UGANDA: LEGISLATOR EMBARKS ON TREE PLANTING TO SAVE NATURAL FORESTS AND MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE

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Mr. Pope Onen (L) demonstrates how to plant pine trees

“I advised him to go to a training institution other than opting for university education simply because I cannot afford to pay him at university, unless a miracle happens. I have six other children to pay and I cannot spend all my income on one child”

“Our neighbor, South Sudan, is now a semi desert and we shall face the same conditions here in northern Uganda if we don’t control tree cutting and replace cut ones by planting more trees. Without trees, crops cannot thrive well and there will be no rainfall”

“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”

GULU-UGANDA: Mr. Patrick Okeny, a forty-year old teacher at Bwobo Tocci Primary School in Ongako sub-county in Omoro district in northern Uganda, sees no hope of sending his twenty-year old son, Okello Ivan, to university because he can’t simply afford to.

Ivan, who is offering Arts subjects at St. Mary’s College, Lacor in Amuru district, is sitting his ‘A’ level exams this year. He also has six other siblings who are below him in school.

“I advised him to go to a training institution other than opting for university education simply because I cannot afford to pay him at university, unless a miracle happens. I have six other children to pay and I cannot spend all my income on one child” says Patrick.

Mr. Patrick, who has only one-acre piece of land at Kati-Kati Central village, Lacor in Amuru district, plans to plant two hundred orange and pine seedlings on his land as a measure to mitigate poverty and be able to send some of his younger children to university when these trees mature.

Mr. Okeny is one of the over three hundred people of Kilak South parliamentary constituency who turned up on Monday, May 7, 2018 at Lacor Primary School to register for free seedlings, purchased and being distributed by the area Member of Parliament, Mr. Gilbert Olanya.

“The soil I have is very good for oranges and pine trees. I will plant some of the seedlings I will get from my Member of Parliament in my mother’s one-and-half acre piece of land in the same village since I don’t have enough land. I hope to get enough money to pay fees for my children up to university from the sale of my orange fruits when they mature” says Patrick.

On this particular day, Mr. Olanya launched afforestation campaign in his constituency under the theme:“Yen Aye Lonyo: Ka Itongo Acel, Myero Ipit Abic Mukene”, meaning ‘Trees is Prosperity: If You Cut One, Plant Five Others’, during which he intends to supply 10,000 seedlings per year to the community of Kilak South for the next ten years.

The beneficiaries are supposed to procure additional 10,000 or more seedlings yearly, to add onto the few that they will have got from the legislator.

He says he is responding to the real threat of desertification as a result of the indiscriminate cutting down of trees for charcoal burring, and timber lumbering currently going on in the region, whose action has triggered adverse effect on climate and rainfall reliability.

“Our neighbor, South Sudan, is now a semi desert and we shall face the same conditions here in northern Uganda if we don’t control tree cutting and replace cut ones by planting more trees. Without trees, crops cannot thrive well and there will be no rainfall”, says the legislator.

Deserts are typically defined by low average annual rainfall-usually 100 millimeters (less than four inches) of rain per year.

According to a study conducted by researcher from the University of Maryland, the Sahara desert has expanded by about ten percent (10%) since 1920.

The report, which was published online on March 29, 2018 in the Journal of Climate, says the expansion is caused by human caused climate change and natural climate cycles such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).

The State owned New Vision newspaper reported on October 17, 2017, that Uganda’s forest cover reduces by 100,000 hectares annually.

Forest cover stands at 3.6 million hectares, representing 15% (percent) of the total land area.

The director of environment in the ministry of Water & Environment, Mr. Paul Mafabi, says Uganda has lost over one million hectares of forest cover over the last ten years, yet the government has planted less than 150,000 hectares.

“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”, says Mr. Mafabi.

According to IRIN, Gulu initially had 371 square kilometers of forest cover, but environmentalists estimate the cover to be only 200 square kilometers. This reduction is caused by charcoal burning, human settlement as well as quest to open up land for cultivation.

95% (percent) of Ugandans depend on charcoal and wood fuel. This, plus rapid population growth and urbanization, has increased the demand for energy for fuel.

The chairperson of the Uganda Forestry Working Group-Northern chapter, Mr. Pope Onen, says it is not bad per se to cut down natural forest for fuel, but the problem is that they don’t cut it correctly; which does not allow it to grow again.

“They don’t cut it correctly. You have to leave a one-foot stump, cut it at an angle in order to allow it to sprout again. The charcoal traders are doing it wrongly. It is not sustainable at all”, says Mr. Pope.

Mr. Olanya appeals to the people in his constituency to drive away poverty through massive tree planting.

“By planting trees, you will drive away poverty, be able to build iron-sheet houses instead of grass thatched houses and pay your children in university”, says the legislator.

 

 

 

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