CLEARING land for human settlement and agricultural production in most parts of Uganda may be a setback to afforestation but the National Forestry Authority (NFA) is determined to plant 31 million trees by 2013.
Moses Watasa, the NFA spokesperson, said the authority has devised a new strategy involving cultural and religious leaders in the three-year tree planting campaign to restore vegetation cover on deforested lands and areas prone to natural disasters like landslides, drought and floods.
Speaking at a consultative meeting with the Bamasaaba cultural leader, Umukukha Wilson Wamimbi, in Bunghoko South county, Watasa said channeling the initiative through the leaders strengthens the sense of community ownership to the tree-planting drive.
â€œItâ€™s easier to mobilise communities through religious and cultural leaders as they have much influence on the people.
In Teso, we are going to work with Emorimor, Tieng Adhola in Tororo, the Kabaka of Buganda in central region, the Kyabazinga in Busoga and several other cultural leaders. Our target is to plant six million trees this year,â€ Watasa said.
He said NFA would set aside three tree-planting Fridays. NFA has established 52 nurseries for tree seedlings countrywide.
Watasa noted that before allocating the seedlings, an assessment study would be carried out to find out suitable areas for planting and the needs of the community.
â€œDifferent indigenous species will be distributed to compounds, bare hills, water shades and deforested areas. We are neither distributing eucalyptus nor pine seedlings. All our seedlings are indigenous species because they are more adaptable to the natural climate,â€ he said.
Watasa added that in urban areas, tree seedlings would be planted in hospital compounds, along roads, in schools and leisure parks. He added that the campaign, which had already covered districts in south-western Uganda, would roll out to the north.
Watasa noted that the move would help mitigate natural disasters and minimise the increasing shortage of firewood among the rural communities.
He added that several corporate firms and institutions like MTN, the British council and World Vision had offered to purchase tree seedlings for the campaign.
Wamimbi stressed that due to the high population density, the Bamasaba must plant trees along the land boundaries and in compounds.
Wamimbi, who also chairs the Mt. Elgon Tree Farmerâ€™s Association, disclosed that he had planted over 40,000 different species of trees on his land.
NFA vows to plant 31 million trees