For forests, it has been proven, can soak up excess rainwater, preventing run-offs and damage from flooding
By Rhona Arinaitwe
In 2010, over 300 lives were lost in Bududa district, in the Mt Elgon region of Eastern Uganda following some of the most devastating floods the country has ever experienced.
Unfortunately, these ugly memories have refused to go away, with more lives lost to the now perennial floods annually in the same region, including in recent weeks.
We commiserate with the families that have lost their loved ones and commend the Government, the Red Cross, corporate and nonprofit organisations plus the many individuals that continue to help the Mt Elgon community in these trying times, in the best way they can.
Examining and implementing lasting solutions to the damaging floods must also continue, as this is the only way our brothers and sisters in the flood prone areas countrywide will enjoy dignified, productive lives, like everyone else.
Writing in the New Vision, in 2010, the then Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) executive director, the late Moses Mapesa, noted how the government had successfully dissuaded agricultural encroachment on the Mt Elgon ecosystem in the late 1980s which then led to a significant tree-planting campaign by 1994, both inside Mt. Elgon National Park and the surrounding communities.
For forests, it has been proven, can soak up excess rainwater, preventing run-offs and damage from flooding. And also because the retained water is later released in the dry season as clean water for domestic and commercial use while also mitigating the effects of droughts, forests’ importance cannot be overstated.
Regrettably, Mapesa noted, land conflicts shortly after, saw the tree-planting drive derailed and re-encroachment resumed, due to growing population numbers.
As if this was not bad enough, the deforestation trend spread countrywide, with the National Forestry Authority (NFA), recently noting that it had become one of the most critical environmental crises facing Uganda.
The country’s forest cover, NFA says, has tremendously declined from 24% (4,933,271 hectares) of land area in the 1990s to less than the current 9% (1,956,664 hectares) as of 2018.
While the NFA is the government institution mandated to manage national forest reserves on a sustainable basis (including reforestation), the numbers above indicate that it needs everyone’s support to pull it off.
This support can include an unrelenting, countrywide tree planting campaign or outright prevention of any further tree-cutting going forward at a personal or community level.
Historically, Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) has always respected and conserved resources, detesting wastefulness in any form. In so doing, we have continued to aim for continuous improvement in environmental performance.
This environment agenda has also seen a staff-driven programme called UBL E-Green Team introduced, focused on environmental conservation through tree planting.
Just last month, on May 10, 2019, UBL, together with Rotary Uganda planted over 3,000 indigenous trees on 40 hectares of land in Gangu Central Forest Reserve, Butambala district, to restore lost tree cover.
This was the second phase of the partnership with Rotary Uganda to jointly restore 200 hectares of forest reserves within the Lake Victoria water catchment areas. The project worth sh245m will see us continuously plant trees in different forest reserves with Nawandigi Central Forest Reserve in Mpigi district, up next. In phase one of the project, last year, 60 hectares of trees were planted, also at Gangu.
This was in addition to the 109 hectares that were reforested in Navugulu central reserve in partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2015.
With the water we use for our production processes coming from Lake Victoria, we need to look after the lake’s catchment areas as a way of protecting the lake.
The benefits are not only enjoyed by us at UBL, but the entire country at large, no matter the socio-economic activity one is engaged in.
UBL has committed to working with Rotary Uganda and the NFA to plant more trees and ensure they are well maintained and protected against any illegal activities. Our prayer is that we all (individual, institution or community) deliberately plant trees; but this time, ensure the trees are protected for posterity.
The writer is the corporate relations manager, Uganda Breweries Limited