Uganda could lose all forests by 2025- World Bank

By Edwin Muhumuza

A study by the World Bank has revealed that all forest cover outside gazetted areas will no longer in the next two decades.

This on account of urbanization, poor management of natural resources, a high population growth which is driving demand for wood; projected to more than double between 2015 and 2040.

The shocking trend of results came to light during commemorations to mark the Africa Statistics Week at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics where government indicated that it was adopting Natural Capital Accounting for Sustainable Development Policies.

In the move towards its vision of resource-led industrialization, a set of natural capital accounts have been developed to include; the land accounts and water accounts which were launched in November 2019 jointly by UBOS, Ministry of Water and Environment, and Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

Under the Uganda Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) program, the government is launching Wood Asset and Forest Resources Accounts, based on the international statistical standard, System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA), the first comprehensive inventory of Uganda’s wood assets and forest resources defining physical and monetary asset accounts of wood and other selected forestry resources from 1990.

State Minister for Environment Hon. Beatrice Anywar said, “the accounts will provide reliable data to inform effective management of resources and support the Vision 2040 target of restoring Uganda’s forest cover to 24% of the land area,”

It has also emerged that there was large increases in tourist satisfaction between 2012 and 2019 with a 15.2% growth in tourism during the period. This was during the launch of the statistical and economic analysis of Uganda’s tourism expenditure and motivational survey 2019.According to the Uganda Tourism Board the industry has embraced MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) as new products to further Uganda as a tourist destination for not only leisure but also business travelers. Relatedly analysis based on pre-COVID-19 numbers shows the industry could grow by 15-20% if every tourist stays one night longer in Uganda or if the number of leisure tourists goes up by 100,000.

The Government also launched a report, ‘Towards Ecosystem Accounts for Uganda’. The report highlights a path towards ecosystem accounting in the country considering the importance of ecosystem services provided by the countries’ forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems. The ecosystem accounts report provides estimates of physical measures for carbon storage, carbon sequestration, water yield and sediment retention in the eight river basins. The report brings out the point that changes in all these measures are linked to changes in land cover, in particular, the loss of forests and conversation of forest land to farmland.

All these publications were produced as part of the Uganda NCA Program, an initiative by the government to fully account and value the contributions of natural resources to its economy, based on SEEA standards.

The minister hailed the World Bank Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) program for the technical and financial support provided in developing the country’s capacity for production of natural capital accounts since the launch of the program in 2018 further applauding implementing agencies including the ministries in charge of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Water and Environment, and Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, as well as the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, National Planning Authority, National Forestry Authority, and the National Environment Management Authority for developing the accounts, despite the difficult working conditions during the corona virus pandemic.

The development of Natural capital account fulfills one of the five strategies of the Uganda Green Growth Development Strategy and contributes to the overall goal of the Uganda Third National Development Plan (NDP III) to improve the quality of life of Ugandans through resource-led industrialization.

Dr Chris Mukiza, Executive Director, Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) said, “I am delighted that we are prioritizing the continued development of natural capital accounts; we need this vital information to enhance our planning.”

Tony Thompson, Country Manager, World Bank said “The World Bank is pleased to see progress in the Government of Uganda’s journey to develop its natural capital accounts. I urge our government partners to use the capacity and knowledge built through the NCA program to further inform the sustainable development policies and planning of resources for Uganda’s future economy,”