At the rate of which forests are being destroyed across the country, every one’s support is needed than ever before if we are to reverse this worrying trend that can have devastating impact on people’s livelihoods.
It is estimated that more than 3 million hectares of forest disappeared between 1990 and 2005, and experts have warned that if this rate of deforestation continue, the country will perhaps have no forests in a couple decades.
It is such worrying trends, which prompted the civil society a few months ago, to come up with innovations to ensure that the disturbing rate of deforestation is curbed.
Thanks to the initiatives, but more needs to be done to save the treasure resources.
Among others, an ICT mobile phone platform is one of the initiatives that was designed for easy monitoring and reporting of illegal forest activities, but it has not yield much so far.
The problem is not with the technology or the people that use it, but rather the duty bearers in the sector that are expected to take action.
This is because since the introduction of the technology that simply uses a text message via a mobile phone; the number of cases reported by the people regarding the illegal tree cutting has tremendously increased.
According to the Forest Based Community Monitoring system Uganda (FCBM), after sensitization of the public about this mobile phone technology, the people around forests have started appreciating the significance of these natural resources and have contributed to forest governance in the sector.
This is evident in the number of cases reported to the district authorities whenever they identify an illegal activity.
Data from the FCBM website, the innovation that is geared towards promoting evidence based reporting of any illegal tendencies in the forest sector indicates that a total of 676 complaints have been received since its inception, but only six cases were resolved.
To some extent this platform has given the public an opportunity to participate in forest governance and though at a small scale the citizens evidenced reports using their phones has sparked off some arrests and impounding of forest products.
This is an indication that Ugandans can now go beyond the traditional use of making phone calls to utilizing the new mobile phone technologies to protect their forests.
Subsequently, this enables them to uphold their right to clean environment and other social-economic benefits associated with the forests.
Now it’s the duty bearers that have not responded as expected to take action towards achieving the objective of the initiative.
Failure to efficiently respond to the citizens’ reports could discourage the people from protecting their forests, but also slow down the momentum of using IT in other social aspects, yet ICT is expected to be an integral part in the country’s development.
With citizenry playing its part to satisfaction, the ball is now is the authorities court, as people appreciate the need to have transparency in the sector.
The National Forestry Authority which enjoys the constitutional mandate as far as this sector is concerned, should be in position to respond very fast to these complaints, and in my considered view, this will not only make such institutions relevant, but also inspire the public to have a sense of ownership of the resources thus better management.