The Community Tree Planting Initiative, a Ugandan ITF project, is continuing to develop well according to a recent annual report. The project is managed by our in-country partner Friends of Environment for Development and has been implemented in Lango Subregion
of Northern Uganda. This area has suffered widespread deforestation as a result of indiscriminate tree cutting for charcoal & firewood. This initiative aims to create jobs for the local population, increase household income of the beneficiaries and create environmental and tree planting awareness among the local communities and crucially restore tree cover.
The initial phase of this project has been implemented mainly in the three Parishes of Agali Subcounty of Lira District which includes Adyaka Parish, Alyet Parish and Okile Parish each with a total of 9 Villages thus bringing the total to 27 villages so far covered.
The project has established nurseries in which a range of tree species are grown which can be used by beneficiaries as a source of income (for example by selling fruits or other sustainable tree-based products). These are then distributed amongst project beneficiaries. However an important part of this initiative is to change local attitudes towards trees moving away from viewing trees as a short-term income source through charcoal and firewood production towards nurturing and using trees as a long-term source of income that have wider local benefits (e.g. improving rainfall catchment and soil quality).
This year the project has demonstrated that attitudes are indeed changing in the project catchment area. Beneficiaries are beginning to feel a new sense of financial security as they now have a dependable income from their trees they grow. This means that they can aquire loans from financial institutions using their trees as security for the loans. This allows they to further expand their planting activities.
The community has begun to see the consequence of climate change first-hand through events such as such as prolonged droughts, erratic rain partterns, floods etc that are a new phenomenon in this part of the world. As a result of the project they are
beginning to appreciate the importance of tree planting as the only sustainable way of mitigating these trends. Many people are therefore taking to tree planting as a precaution and climate change mitigation as well as investment.
Finally, the project has led to the formation of tree planting and bee keeping associations within the area. These include associations based around youth groups, women’s groups and groups living with HIV/AIDS. These associations are being formed for the purposes of working together and acessing support from NGOS, government etc. This has an additional benefit for the project as it is easier to monitor and work with small community groups.
Okelo John-Alikgweng is a beneficiary of the Community Tree Planting Initiative. He has been diagnosed as HIV positive and having limited earnings he feared for his life as he believed that he would be unable to pay for treatment. However, the introduction of the initiative has provided a lifeline for John.
Using the knowledge attained from the project, he has formed a group of 25 members with the aim of planting more trees. They are also planting moringa trees for beekeeping purposes. Already they have made 10 local hives and are planning for more.
John as an individual has also gone a step further to set up his own citrus nursery where he has around 2000 oranges. He has requested further training in budding/grafting and also to provide him with improved budding/grafting materials.
John says: “When I tested positive for HIV/AIDS, I thought I was going to die since I am a poor man. I wanted to sell my land so as to raise money for treatment but I asked myself, once I have sold all the land, what next shall I do? I must thank you because your project is not discriminating [against] anybody. Everybody is welcome and whoever comes for the training gets seedlings. Nine month ago I had nothing, now look at my trees and above all the knowledge you have given me. Now I know that if I graft these oranges I can get up to 4 million shillings!”.