I would like to respond to the article by Augustine Ruzindana titled, “Promote tree planting as an economic activity for people in hilly areas” that appeared in Daily Monitor of October 24.
I entirely agree with Mr Ruzindana that all the bare hills across the country should be covered with trees.
This should not only be for direct economic benefits but also for environmental purposes, bearing in mind that successful crop and livestock production depend on good climate and forests are major regulating factor.
I would, however, like to look at two pertinent issues raised by the writer whether coniferous trees can do well in temperate climate and why should these trees be planted in flat areas suitable for crop and livestock farming.
The coniferous trees being planted widely in Uganda are pine trees. Pine trees are of different species, which grow over a wide range of habitats.
The major pinus species grown in Uganda include pinus patula that grows well in cool, high altitude areas such as Kigezi and Kapchorwa highlands pinus caribaea and pinus oocarpa, which grow from relatively hot to semi-arid areas.
These pinus species have been growing in Uganda since 1960s and they have proved to perform well in Uganda as long as species-site matching is done well
As to whether it is proper to plant pine or other trees in areas ‘suitable’ for crop or livestock farming, we need to appreciate that plantation forests development is an investment where maximum production is the target.
Commercial tree planters will prefer flat areas like Kyankwanzi to hilly ones such as Rwampara because it is easy and cheap to construct access roads on less sloppy areas than steep slopes.
Also, management and harvesting operations are easy and cheaper in such areas than hilly ones. In commercial tree planting, the considerations are on intended wood products and whether the species of choice can do well on the available land.
Pine tree species are among top viable trees for commercial plantation forest development in Uganda. It is difficult to believe but dividends from tree-planting are much higher than from crop and livestock farming. From a square mile of a well-managed pine tree plantation, at the end of 18-20m years, the yield is between Shs20 to 40 billion, calculated at the current price. Readers can compare this with livestock or crop production over the same period on the same size of land.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor