AISHA Kamara, a resident of Kinawataka, a Kampala suburb, leads a life full of challenges. "We have food, but no charcoal to cook with," says the 33-year-old Kamara. "So we look for wood chips and gather sawdust, which we use to cook."

"She sends out her three young daughters to scavenge for whatever their little hands can get in order to have food ready. Charcoal, which used to be a cheap and easy source of energy for the poor like Kamara has become expensive."

"'We can no longer afford to use charcoal everyday,' she says. In a survey conducted by The New Vision, a sack of charcoal goes for an average of sh30,000 up from sh25,000 in October-November. The average price of charcoal was sh 15,000 last year, but has remained unstable. In Byeyogerere, Kireka and Banda, the prices range from sh28,000 to sh30,000 per sack."

"In other areas of Kampala like Portbell and Ggaba a sack goes for sh17,000 up from sh15,000 per sack. But the bags are smaller and the quality of charcoal coming from the islands of Lake Victoria is inferior compared to that from Nakasongola."

"According to Paul Dritch, a biomass expert, the current crisis was predicted more than a decade ago, following studies on Uganda's trees and shrubs used as a source of firewood and charcoal."

"'The country is already neck-deep in the firewood crisis,' says Dritch. 'Now, people are paying for not taking action.'"

"However, Dritch says the energy crisis is 'localised' meaning that some areas have been hit by the scarcity, while others have in abundance."

"The use of more efficient cooking practices would reduce the amount of fuel consumed, but the adoption of such techniques has been slow."

"Over 90% of the stoves are traditional, using a three-stone fire place or traditional metal sigiri fuelled by charcoal. The efficiency of these is at only five to 15%."

"Charcoal production methods are also wasteful, with 90% loss of biomass during conversion into charcoal, according to Dritch."

"The energy crisis has put an unnecessary toll on the nation's forests. Yet, according to the energy commissioner Paul Mubiru, "biomass will remain an important source" for the country given that electrification has barely increased over the years."

"It is also strange that policy makers have dragged their feet in creating the District Forestry Services , an affiliate institution to the National Forestry Authority (NFA), charged with promoting sustainable exploitation of the woodland resources."

"Instead the district forestry officers have become spring boards for unlicensed loggers and charcoal burners to destroy trees."

"At the same time politicians at the district and national level have turned round to accuse NFA of failing to protect the forests."

"Unknown to most politicians, is the fact that NFA manages only 15% of the forest cover. Another 15% is under the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the remaining 70% is standing on private land."

"'Since we can not enforce the law on private land we have resorted to talking to the districts and institutions like NGOs to plant more trees on their land,' says Moses Watasa, NFA's Public Relations Manager."

"In a few cases some individuals have also come up to invest their own resources to plant trees."

"Dritch says NFA should take a lead in creating massive awareness for people to plant trees. People should engage in tree planting as business to improve income. The Government should avail resources and work on incentives."

"Dritch blames lack of planning as part of the problem. 'The longest plan people have is a year.' he says."

"If you tell them to plant trees that are going to mature in two decades they worry pointing out that they will not live long."

"He says the concept of sustainable development is to leave the World better than the way you found it. 'If you find one acre of trees planted by your father plant an extra one,' he says."

Extract taken from all.Africa.com, clickhere to read the article in full.