Forest Reserves

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In response to severe forest degradation and deforestation, the government of Uganda in 1998 classified forests into two: local and central forest reserves. The former was decentralized to local governments, while the latter would be managed by a semi-autonomous body, the National Forestry Authority (NFA).


Since 1898, the management of Uganda’s forest estate had been under the Forest Department. In April 2004, the Forest Department was divested into an autonomous National Forestry Authority (NFA) to manage the Central Forest Reserves, while a small estate called Local Forest Reserves were placed under the District Forestry Services of local governments.


This decentralisation policy arguably draws its roots from the earlier attempts to decentralise forest management through Amendment No.7 to the Forests Ordinance of 1913 which instituted a new class of forest reserves, namely, Native Forest Reserves, which were renamed Local Forest Reserves (LFRs) in 1947. Through this ordinance, Local Administrators (LAs) were empowered to make rules in respect of species and quantities of wood to be cut, harvesting seasons and methods, fees, enforcement of rules and categories of people entitled to free issue. 

However, in practice, genuine devolution of power over the management of forest resources to local government has been occurring only to a limited extent in Uganda, even when decentralisation and devolution are major themes of the 2001 Uganda Forest Policy. For example, the large economically viable forests gazetted as Central Forest Reserves have been retained under the National Forestry Authority.

  • The devolved central government funded programmes like the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA) and the National Agricultural and Advisory Services (NAADS) are mandated to integrate forestry as a strategy to improve the livelihoods of people, in collaboration with District Forestry Services.
  • The Forest Sector Support Department (FSSD) under the Ministry of Water and Development also supervises the activities of the National Forestry Authority and the District Forestry Services of local governments. This means that the National Forestry Authority is also semi-autonomous body. 


The purpose of the Act is to create an integrated forestry sector that will facilitate the achievement of sustainable increases in economic, social and environmental benefits from forests and trees for all the people of Uganda (Section 2). 



Relying on Uganda’s Forestry policy of 2001, the NFA, a semi-autonomous body, is mandated to; “Manage Central Forest Reserves on a sustainable basis and to supply high quality forestry-related products and services to government, local communities and the private sector”.


NFA has a mandate of managing 506 Central Forest Reserves (CFR’s) totaling to 1,262,090 ha of the land cover, with objectives of improving management of the CFRs, expanding partnership arrangements, supplying forest and non-forest products and services and ensuring organizational stability. 


The National Forestry and Tree Planting Act mandates The NFA to prepare a management plan for Central Forest Reserve with the approval by the Minister (Section 28 of the Act). 


On the other hand, the District Forestry Services of local governments are mandated to prepare Forestry Development Plans, improve the management of Local Forest Reserves, collect revenue from taxes and licences on forestry activities, provide and support delivery of extension services, develop and enforce by-laws governing the management of forests and trees in the district, mobilise funds and encourage tree planting and protection of the vulnerable areas and watersheds in their areas of jurisdiction.


According to Sections 41(3) and 42 of The National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, 2003, a responsible body, after inviting and considering applications for a licence to cut, take, work or remove forest produce from a forest reserve or community forest, may grant a licence to an interested person, in line with the management plan. Without this licence, any person who proceeds to remove any forest produce from forest resource, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding thirty currency points or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years (Section 43 of the NFTPA). 

Likewise, a licence is required for one to be legible to export timber, without which, such person commits an offence and is liable, on conviction to a fine not exceeding thirty currency points or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years (Section 44 of the NFTPA).