The five-year campaign, under the theme, ‘Restoring Hope for future generations’, aims at enabling the two institutions to work together to promote the planting of mainly fruit trees in the 14 districts that host large numbers of refugee
The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has partnered with Rotary International to plant trees in 12 refugee settlements across the country as one of the strategies to restore the environment which has been severely degraded by increased human activity.
The campaign follows concerns from communities hosting refugees especially in Northern and Western Uganda where the environment is being degraded at a faster rate due to continuous influx of refugees especially from South Sudan and DR Congo.
The refugees, according to David Apollo Kazungu, Commissioner for Refugees in the OPM, have had a serious impact on the environment; with most areas that were covered with green turned into bare fields as a result of human activity.
Kazungu was Friday speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between OPM and Rotary International District Governor 9211 Tanzania and Uganda, Kenneth Mugisha at the refugee department along Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road.
The five-year campaign, under the theme, ‘Restoring Hope for future generations', aims at enabling the two institutions to work together to promote the planting of mainly fruit trees in the 14 districts that host large numbers of refugees.
Bidi Bidi Refugees settlement, in Northwestern Uganda, which hosts over 270,000 South Sudanese refugees and one of the largest refugee settlements in the world, used to be green but with the coming of refugees, according to Kazungu, it is almost bare.
The refugees have cut down all the trees to burn charcoal to earn a living or for building shelter for settlement.
"The refugees compete for firewood and building materials with the local populations and this has resulted in depleting the natural resources, which are hard to replace," he said.
According to Kazungu, Uganda currently hosts over 1.4m refugees with at least 1m coming from South Sudan. He said that recently, the country has witnessed increased arrivals of refugees from DR Congo, with at least 50 people crossing the border every day.
He appealed to International Community and Rotary international in particular to form up an international campaign to address issues that lead to conflicts and cause displacements of people who turn into refugees, fleeing for their dear life.
"Leaders and authors of these displacements should come on a round table and sort out these issues, which will stop these mass movements," he said.
He said Uganda's model on handling refugees had taken root, with the recent adoption of the policy by the Tanzanian government, which recently sent a team, to benchmark Uganda's success story.
Mugisha said that after the signing of the MOU, they are supposed to send teams to east of the settlements to identify urgent areas of focus.
He said that in addition to planting trees, Rotary International would supply water in the settlements, empower refugees economically through creating SACCOS among refugee communities as well as basic education and literacy in schools.
"We intend to distribute education materials like books to refugee children and adults to educate the illiterates and occupy their minds," he said.
According to Mugisha, they would prefer to plant fruit trees that give additional nutrition to refugees.
Rebecca Mukasa Mutaawe, country chairperson Rotary Uganda, Sarah Basemera, Urban Refugee Programs Officer, Francis Iwa, care taker and Innocent Ndahiki legal matters at OPM witnessed the signing of MOU.