PAKWACH. Pakwach district forestry officials have warned women in Pujwang village in Pakwach town council against extinction of trees in the neighbouring district of Nwoya.

The women neighbouring the Murchison fall park sail their canoes to cut down trees for firewood and charcoal which they depend on for sale and cooking.

But Mr Julius Farouk, the Pakwach district forest officer said the act of the women is totally illegal and warned that those involved risk being charged upon arrest.

He said his office has already been tipped of the women who illegally sneak into the national park to deplete trees for charcoal and firewood.

Farouk said soon they are going to conduct an operation that will lead to the arrest of the women and impound their boats since their act is illegal.

He instead advised whoever intends to cut trees from the park to acquire license from relevant authorities to avoid problems.

However, Ms Juliet Atimango, 45, a mother of seven said most of them have resorted to firewood and charcoal business across the river due to poverty.

"Most of us are widows with many children to take care of. Worst still, we are not well educated to get better paying jobs, a reason we are trying to defy the tradition that women cannot raise money to pay for their children’s school fees," she said.

Atimango maintained that arresting women for depleting forest is not a solution to the problem, arguing that government should instead devise alternative source of income generating activities for the suffering mothers.

Similarly, Ms Consulate Amia, another resident narrated that she has been subjected to the charcoal and firewood business due to the hardship she was subjected to when she lost her parents four years ago.

She testified that on many occasions, she survived drowning on the river because of storm.

"Two weeks ago, our canoes full of wood fuel were about to capsize in River Nile. Besides, game rangers at times chase us with some advising that we look for alternative means of earning money," Amin said.

Ms Jennifer Oweka, the Pakwach district environment officer condemned the practice of the women, saying that it is likely to cause dispute between the leaders of Nwoya under the administrative units of the park and those of Pakwach district where the women hail from.

She advised the women to stop lamenting of their plight but rather form groups so as to benefit from Uganda women empowerment program (UWEP) which is aimed at alleviating poverty and promoting self-reliance.