The program aims at developing and disseminating technologies that enhance efficient harvesting, processing and utilization of wood and non-wood forest and tree products.
Uganda features a high deforestation rate of about 2.2% (Nampewo, 2013) and heavily depends on biomass (over 90%) as energy source (MEMD, 2009). Petroleum which is currently imported accounts for 6% of Uganda’s energy consumption (REA, 2011) and the recent discovered oil is expected to last less than 30years (Okupa, 2012). Urban and rural dwellers use predominantly metal charcoal stoves and traditional three-stone stoves, respectively, at efficiency less than 10% (Okello et al., 2013). This puts Uganda’s forests and its growing population (3.32%/year) under tremendous pressure. Therefore adoption of improved biomass cook stoves and use of bio-fuels such as Jatropha oil (Jatropha curcas) and castor oil (Ricinus communis) could conserve energy and reduce environmental degradation.
Jatropha curcas and Ricinus communis as energy crops have been found to have the potential for biodiesel production elsewhere (Bonjean & Le-Recin, 2002; Okullo et al., 2012). These two energy crops have however not been evaluated in Uganda. Jatropha curcas has rapidly established a niche for itself within the agriculture and energy industry in Uganda, though the current production is not well understood. The private sector entrepreneurs are establishing Jatropha plantations in Karamoja and Masindi sub-regions but with no scientific production information in support of the business enterprise. Ricinus comminis is also increasingly being promoted for biodiesel due to its high oil yield and relatively low water requirements like Jatopha. Castor has many industrial, medicinal, and automotive uses, including: aircraft lubricants, hydraulic fluids, explosives, dyes nylon and many others (Bonjean & Le-Recin, 2002).