Recently, Daily Monitor published a story titled, ‘Uganda losing Medicinal Plants-Nema.’ The story quoted one of the Nema officials attributing the loss to rampant deforestation and asked Ugandans to leave the protected areas intact and use the plants and forests on private land sustainably.
According to the Ministry of Water and Environment, 2016 report on the state of Uganda’s forestry, the country’s forests are faced with continuously worsening trends through encroachment, deforestation and forest degradation through conversion of forest land to other land uses. And the country has been losing an average of 122,000 hectares of forests per year from 1990-2015.
This extent of extinction of flora and fauna, depletion of resources and loss of biodiversity has great bearing on future generation. We shall see a generation where for instance medicinal plants and indigenous plant and animal varieties sound like old history in the ears of young generation. This is because the young people have to live for an extended period with deteriorating environment bestowed by the earlier generations.
The future generation, therefore, depends on the extent to which such concerns of environmental degradation are addressed today; a reason I believe young people should play an active role in protecting the environment and walking the talk of sustainability.
Protection of environment and natural resources should start from home with parents teaching children on how they can use the resources sustainably and the need to reduce wastage to enable them become more responsible and have love for the environment. Schools and universities should play an important role towards environmental sustainability and should emphasise environmental education.
As the population continues to grow, the demand for energy, more land and social and economic development has increased. This has led to the misuse of natural resources, causing great damage to the environment. To this, the youth should think of sustainability by coming up with alternative ways of how human beings can develop economically and socially without putting too much pressure on the environment to compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
During my time in primary school in early 2000, we were encouraged to plant trees in our homes, there was a small nursery bed for each class at school. We cared for the nursery beds and trees at home jealously. There was a lot of attachment with our trees and thus the environment.
I think this is a good practice that I encourage schools to emulate, because climate change is real and so we need to prepare for it.
The youth should also engage in recycling plastics to reduce on 600 tonnes of plastics which are disposed of in Kampala on a daily basis, according to Nema. Others should engage in making charcoal briquettes from locally available materials like food wastes - peelings to reduce the burden of using firewood. To this, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) has been training the youth from local communities on how to make briquettes from locally available materials. NAPE has trained youth, especially urban ones, on recycling waste paper that is every where in offices into paper briquettes for cooking.
Therefore, youth should come up with many more initiatives and the government should support their efforts.
Youth at all levels should be organised and prepared to take part in maintaining a healthy environment for they are ones to inherit it.
Ms Atukwatse is a project officer in charge of youth affairs at National Association of Professional Environmentalists (nape)