Timber Dealers in the Albertine region have been boosted by a donation of bandsaw mills.
The new technology is also likely to save Uganda from exporting wood products. Currently the country imports over 230,000,000 million dollars of finished wood products every year.
The donation was delivered by World Wide Fund for Nature-WWF to five timber dealer associations in the districts of Kisoro, Rukungiri, Rubirizi, Mitoma and Kasese.
The bandsaw mill machine converts logs into fine saw wood of different sizes depending on the market using little fuel and labour force. The machine produces 5 cubic meters of wood every day compared to the traditional machines like pit saw that produce less than 1 cubic meter a day.
David Duli the Country Director WWF says the project aims at reducing wood wastage that is common while using the traditional timber cutting methods. He adds that they are also empowering local communities to plant forests as a business entity to reduce human-wildlife conflicts usually caused by lack of economic activities.
Duli says once the dealers can have quality timber they will attract both national and international market which will improve their income. He adds that they intend to expand the project to other areas across the country.
Gideon Ntungura, the chairperson of Rukungiri tea growers and timber traders association, says the new machine is opening the region to a wider timber market. He adds that power saws require a lot of energy to operate and consume a lot of fuel to run which affects their net returns.
Emmanuel Ngabirano a timber dealer under Kisoro timber dealers and carpentry cooperative society and who has already tested the efficiency of the machine says it can produce between 250 to 300 pieces of wood per day compared to a pit sawmill that has been giving them less than 200 pieces per day.
However, he calls on the government to support the timber dealers with other industrial machines that can aid them to produce quality products easily.
Joseph Kyomugisa a carpenter in Rukungiri town council says they have been incurring a lot of costs to get quality timber that is usually taken through series of machines. He says with band sawmill they will have quality timber at one point saving both time and money.
The Rukungiri District Chief Administrative Officer-CAO Elias Bwamungu says the new technology will help to organize the timber industry so that they can have a unified voice to negotiate prices.
He says it’s unfortunate that traders have been buying the local timber cheaply arguing that it needs more refining to produce quality products.
Valence Alinaitwe the principal forestry officer in charge of the western region under the ministry of water and environment says the new machines will help to eliminate illegal and unsustainable logging in the region.
He says a well-cared-for band sawmill can last you over 10 years with little time to maintain.
The project comes at the backdrop of a dwindling forest cover, plummeting from 24 per cent of the area in 1990 to nine per cent in 2015, according to a report on the State of Uganda’s Forestry. The forest cover now stands at 12.5 per cent, and the target is to replenish it to 24 per cent of the country’s landmass by 2040.