Uganda has no pulp industry. Uganda’s publishing houses use paper and newsprint from South Africa’s Mondi.
Mondi is also supplying eucalyptus trees for trials to find out which species grows best in Uganda. The Forestry Resource Research Institute (FORRI), an affiliate of Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) is carrying out research on 12 species of eucalyptus trees cloned by Mondi. The project also involves the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the International Service for Acquisition of Agribiotech Application Africentre, based in Nairobi. Mondi and Gatsby are involved in a similar project in Kenya.
The project involves distributing seedlings of the cloned trees to farmers. Mondi is, of course, keen to play down the impacts that planting eucalyptus trees might have on the soil. Kevin Cazalet, the general manager of Mondi Forests South Africa, told New Vision than the new breed of trees have no negative effect on the soil: “Instead of extracting mineral nutrients, these trees add nutrients that include organic carbonates and organic matter, to the soil.”
The fact that the project is titled “Tree Biotechnology Project” and the trees are cloned led EcoTerra in Kenya to ask whether the project involved slipping genetically modified trees into Uganda and Kenya. As far as I could find out, the project does not involve genetically modified trees. But through the project, Mondi will find out which of its clones grow best in Uganda. The impacts of Mondi’s plantations on local communities in South Africa have been severe. The project should not become a way for Mondi to sneak its plantations into Uganda.