By Patrick Okaba (Daily Monitor)

West Nile- Families in West Nile that depend on charcoal and wood fuel will have to dig deeper into their pockets or find alternative ways of preparing their meals after the price of the commodity nearly doubled.

The price of charcoal increased after authorities in the sub-region banned its sale in a bid to preserve trees. Currently, a sack of charcoal in Nebbi Town costs Shs38,000 up from Shs20,000.
Ms Roseline Angomoko, a charcoal dealer, on Sunday said she has not been able to supply her customers with charcoal, since the ban last week.

“I used to supply five bags of charcoal on a daily basis to hotels, but now it is hard since there is routine operation [crackdown] on the illegal sale of charcoal in town. I planned for next year school’s fees for my children by getting money through the charcoal business, but it is hard now because the business is becoming risky,” Ms Angomoko said.

She said several homes and hotels depend heavily on charcoal because it is cheap.

The ban was imposed following an alarming demand for charcoal from West Nile sub-region during this festive season in Kampala.

According to the report filed by the Environmental Police Protection Unit, most forest reserves in the sub-region are depleted due to the commercialisation of charcoal and illegal exportation of timber to other countries.

The deputy commandant of Environmental Police Protection Unit, Mr Simon Peter Okochi, singled out Nebbi, Arua and Yumbe districts as the leading in charcoal burning and felling of trees.
Mr Okochi said more than 50 tonnes of charcoal heading to Kampala have been impounded in the sub- region in a joint operation mounted with district forest officers.

He added that to protect the available trees, there will be regular operations and anybody found cutting them down on a large scale will be arrested and prosecuted.

Mr Okochi said in most cases, the by-law enforced by councillors is violated which calls for central government to intervene.

Ms Margaret Akumu, one of the charcoal dealers in Nebbi Town, says the business is lucrative, especially during the festive season.

Mr Richard Ujuku, a forest officer in Nebbi District, says due to illegal cutting of trees for charcoal, areas such as Alwi Sub-county are now bare, requiring everyone to plant trees to protect the environment.

“People have become so lazy to produce food because they still see charcoal as an endless business. We need to move swiftly in order to protect the remaining trees, otherwise, we shall experience the worst droughts in the coming years,” Mr Ujuku said.

In August, the Alur king Philip Olarker Rauni III, condemned cutting of trees.
He said every homestead should plant trees to protect the environment as an avenue to control global warming.

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