If government does not regulate furniture industry, the remaining national forests will soon be history, environmental activists have warned. Led by World Wide Fund for Nature, environmental activists say there is need for swift and intensified regulation of furniture industry in order to preserve the forests but also tap billions being lost in unregulated furniture and timber business.
While speaking at a media workshop, environmental activists from World Wide Fund for Nature Uganda-WWF, Trees Talk and Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda –ACCU, said their study conducted mid this year unearthed a lot of illegalities in timber and furniture industry. The activists said during their study, they established that more than 80 percent of furniture and timber on local market was illegally processed.
David Duli, WWF Country Director, said furniture is being made from trees cut too young while others are being smuggled from neighbouring countries particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo –DRC.
Duli, who was accompanied by Guster Kiyingi- the Team Leader of Trees Talk and Cissy Kagaba the executive director for ACCU, told journalists at the workshop that there is need for regulations from where trees are being cut, how timber is cleared to reach destination and how timber or furniture is brought into Uganda.
“Timber from neighbouring countries is considered legal once it is received in Uganda. This makes it difficult to regulate the trade. In addition, there are different, often conflicting policies and procedures, regarding entry and exit of timber into and from neighbouring countries,” Duli said.
Kiyingi said the system of putting hammers marks purposely to indicate that timber is authorised by district forestry officials seems to be archaic and outdated thus urging government to adopt the barcoding model.
Kiyingi added that the current laws and policies are silent about regulating importation of forest products, but clear in local content provisions as well as buy Uganda build Uganda policy which emphasizes sourcing from locally registered businesses, forest products inclusive.
“There is lack of guidelines to regulate procurement of forest products by public institutions that should procure legal or certified forest products. We call for review of the forest policy and the law highlighting the importance of this trade, its contribution to development and the need to use markets to control trade in illegal forest produce,” Kiyingi said.
Kagaba said there is need to ensure that any procurement requiring use of timber or other products should have evidence of legality and sustainable management of the product source with preference to certified forest resources.
Duli, Kagaba and Kiyingi said procurement entities should demand for timber hammer marks or labeling by forest certification entities as part of the procedure. Uganda’s forest cover is currently estimated to be 12.4 percent of its total land area, down from the 24 percent in 1990s. This has majorly been attributed to illegal logging, unsustainable harvesting, illegal and uncertified products on the market.