Charcoal prices in Nebbi District have increased following an ordinance that declared charcoal burning illegal.
The by-law, which was passed in October last year, was informed by the incessant cutting down of natural tree species.
Previously, charcoal traders would transport more than 10 tonnes of charcoal weekly to Kampala, their largest market, but with the ban, no vehicle is allowed to carry charcoal in large amounts outside the district.
Ms Viola Fualing, a charcoal seller in Nebbi Town, told Daily Monitor on Sunday that before the ban, she would buy a sack of charcoal at Shs18,000 and sell it at Shs25,000.
Currently, a sack is bought at a retail price of Shs30,000 and sold at Shs45,000 outside Nebbi.
“Our land is left bare without trees because people have exhibited greed for money instead of saving the environment. The rainfall patterns too have since changed and we are no longer getting enough. We used to have two good rainy seasons but now it is just almost one because the rain comes late in the first season,” Ms Fualing said.
Ms Grace Ozinda, another charcoal seller, said the ban has affected their livelihood.
“Paying school fees is a challenge since charcoal was the only source of income. Although the ban is good to save environment, we are affected economically because some of us depend on it as a main source of income,” Ms Ozinda said.
The charcoal dealer said she is also struggling to repay a village loan due to poor sales.
Some charcoal dealers have since quit the trade for fear of incurring losses.
Mr Emmanuel Jakisa, the district forest officer, said the move is geared towards preserving tree species and protecting the environment.
“There are some traditional tree species which are totally restricted from being cut such as shea nut tree, but they are facing extinction due to charcoal activity,” Mr Jakisa said.
Ms Doreen Nimungu, the secretary for production and natural resources, said before the ordinance was passed, the district was using the National Forest Act to restrict charcoal activities in the district.
“We shall not allow any vehicles carrying large quantity of charcoal to leave the district and if any does so, the vehicle will be intercepted at Pakwach checkpoint for the safety of our trees,” Ms Nimungu said.
District forest cover
According to the 2011 survey on the state of environment in the district, the area has a total gazetted forest area of 4,318 hectares of which 4,243 hectares are Central Forest Reserves (CFR) controlled and managed by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) while only 75 hectares are Local Forest Reserves (LFR) managed by the District Forestry Services.
The survey says 99 per cent of the residents depend on wood fuel. Acwera forest reserve is worst affected. The forest coverage area is 20 acres but 10 have so far been destroyed.