The National Forestry Authority has auctioned more than 125 bags of charcoal that were seized during a crackdown on commercial charcoal dealers in Moroto district. The crackdown followed President Yoweri Museveni’s ban on the charcoal business in Northern and Western Uganda as part of environmental protection efforts.
Over the past two weeks, six truckloads of charcoal have been intercepted in Moroto district. Buyers, including district government officials, security officers, and judiciary staff, flocked to the National Forestry Offices on Tuesday afternoon to purchase the charcoal at a reduced price of 15,000 Shillings per bag, compared to the market price of 30,000 Shillings.
Richard Jonas Ogen, the Sector Manager of the National Forestry Authority, explained that they auctioned the charcoal bags after obtaining a court order for their disposal. Ogen further revealed that two trucks were fined 1.4 million shillings each for illegally transporting charcoal, and the fines were paid to the Uganda Revenue Authority before the trucks were released.
Currently, four trucks holding more than 300 bags of charcoal are still parked at Moroto central police station, awaiting a court order for auctioning. Ogen emphasized that buyers were restricted to purchasing a maximum of two bags of charcoal as a measure to discourage the charcoal business.
He also warned that anyone found dealing with forest products would be arrested and fined in accordance with the Tree Planting Act 2003 and the National Forestry and Tree Planting Regulations 2016.
Justin Tuko, the Moroto Deputy Resident District Commissioner, urged the communities to refrain from charcoal burning and trading, as it has been made illegal. He assured that operations against charcoal dealers would be intensified and called on the district council to establish bylaws to regulate the domestic sale of charcoal.
However, some residents like Fred Obalim expressed concerns about the lack of reliable alternative sources of fuel for cooking before completely eliminating charcoal. He argued that electricity and gas options are costly and not suitable for preparing staple foods such as posho and beans.
He noted that charcoal is the only affordable source of fuel for many households and called on the authorities to focus on commercial charcoal dealers while sparing those who use it for domestic consumption.