Saving the World One Tree at a time

By on July 19, 2021

During my days at Bat Valley Primary School, in the 90s, there was a sense of urgency with which teachers made us embrace our love for the earth. We had teachers who took us through the paces, making us appreciate all the goodness of nature and making us pay attention to all the beautiful things that surrounded us. The lesson they constantly taught us was – the world is a beautiful place, do your part in making it more beautiful. And as a result, many of us joined the Environment Club or the Science Club, or the Nature Club just so we could contribute to making the world a beautiful place.

Some of us forced our parents to grow plants and flowers at home, plant a few trees here and there, and basically be kinder to nature. Many others forgot the lessons almost as soon as they walked out of the school gate and just carried on with their lives.

As a young boy fascinated by nature, I fell in love with the bits and pieces of Science and SST that had to do with the world. One particular area of interest that possessed me was the area of trees. Having learned that trees were important in so many ways for instance improving soil and water conservation, storing carbon, moderating local climate by cooling homes, streets and cities, regulating temperature extremes, increasing wildlife habitats, improving the land’s capacity to adapt to climate change, buffering noise pollution, acting as a source of medicine and food and saving on energy costs, among other reasons, it came naturally that I wanted to do more.

As you grow older, the innocence and exuberance of childhood start to wear off with the world pulling you in all kinds of directions. Nonetheless, the value of paying attention to nature is something one must never abandon.

My love for nature is still very much alive

One would assume that knowing all the numerous benefits of nature in general and trees in particular, human beings would treat nature with more respect and less callousness. However, the situation is quite the contrary. Over the decades, people have cut down trees and violated nature with so much recklessness it is beginning to become a problem. Obviously, to get things like timber and medicine, trees have to be cut down. However, the uncontrolled and unchecked manner in which trees are cut down is something that is bound to cause a lot of damage to the world and to human existence.  

In Uganda for example, we lose 96,000 Hectares of trees annually. To put that into perspective, we lose a huge chunk of trees, the same size as 144,000 football fields, 5 times the size of Greater Kampala, more than half the size of Mukono District, and more than half the size of Mbarara District. The knowledge of this alone should send anyone into some form of fit because this can not possibly be sustainable. If this rate of tree loss continues, it is likely Uganda will turn into a far-from-beautiful country. 

Over the years, efforts have been made to try and reverse this trend of events. Several initiatives both by the government and the private sector have been put in place to try and alter this trend. Sadly, not much has changed and the projections have been that the situation is just getting worse.

Due to this trend of events, a concerted effort has been drummed into a nationwide campaign to attempt to right this wrong. The Ministry of Water and Environment, together with a good number of private companies launched a national reforestation campaign dubbed Running Out of Trees (Roots) on March 21st, 2021. The purpose of this campaign is to let the public know about the dangers of living in a world where all we do is cut down trees with no replacements. The campaign is also set to increase the participation of the public in the conservation and protection of indigenous tree species. A good number of tree species that are indigenous are being cut down with no regard for how rare they are or for how long it took for them to get to whatever stage they were at before being cut down. 

The Roots 2021 campaign is essentially supported and promoted by a good number of private sector companies including the Ugandan subsidiary of American Tower Corporation (ATC), Stanbic Bank of Uganda, MTN Uganda Foundation as well as Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL). There are other institutions like Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) that have also thrown their weight behind the campaign. The idea is to have as many Ugandans recognize the importance of tree planting. The collaboration between the Government and the private sector is simply because while the Government is the custodian of tree planting, there is no way it can accomplish any goals unless the private sector and Ugandans at large are part of the process.

The Campaign is running in such a way that every Ugandan is able to contribute at least UGX 1,500 which is collected via the ROOTS App that can be downloaded from the Google play store. Once someone downloads this app, they are able to send in their contribution and join the campaign. This money is intended to cover the cost of the seedling, the process of planting, as well as the management of the tree. The plan is to make sure that the tree is managed until a time when it is able to thrive on its own. 

The Roots Campaign is currently in the second year of a five-year project that is aimed at bringing the private sector in close proximity with the Government in this drive to restore forest cover across the country. Uganda is part of the Bonn Challenge that targets the restoration of 2.5 million hectares of previously degraded landscapes by the year 2030. This is equally in tandem with the UN’s Vision 2040 whose target is the restoration of 24% of land area to forest cover. 

Whether you are able to download the app and send in your contribution of UGX 1,500 (or more) or you are able to physically plant a tree or two, it is important for everyone to be a part of this campaign to restore forest cover. I did have a great childhood growing up and loving nature because those before me had done their part in making sure nature thrives. My role now is to make sure that the younger folks coming after me are also able to fall in love with nature and carry on the legacy without worrying that somewhere in the middle, my generation turned out to be the weak link.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”― Chinese proverb

Bernard Ewalu Olupot
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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