News / Africa

Ugandans Invest in Trees, For Profit, Conservation

An aerial view of a settlement in Mabira Forest Reserve, 55km (34 miles) east of the capital Kampala, April 21, 2007.
An aerial view of a settlement in Mabira Forest Reserve, 55km (34 miles) east of the capital Kampala, April 21, 2007.

Wealthy investors in Uganda are taking advantage of a new money-making opportunity investing in trees. Trees have become an attractive investment because of the rising cost of timber and the allure of carbon credits. The Ugandan government sees these so-called "tree banks" as a means to combat deforestation. But practice remains controversial.

These days, Uganda’s wealthy elite are less likely to put their money into property, the stock market, or even the bank. The new hot investment opportunity is trees. Vast plantations of pine and eucalyptus are sprouting across the country, planted by those looking to cash in on valuable wood and possibly carbon credits.

Trees as business

Businessmen Peter Nyeko has invested $50,000, along with two partners, in 20 hectares of eucalyptus trees just west of the capital, Kampala. He calls it his “tree bank.” Despite the work involved in clearing the land and caring for the trees, he says a tree bank is the best investment he could possibly have made.

"You could invest about $50,000 and in about 10 years you’re harvesting trees worth about $5 million," he said. "You buy a seedling for less than $5, but once that seedling grows to become a fully grown tree, it will probably cost more than $150. As long as you’re willing to wait for about 10 years for a return on your capital employed, it’s pretty amazing. It’s just like a trust fund."

This is exactly the message the Ugandan government is trying to convey to its citizens. Demand for wood is on the rise, and the deforestation rate is alarming - the country has lost nearly 40 percent of its forests over the past 20 years.

Gonza Araali of the National Forestry Authority, or NFA, says his agency provides free seedlings and technical advice to tree planters. He says the government is advocating tree planting not just for the wealthy, but for all segments of Ugandan society.

"We are also telling them it’s an investment; it’s an insurance," he said. "It’s where they can get income and be able to sustain themselves, and also pay school fees for their children."

Possible carbon credits

Systems are not yet in place in Uganda to allow tree planters to benefit from carbon credits. But investors like Nyeko are betting that they soon will be.

"In the next few years, we might finally be able to trade carbon credits linked to trees that have been growing. That would open up another revenue stream as well, making it sometimes even more profitable to keep the trees rather than cutting them. It’s part of my rationale," said Nyeko.

Not everyone is convinced that tree banks are beneficial for Uganda as a whole. The most popular trees to plant are fast-growing varieties like eucalyptus and pine - imported trees that threaten native species.

On the other hand, Araali of the NFA explains that fast-growing trees can also protect native forests.

"People are able to get timber out of them, and the rate at which they would have gone to the natural forest to cut [trees] reduces," he said. "They also help in conservation in one way or another, which people are not seeing."

Environmental concerns

But as Abby Onencan of the Entebbe-based Nile Basin Discourse points out, there are other environmental concerns as well, some of which could have regional implications.

"A lot has been said about the eucalyptus. There are some breeds which are really bad, they really cause a lot of destruction and should not be planted near the water," said Onencan. "If we plant trees around the Nile that take up the water, then the water might never reach Egypt. What one country does affects largely another country, so we need to be really careful about what we do."

Social consequences

Some say the tree plantations also come with a social cost. Last year the British NGO Oxfam published a report accusing a British-based tree planting company of kicking local people off land in Uganda in order to plant. The company later closed their operations in the country on a wave of bad publicity.

Uganda’s Minister for the Environment
, Flavia Munaaba, admits that allocating large tracts of land to tree plantations can create problems.

"We are losing forest cover very rapidly. However, when it comes to guidance on reforestation, the tendency is to allocate land to big investors, at the exclusion of the common people. That is the problem, in the sense that there is resentment," said Munaaba.

Responsible planting

But Onencan says there are ways in which the trees, if sensitively managed, can benefit the local population.

"I think you can actually empower the communities to be part of the whole program in such a way that they are the ones planting the trees, they are the ones determining the tree that they want to plant, and they get actually a percentage of the benefit. So you involve them fully so they can own that project," he said.

Nyeko is convinced that by the time he eventually harvests his trees, they will have benefited both the environment and Ugandan society. His eucalyptus will be useful, he says, to a growing population hungry for timber.

"The more people that get involved now, the better, because the population is rising, demand is shooting up, and we just don’t have enough timber growing to sustain our demand for timber. There is a benefit in it for the whole country at large," he said.

In any case, the NFA reports that more and more people are asking for planting advice, so tree banking will most likely become even more popular in the years to come.


You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, US demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid