A History of the Uganda Forest Department 1951–1965

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G. Webster, H. A. Osmaston
01 Jan 2003
9781848598171 (PDF)

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This volume, compiled by two former members of Uganda’s forestry department, provides both a historical record and a bank of authoritative experience for those involved in forestry and land management today. Many of the situations the authors describe are still faced by today’s foresters, and valuable lessons can be learned from the experiences of the l950s and early 1960s. For example the shortage of saw-timber is accelerating and ways of meeting this deficit are still being considered. Encroachment and the costly demarcation of boundaries are a continuing headache. The preparation of management plans, the training of staff and the advantages and problems of devolution of management responsibilities to local governments remain of central importance. Those involved with similar concerns in other tropical countries will also find this book invaluable.

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  • Foreword

    De Tocqueville said that history is a gallery in which there are few originals and many copies. If the same can be said for forestry then 1951 to 1965 was a wholly original period in the history of the Uganda Forest Department. In many respects - enumeration and mapping of forests, development of silvicultural methods, regeneration of high forest and establishment of plantations - these 15 years were the high point of achievement of the Forest Department.

  • Preface

    This is the third and much belated instalment of the history of the Uganda Forest Department. The reason for the resumption in 1998, after so long a gap, was the centenary of the Department in that year; after consultation George Webster offered to bring the account forward to 1965, the year when he retired from the service. This offer was accepted by the Commissioner of Forests, Uganda.

  • Introduction

    The two previous instalments of the History of the Uganda Forest Department traced its progress from its establishment in 1898 as half of the new Scientific and Forestry Department, with an expatriate staff of one and a half officers, in a Protectorate only reluctantly adopted by the British Government a few years before. During its first 30 years no clear forest policy was formulated and the poorly staffed and funded department concerned itself mainly with harvesting forest produce, concentrating on wild rubber collection, the pit-sawing of mahogany (Khaya and Entandrophragma spp.) in the Budongo Forest and of mvule (Chlorophora - Milicia excelsa) from the savanna and farmlands of Busoga, and the milling of podo (Podocarpus spp.) from the swamp forests of south Masaka, partly to meet the needs of the first world war. A start was also made on establishing fuel and pole plantations.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Central Government Forestry

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    • Central Government Forestry: Policy and Legislation

      The general policy of the Department remained unchanged until 1964 on the lines of the official statement made by the Governor in 1948.

    • Central Government Forestry: The Forest Estate

      In Buganda an important agreement was reached in 1951 with the Land Officer whereby areas of land required for protection forestry in uninhabited country could be gazetted as undemarcated forest pending demarcation by the Forest Department. Such demarcation would not be necessary until pressure of population made it desirable to establish firm boundaries.

    • Enumerations, Mapping and Working Plans

      There had been enumeration surveys in a few of the major forests prior to 1951 but these had not been critically designed and supervised to reduce errors and facilitate statistical analysis. The recently appointed Forest Ecologist, after practical trials, produced new guidelines addressing both these points based on a layout of randomised pairs of parallel transects within strata composed of parallel strips of forest. Each transect comprised a series of temporarily demarcated plots two chains long and one chain across (40 m x 10m), which permitted rigorous field checking of a proportion of the records by a supervisor, besides differentiation and location of forest types already recognised on air photos.

    • Silviculture

      By 1951 it had already been realised that the rapidly growing population of Uganda, with rising living standards, were going to need supplies of saw-timber much greater than those available from the natural forests. This had led to a three-pronged attack: the improvement of regeneration in the natural forests after harvesting; the planting of indigenous hardwoods; and the planting of exotic softwoods.

    • Fire Protection and Pest Control

      In accordance with Government policy, all savanna forest reserves were early burnt in 1951 except the Kaduku reserve in Bunyoro where a Tsetse Control late-burn was permitted. A carefully controlled burn of the Lakure valley in the Imatong mountains in Acholi was carried out in 1952 which was reported to have had the desired effect of dissuading game from retreating there in the dry season. In spite of the intensity of the 1952/53 drought, the stream flow was not unduly lowered.

    • Communications and Buildings

      A number of public transport developments were announced which affected the Department. The western extension of the railway was to pass through a number of forests in West Mengo and would radically facilitate timber exploitation further west. A district road alignment in the Luhiza-Kayonza-Kanungu area was to cross the Impenetrable Forest in two places.

    • Research

      In 1949 and 1950 there had been major developments in the direction and organisation of forest research, under the newly trained and appointed forest ecologist. These centred on learning much more about the ecology of the natural forests and the most effective and economic methods of regenerating them after harvesting; on studying the growth and management of the recently started the softwood plantations; on formalising research procedure and records in conformance with the Indian Silvicultural Research Code; and on close liaison with the advisory staff at EAFFRO.

    • Production and Trade

      While production of timber in 1951 was maintained at approximately the 1950 level, it soon became apparent that domestic demands were unlikely to be satisfied unless exports were reduced. Consequently in March an embargo was placed on all exports from the territory with the exception of Antiaris logs, shorts and flooring strips. At the same time price control was abolished in the hope that if prices were allowed to find their own level, it would be a stimulus to production.

    • Training and Publicity

      From 1932 to 1941 a forest school for training rangers had been sited at Kityerera in south Busoga, but then had to be closed due to invasion of the area by tsetse flies carrying the sleeping sickness epidemic. Training lapsed during the war and was not resumed until 1948.

    • Administration, Staff and Labour

      From 1st January 1954 the Department came under the newly appointed Secretary for Agriculture and Natural Resources, an arrangement which improved materially the Department's contacts with higher levels of Government. With the establishment of a ministerial system in the middle of 1955, the Secretary became the Minister of Natural Resources. At this time the internal administration of the Department was largely decentralised on a territorial or functional basis.

    • Revenue and Expenditure
    • Miscellaneous

      The Department welcomed the passing in 1952 of the National Parks Ordinance and the declaration of the first two National Parks, the Murchison Falls Park and the Queen Elizabeth Park. The latter included part of the Kalinzu Forest and the small blocks near Katwe. At a meeting held in July, "the Trustees agreed that it was their policy to co-operate in every way possible with the Forest Department.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Local Government Foerstry

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    • Local Government Foerstry: Policy and Legislation

      The policy of devolution of local forest responsibilities to African Local Governments was pursued steadily from 1952 onwards, coupled with the building up of ALG forestry staffs. The Protectorate Government agreed to make a grant to ALGs in districts accepted as having a minimum Adequate Forest Estate (AFE), of half the net revenue accruing from CFRs in such districts. The total for 1951 and 1952 amounted to £4,593 and larger sums were likely to accrue in future.

    • Local Government Foerstry: The Forest Estate

      At the beginning of 1951, the total area of LFRs amounted to 627 sq miles (1,620 km2). By the end of the period (30th June 1965), it was 1,600 sq miles (4,150 km2).

    • Appendices
    • Statistical Tables and Postscript: 1966-2003

      Most of the following tables have been taken from the Uganda Forest Department Annual Report for 1964/65 which was compiled and published late, due to various difficulties (some tables still had notes of missing data from local government forest services), together with the reports for the following three years. The numbering of the tables (not in a continuously numbered sequence) may appear eccentric, but this follows a standard numbering developed over the years from that recommended by the Empire Forestry Conference, 1920, for use by all member countries in their annual forestry reports, and followed compliantly by Uganda. This facilitates not only comparison with annual reports for previous individual years, but also inter-country comparisons.

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