Friday, December 9, 2011

Rainforest Deforestation in Uganda

This article explained the issue of jobs lost by poor women on the Bugala Island in Lake Victoria of Uganda, to deforestation caused by new palm tree plantations which are used by the company Bidco to harvest palm oil.
Many women on the island are widows or have husbands that are fisherman who are gone for long periods at a time causing these women to find ways to make money. For some of these women, that means turning to commercial sex work or finding odd jobs like gathering and selling firewood. Deforestation of the island’s rainforests has made it very difficult for those women who gather firewood to earn enough money to feed their children. Other negative effects of the palm tree plantations are the fears of land used to grow crops being converted to palm trees, lack of wind buffers from deforestation causing dust to kick up affecting asthmatic residents, and soil erosion that could lead to the run-off of agrochemicals into Lake Victoria.
I can understand how officials can be too enthusiastic about the news jobs, activity, and revenue from the Bidco Company, to notice or care about the loss of jobs to the poor residents of the island. But they need to monitor the negative externalities of these palm tree plantations like the ones explained in the article. It seems like the palm trees could be placed in a way that minimizes the wind flow over the island, and proper buffers could be added to reduce the run-off of agrochemicals.
Though I feel bad for the woman who relied on gathering wood for a living, there are probably other ways of making a living on the island, possibly even on the plantations. They will just have to adapt to the changes brought by the palm tree plantations.
--Mike Hejduk

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