The shea tree is one of the most cherished trees in Uganda due to its versatility as a source of food, and an ingredient for skin care products.
However, after the onslaught of the destructive charcoal business and logging targeting traditional trees in Northern Uganda such as Afzelia Africana and the shea tree, environmentalists in the civil society arena and the local government believe it is time to introduce the farmer managed natural regeneration of traditional trees.
This way there is no need to plant seedlings but rather conserve the existing traditional trees or give a chance to the tree stumps to re-grow.
Acen Victoria Brandy is a small-scale producer of shea nut skin care products in Gulu city.
At her production space she crushes and mixes the nuts with semi-automated machines to produce body cream that can be used for nourishing the skin, lips and hair.
Acen is among the enterprising people who have recognized the high value of the shea tree, and there is hope that the tree can contribute immensely to the country’s national gross domestic product.
The onslaught of the charcoal business and logging of the traditional trees such as Afzelia Africana and the shea tree has become a threat to these traditional high value trees and the prospective businesses attached to them.
Acen calls the shea tree a treasure, and the possibility of it becoming extinct leaves her speechless.
“I personally believe that the shea tree is one of the treasures that Northern Uganda has, (its product) shea butter is in so much demand, it’s good for the skin and body, and there is no alternative to where we can source shea nuts from… and the fact that us, we get them straight from the locals so (when the trees become extinct) ,"she says.
Acen’s concern has caught the attention of environmentalists, they think that planting seedlings is not enough to revive the dwindling population of the traditional trees like the shea.
The Oyam district acting Natural Resources Officer Opio Moses gives an example of the Gungung forest reserve in Ngai sub county as one of the reserves that have been fully destroyed by human activity, and “another one is part of the Opit forest reserve in Abok sub county”.
Okuonzia Judith is the National FMNR scaling specialist at World Vision, her emphasis is that “now we know that in Ugandan context a lot of trees have already been fallen the only thing we can do is to manage those stumps and let them grow."
she is hopeful that this can save the shea and other traditional trees.
The environmentalists are suggesting an approach known as the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, where existing trees are conserved and the stumps of those that have been cut left to regrow.
However, professor John Bosco Lamoris Okullo from the Makerere university school of forestry sees the involvement of young learners in the re-greening of Northern Uganda as a catalyst to the conservation of traditional trees across the country.
This comes at a time when the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that Uganda’s forest cover has shrunk from 45 percent in 1890 to around 20.3 percent today.
The farmer managed natural regeneration project is a five-year initiative by the world vision, with Baluku Steven as the program manager.