewable energy policy, which was approved by Cabinet last year could help to promote the use of biomass energy in a sustainable way. But like many other policies, Dritch says, will remain on shelves.
In Nakasongola, for instance, charcoal permits this financial year are expected to generate sh 500m to the district coffers, but this will not cater for replacement of the biomass stocks.
It is also strange that policy makers have dragged their feet in creating the District Forestry Services , an affiliate institution to the National Forestry Authority (NFA), charged with promoting sustainable exploitation of the woodland resources.
Instead the district forestry officers have become spring boards for unlicensed loggers and charcoal burners to destroy trees.
in a manner that is not sustainable. At the same time politicians at the district and national level have turned round to accuse NFA of failing to protect the forests.
Unknown to most politicians, is the fact that NFA manages only 15% of the forest cover. Another 15% is under the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the remaining 70% is standing on private land.
“Since we can not enforce the law on private land we have resorted to talking to the districts and institutions like NGOs to plant more trees on their land,” says Moses Watasa, NFA’s Public Relations Manager.
In a few cases some individuals have also come up to invest their own resources to plant trees.
Dritch says NFA should take a lead in creating massive awareness for people to plant trees. People should engage in tree planting as business to improve income. The Government should avail resources and work on incentives.
He says the intervention requires a holistic approach.
“Awareness is needed to change cultural attitudes,” says Dritch. “In Masaka, the people realised the economic values of trees.”
Dritch blames lack of planning as part of the problem. “The longest plan people have is a year.” he says.“
If you tell them to plant trees that are going to mature in two decades they worry pointing out that they will not live long.”
He says the concept of sustainable development is to leave the World better than the way you found it. “If you find one acre of trees planted by your father plant an extra one,” he says.
“We have understood that for houses you construct and leave it for your children, why not extend the same thinking to tree planting?”

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