In the midst of debate over saving Uganda’s most prominent forest, Mabira, stories are emerging over the high cost of charcoal, the fuel that most Ugandans use to cook food, warm water to bathe babies, and keep the cheer in homes. Charcoal of course is made from burning wood.
Uganda’s environmentalists are in a long -term dilemma. Since the population of the country is revving along the highway to Lagos and with hardly any alternative energy sources; talk of saving forests can only be temporary.
I know a journalist, an occasional tree-hugger like myself, who drove around his neighborhood looking for cheaper charcoal after the prize doubled overnight. He bought a whole bag where he may have purchased a few pails, judging correctly that the price was likely to increase. And this is a family man who is ready to boycott Mehta’s sugar if it will help save Mabira.
I also recently met a fine gentleman, Ronnie Sessanga Mukubira of Katale, BUSIRO, probably the only man I know whose cooking, bathing and lighting is off Uganda’s electricity grid and also charcoal free. He has no electricity bills and runs a company promoting alternative energy.
Technology is not a common reference in the huff and puff over Mabira.
Obviously we are in a season of bad choices. The cost of charcoal is high because the cost of transporting dead trees to our kitchens is high. Even if the cost of charcoal lowers in the future, it will still involve cutting down more trees. In a recent meeting with Uganda’s energy sector top honchos, this writer suggested another environmentally unsound idea, if you are the kind who is squeamish about green house gases.
The idea is that since Uganda has discovered oil it should urgently use this resource to generate electricity and perhaps replace the charcoal stove with an electric or kerosene one. It will pollute the air yes because it initially involves burning crude oil. But its good news for trees. Stay tuned.