School-going children in north-eastern and north-western Uganda have embarked on a campaign to plant trees in a bid to conserve the environment.
Since the beginning of this year, the youngsters have already planted 300,000 trees out of 1,000,000 they target to plant by the end of 2018.
They believe if these trees are maintained well, they can promote environmental conservation programmes and mitigate climate change.
The tree species being planted include, among others, fruit and shed trees.
With support from National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), children often plant trees on the river banks, garden boundaries and in compounds.
About 450 primary and secondary schools in Uganda have been actively involved in the tree planting campaign under the theme “plant the tree and save the future”.
For instance, St Kizito Nursery and Primary School in Lira District has planted 400 trees, while Nyachara Primary School in West Nile planted 450 trees.
Plant more trees
The long lasting investment for the country is to plant more trees, according to Mr Johnson Amayo, the deputy managing director, technical services at NWSC.
“The Chinese say if you want to invest for the generation, invest in people, educate people, send children to school and let them be empowered but then the other long lasting investment is to plant trees,” he says.
Mr Amayo notes that the impact of climate change is more felt in northern Uganda, which has become the main supply of charcoal for the rest of the country.
“Now can you imagine most of the trees being cut down include shea tree which is really the most precious tree recognised internationally and these are not trees you can plant,” he adds.
He says NWSC is mainly using young people to plant trees because Uganda has the highest number of youth population in the whole world.
“The point is that you cannot move a programme of this nature without the youth,” he says.
The minister of Water and Environment, Mr Sam Cheptoris, recently noted that it is the responsibility of local governments to protect the environment.
He warned that if trees are depleted the entire country would suffer.
According to a study conducted in 2016, humans have destroyed a tenth of earth’s remaining wilderness in the last 25 years and there may be none left within a century if trends continue.
Researchers found a vast area, the size of two Alaskas – 3.3m square kilometres – had been tarnished by human activities between 1993 and today, which experts said was a “shockingly bad” and “profoundly large number”.
The director of environment in the ministry, Mr Paul Mafabi, says Uganda has lost one million hectares of forest cover over the last 10 years yet the government has planted less than 150,000 hectares, creating a deficit.
“There is a big deficit and it is evident when one takes any direction from Kampala, the land is bare and the effects of climate change are more felt due to the absence of tree cover,” Mr Mafabi said at a national policy dialogue to discuss proposed Uganda’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) and strategy/action plan in Kampala in October 2017.
The state minister for Local Government, Ms Jenipher Namuyangu, attributes the dwindling forest cover to poor governance and insufficient efforts to arrest the situation.
Nonetheless, the extinction of an indigenous and restricted asset, – shea tree – remains a major concern in eastern and northern regions where such precious tree species are found.
Dr Cecilia Oyet, a member of board of NWSC says they have been implementing a number of stakeholder outreach programmes aimed at raising awareness on water and sanitation and on environmental protection.
She says the government agencies are looking up to young people as ambassadors to help them in promoting the use of safe clean water and improved sanitation facilities in the communities and schools.
Loss. Uganda loses about 100,000 hectares of forest cover every year, a situation that is worsening the effect of climate change, according to the Ministry of Water and Environment.