Uganda — The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has lost about 100 hectares of pine trees worth over sh250m to bushfires in Gulu district.
The fires were reportedly started by some residents in the district.
The Achwa range manager, Aldo Obedmoth, told New Vision last week that NFAs forests in Pajimo and Ogom central forest reserves were burnt during the drought in December last year and January and February this yeear. He, however, said they were recovering.
Obedmoth also said pine trees belonging to NFA in Abera and Opit central forest reserves covering about 100 hectares had also been destroyed by bushfires.
He said although the pine trees at Abera were recovering, those at Opit died and there was need for replanting.
Obedmoth said other forests burnt were Opaka, Opok and Olwal private central forest reserves belonging to the 4th Division commander, Brig. Charles Otema Awany, and those planted at Opok by World Food Programme for primary schools within Gulu municipality.
He added that pine trees planted by women groups were also burnt.
In other districts like Lira and Apac, NFA forests have not been burnt. It is discouraging to NFA and other private tree planters to lose their trees in such a way, Obedmoth said.
Some of these fires were maliciously started and we have two cases in court, he added.
Obedmoth said someone maliciously left behind hot ash in Keyo central reserve forest, which started the fire that left half of the bush burnt. Even the fire at Opit forest was maliciously set by individuals whom we are investigating, he said.
To avoid a repeat of such fires, Obedmoth said they intend to strengthen their working relationship with communities that neighbour the central forest reserves.
We want to encourage communities neighbouring forest reserves to plant trees so that we can fight these malicious fires together, Obedmoth said.
There is also need to improve our public relations with the communities through regular meetings on the benefits of conserving our environment, he said.
Obedmoth observes that the fires were a big discouragement to NFA and other investors who wanted to plant more trees in the region, which is experiencing shortage of timber and other forest products.
He said bushfires had also brought about shortage of grass for roofing huts.
Obedmoth said the burnt trees were two to six years old.