Stakeholders meet to discuss value chain development in Uganda

Forests contribute to Uganda’s economic growth and development; making them catalysts for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and contributing to a green economy. Development of the forestry value chain, right from preparation of seedlings to harvesting and marketing of timber, is thus critical for the sustainability of the sector. Based on this premise, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) Phase III, organized a workshop for forestry stakeholders to deliberate on aspects of developing and promoting the forestry value chain.

The workshop, titled: Uganda Forestry Value Chain Upgrading Options was held on 23 October 2019 in Kampala. It was attended by representatives from the Forestry Sector Support Department (FSSD) of the Ministry of Water and Environment, European Union Delegation in Uganda, Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA), Uganda Investment Authority, East African Development Bank, National Forestry Resources Research Institute (NaFORRI) and FAO office in Uganda and Rome. Also in attendance were individual and corporate commercial tree growers such as Global Woods AG, Nile Plywood Limited and Green Resources Limited. Ponsiano Besesa, a private commercial tree grower, makes a contribution to discussion during the workshop Walter Mapanda- Business Development Advisor at FAO Uganda makes a presentation on the timber grading standard The workshop created a platform for stakeholders to deliberate on how best to engage in the era of processing and marketing to get maximum returns and benefits from investment in forest plantations and the potential “oversupply of wood”. Participants discussed key findings of a forest resource inventory and market trend exercise carried out by FAO and the National Forestry Authority, and opportunities for integrating processing and marketing facilities, hinged on a thoroughly prepared cost-benefit analysis. The also discussed the modular mill that recognizes the wood flow and prevailing wood product requirements.

According to Antonio Querido- FAO Representative in Uganda, “How we use forest resources will largely determine our ability to meet wider development priorities and shift toward resource-efficient and sustainable green economies”. “Uganda is a shining example of a robust commercial forestry industry in the region and I hope that our actions can indeed become our future; a future where forestry is synonymous with economic, social and strategic development” he said.

Nadia Cannata, Head of Section, Rural Development at the European Union (EU) Delegation in Uganda, expressed the EU’s pleasure with the growth of commercial forestry in Uganda and emphasized optimism and commitment to using similar platforms to link a range of actors, including financial institutions, to support forestry and a green economy. The EU has supported the Government of Uganda to develop the forestry sector for over two decades now, initially carrying out interventions from a conservation point of view. However, realizing that deforestation, degradation of forests and the pressure on natural forests were not abating due to increasing demand for woodfuel and timber, the EU adopted “commercial forestry approaches, such as SPGS, to demonstrate the viability of investment in commercial forestry and promote environment sustainability, job creation, and social sustainability from forests”.

Issa Katwesige, a Principal Forest Officer, (Forest Product Regulation), who represented FSSD, commended the EU and FAO. He noted that Uganda has a big forest resource and “it’s important how we organize its utilization and fit the upcoming National Development Plan III which is anchored on resource-led industrialization”.

According to Leonidas Hitimana- the SPGS III Project Coordinator, Uganda has about 80 000hectares of high quality forest plantations; a key milestone that now calls for investment and urgent development of processing capacity and skills to facilitate value addition. However, the sector is grappling with several bottlenecks to development of a robust value chain, including inefficient processing capacity, limited financial resources, limited incentives to invest, restrictions in timber export, a potential oversupply of timber on the local market due to price drops, inadequate skilled human resources and limited land. Participants recognized that these bottlenecks, coupled with limited adherence to standards, could jeopardize Uganda’s competitive advantage as a timber market leader in the East African region. FAO is working with UNBS to update Uganda’s timber grading standard which is hoped will enhance the competitiveness of Uganda’s wood products and help to attract wider markets for quality wood.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019