A Letter From Eastern Uganda
“This is a project designed to provide environmental solutions to the national region, which forms Uganda’s drylands.
It has suffered from the indiscriminate and persistent cutting of trees for many years, arising from ever-increasing demand for wood fuel, timber and survival pressures. While deforestation continues unabated, there are no planned interventions to restore the ecosystem. Droughts, floods, windstorms, and hailstones have become common occurrences in the region, destroying people’s livelihoods and plunging them deeper into poverty. Life being better with trees, and our neighbourhoods feeling better to live in and work in when they are green, our farmland and countryside can produce high-quality food and support life better when trees play a part in the landscape.
Planting trees, therefore, helps to improve the resilience of our land and to mitigate current environmental threats such as global warming, droughts, floods, storms and other natural calamities resulting from climate change. Trees also help to reduce ozone levels; sequester carbon, helping to remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the air, which cools the earth, while releasing oxygen to sustain life on earth!
The project implementation strategy will start with a pilot project which will be implemented at the household, school and community levels. At the household level, every child will be facilitated to plant and grow a tree, at the school level every class will be facilitated to plant and grow trees in the school compound, and at the community level, every leader (religious, community and elders) will be facilitated to plant trees in the marginal and borderlands. While Women’s Enterprise will directly manage the implementation of this project, it is important to note from the onset that direct benefits of The Project will be communal.
Trees planted at the household level will be owned by the respective households, the trees in the school compound will be owned by respective school communities (teachers and children), while trees planted at the marginal lands and borderlands will be communally owned. Our plan is that successes of the pilot phase will be scaled up to cover the whole region, and later be replicated in the country and in the region.
The overall goal of this project is contributing towards the restoration of tree cover in the region. This project will provide multiple benefits to the community, including contributing to increased tree cover which is paramount in reducing the greenhouse gas effect. The project will plant a variety of trees, each providing specific benefits. Growing White Teak /Yemane (Gmelina Arborea) in the cattle corridor will greatly lessen overgrazing by providing dry-season fall of the edible leaf, flower, pod, and lopping part of the green canopy as animal feed during both wet and dry seasons. The white teak will also provide quality timber while providing benefits to beekeepers thus improving their socio-economic conditions. Planting Citrus and Mango trees have both environmental and economic benefits in a region where feasibility studies have shown to be very conducive for citrus and mango farming.
Economic benefits will accrue from the sales of fruits, provision of nectar to bees and subsequently income from honey and its products. Planting Shea tree (Vitellaria Paradoxa) and Tamarindus Indica (Fabaceae) will provide income through the sale of Shea butter and food respectively. It will also lead to the preservation of these tree species which are rapidly becoming extinct in the region. Planting Banyana trees will increase the tree cover in the region hence facilitating absorption of greenhouse gases. This will, in turn, improve the microclimate and increase the biodiversity which, in a long run will lead to the reduced occurrence of floods and droughts in the region. Lastly planting clone eucalyptus tree will help in alleviating the current pressure of firewood exerted on the available trees in the region since they are fast growing and high yielding trees.
The overall goal of our project is to improve the quality of life of rural communities by contributing to environmental conservation and preservation. This project is designed to achieve the following specific objectives:
1. Facilitate 10 volunteers to attend training of trainers (TOTs) course in agroforestry, environmental protection and preservation, and sustainable farming practices
2. Facilitate trained trainers (10 TOTs) to sensitize 10,000 elders, community leaders, religious leaders and members of small-scale farmers’ groups to promoting sustainable farming practices by the end of 2017
3. Establishing one community nursery as a source of tree seedlings by the end of 2017
4. Plant 20,000 seedlings Gmelina Arborea tree by the end of 2017
5. Plant 20,000 seedlings of Citrus and Mango trees by the end of 2017
6. Plant 20,000 fast growing and high yielding eucalyptus trees by the end of 2017
7. Plant 10,000 seedlings of Shea tree (Vitellaria Paradoxa) and Tamarindus Indica (Fabaceae) trees
8. Plant 10,000 seedling of Banyana tree by the end of 2017.
The region is characterized by practices that lead to land degradation including overgrazing, deforestation, inappropriate farming systems, and degraded land whose productivity continues to decline. Occurrences of droughts, floods, windstorms, and hailstones are not uncommon in Teso region, destroying people’s livelihoods and plunging them deeper in poverty in addition to causing loss of lives and property.
All people subsist in agriculture and heavily rely on nature for survival. Unfortunately, while relying on nature for survival, they have contributed a lot to the destruction of nature.
Indiscriminate cutting of trees for firewood and charcoal, such practices as slash and burn while it is not a preserve of small-scale farmers, characterize the community. The above-mentioned practices continue to impact negatively on the land and are not about to end soon. Increasing demand for charcoal and other tree related products derived from the drylands, for example, is leading to increasing decline in the tree cover in the region. Land in the region is getting seriously degraded, with problems of vegetation loss and soil compaction leading to erosion. Gully erosion is especially visible in many areas. The resulting effects of overgrazing include soil compaction, erosion and emergence of low-value grass species and vegetation with subsequent declines in carrying capacity of the land and therefore low productivity. More than 90% of the total population living in rural areas directly depends on firewood for their energy needs, and a big fraction of the urban dwellers depend on charcoal. Generally, almost all people in Teso depend on wood fuel as a source of energy.
Bush burning during the dry season is also increasing the extent of wind erosion.
Our Enterprise is a community-based organization which is run by a network of dedicated volunteers who are selected by community leaders on a regular basis. To maintain their morale, they continually build their capacity as and when opportunities arise to enable them to serve their respective communities. The organization also endeavours to make them role models in their respective communities. With support, they could train 5 trainers and facilitated them to train 187 small-scale Citrus and Mango farmers and modelled 2 jobless youths to become role models in Citrus and Mango farming. The organisation was also able to distribute citrus and mango seedling to the trainers to enable them to start model farms for demonstration purposes. In addition, 10,000 trees have been planted as a demonstration forest.
Planting trees helps to improve community resilience and to mitigate environmental threats. Increased tree cover, improved soil fertility and reduced environmental calamities are among the general benefits to the communities. However, there will be benefits specific to individual households and schools. At the household level, any household which agrees to plant a tree on its courtyard owns the tree and all direct benefits associated with that tree. At the school level, trees planted at the school compound will be owned by the school community (pupils/students and teachers). At the community level, trees which will be planted at the borderlands and marginal lands will be owned communally and their benefits accrue to the respective community.
While the drivers of deforestation include increasing demand for firewood, charcoal, timber and survival pressure, lack of knowledge/ignorance is at its epicentre. Increasing knowledge and awareness of environmental concerns is very critical. Thus, interventions should provide holistic strategies that address both the drivers and knowledge gap.
Sustainability is at the heart of this project. Just like the ripple effect of training, knowledge and skills acquired in tree planting, agroforestry, environmental preservation and conservation by the benefiting communities will remain as an asset for the communities even after the end of the project. Expectations are that the communities will continue using acquired knowledge and skills to perpetuate project benefits to generations to come.”