Government through ministry of Water and Environment has with immediate effect suspended any cutting, transportation and sale of shea nut and Afzelia Africana tree logs and their products.
Afzelia Africana commonly known as “afzelia” or “beyo” and shea nut trees are both reserved tree species in Uganda and are only found in northern Uganda and West Nile sub regions. The suspension is in line with section (29)3 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act 2003.
The species have become highly endangered due to uncontrolled rampant, illegal, harvesting and trading in the logs and their products.
Mary Goretti Kitutu Kimono, the minister of state for Water and Environment in an interview with this publication says whenever government sees that a tree is endangered, it moves to protect it. The minister said currently people are cutting down the trees for charcoal and need to also use of its fruit for making lotion, soap, food supplements, and snacks but this is unregulated.
“We don’t want it to first reach endangered levels.There is great economic importance of these trees but regulation is needed to ensure it works properly otherwise for now what has been happening is that anyone is free to harvest it, which is not right.”
The ministry says it is in the process of reviewing and harmonizing the licensing, harvesting and movement in the products before resuming operations in the trade and harvesting of the products.
Police has directed all units, all regional police commanders, district police commanders and directors through a letter by ASP Asuman Mugenyi to ensure the suspension is effected across the country.
“You are hereby directed to work with relevant authorities in effecting the suspension and observing total adherence to the directive. By this directive, any trading and harvesting, movement and processing, and trade in the products is illegal and all logs of the trees and their products should be impounded and action taken”, reads part of the directive.
Some districts in northern Uganda like Gulu and Nwoya have established ordinances on the harvesting of trees for charcoal, but this ordinance has not been applied, as hundreds of Kampala trucks still carry charcoal from upcountry daily.
Locals in Pader, Kitgum and Agago also harvest shea fruits from the trees and sell it locally, with a few business men exploiting the gap.