The 46-year-old Mustafa Ima Gerima, the man who started his 520 kilometres journey on foot from Kampala to Arua two weeks ago in a campaign to save shear nut trees, is about to complete the maiden trip.
He started the journey two weeks ago with the aim to save shea nut trees that are now facing extinction in West Nile.
People have over the years destroyed shea nut trees to get firewood and burn charcoal.
This act, which is still ongoing, if unchecked, has grave consequences for the shea nut industry and will contribute to environmental degradation, which would eventually lead to soil erosion and decrease in soil fertility.
While speaking to Daily Monitor on Monday, Gerima, who could not hide his joy of arriving in West Nile after walking about 420 kilometres, said he was so happy to be in West Nile and that this to him is a great sign that he is nearing to accomplish his mission.
He said he carried out this campaign to prevent extinction of shea nut trees which have become engendered species as charcoal dealers are always rushing to cut them down.
“We cannot afford to see the shear nut trees go down by some few individuals for their selfish gain. As sons and daughters from the region need to do something about it,” Gerima said.
There are many vernacular names for the shea trees such as Yao in Alur, Awa in Madi and Kumara in Lugbara.
This shows how widely it is spread across the region.
As Gerima reached Pakwach last week on Friday, the LC5 chairman for the district, Mr Steen Omito, accompanied him for about a kilometre to Pakwach Bridge.
Here, he was welcomed by boda-boda riders and women. They offered him drinks and other food items.
He then held a talk-show at Pakwach FM where he advanced the reasons his walk.
“I was motivated to go on with the walk to pass a massage to Ugandans to know that shea nut tree is a unique species in Africa besides its production of shea oil. Shea nut tree has the ability to survive severe drought,” Gerima said.
He said it was in May 2019, when he travelled from Kampala to West Nile to attend to his daughter’s marriage when he saw unusual appearance of increasing number of charcoal sacks on the roadside with Nebbi, Madi-Okollo and Uleppi having the highest number of charcoal bags. Gerima is a teacher by training and he is passionate about environment.
He is an environmental activist and he believes that there is need for the local leaders in the region to get involved in the fight against cutting down shea nut trees.
“I was faced with number of challenges that included financial constraints, poor weather pattern and fear of wild animals along the park during my walk, with the lord by my side. But I was never deterred from my mission of saving shea nut trees,” he added.
In January, Uganda Export Promotions Board (UEPB) set a target of supporting and enabling shea nut producers to have at least 200,000 to 500,000 tonnes of shea nut produced by 2022.
Uganda exports shea products to Kenya, Rwanda, Middle East, France, India, Canada and Japan.
Shea nuts also contain calcium, glucose, fructose and sucrose.
Shea butter serves as a moisturizer and is naturally rich in vitamin A, E and F in addition to some other vitamins.
It is thus able to sooth, balance and hydrates the skin.
Fifty-four-year-old Gloria Adania from Anyiribu in Madi said Gerima’s initiative would yield fruits when the local leaders take his message seriously.
“The long term effect could be if people can raise seedlings which are then distributed or bought by households to plant in their homesteads, it would be a great deal.
His initiative is good if we all think positively on preserving the God-given gift of shea nuts to us,” he said.
The Nebbi Municipal environment officer, Mr Emilio Odongo, said: “Although the campaign that Mustafa has started to stop the cutting down of shea nut trees in the region will not be felt instantly, I believe in the long run as a region we shall have a great impact since a message has already been passed.”
Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) recommends that while higher-quality butter may fetch a higher market price.
It is also preferred for home consumption and will stay longer in storage than a poor-quality product.
While in Nebbi, Gerima and the district leaders planted 20 shea nut seedlings.
He visited the mayor, Mr Geoffrey Ngiriker and held a talk-show on Rainbow FM.
Here, the trees especially around Madi Okollo in Arua, Aliba Sub-county in Moyo, Nyaravur in Nebbi have been subjected to severe bushfires.
Given its medicinal, cosmetic and nutritional values, it is on high demand internationally.
A shea tree, when it passes the germination stage in about three to five years, becomes fire resistant.
After five years, it then grows slowly and takes about 30 years to reach maturity and from here, it can stay for up to 300 years.
It usually grows to an average height of 15 metres and girths of about 175 metres with profuse branches and a thick waxy and deeply fissured bark that makes it fire resistant.
In the absence of any hazards, including tree felling, it can bear fruit for 200 years.