By Markson Omagor
Listening to the new State Minister for Environment, Betty Anywar speak of her strategy to restore forest cover in Uganda, I concluded that the common man can only be the driver of afforestation.
Anywar also known as Mama Mabira talked of how Local Government institutions such as Local Council 3’s should ensure that other institutions like schools should plant trees.
Recently, State Minister for Water, Ronald Kiibule revealed that the Ministry was due to present a paper in Cabinet where a national tree planting day should be established. According to him, on this day, every Ugandan MUST plant a tree raising about 43 million trees.
All these are good suggestions; however, the restoration of our environment can ONLY be achieved with the unsolicited cooperation of the local Ugandan.
If all Ugandans who are constructing houses made it a habit to leave space for at least ten trees in the compound, then all urban areas would be adequately forested.
Such trees do not only provide shades, they also provide clean breathing air, play grounds for children, beautification of the homes, firewood for cooking when tree branches are harvested and finally timber.
The Local Council 3 Chairpersons should pass bye-laws where every government institution including the Sub County Headquarters in their localities must plant trees at least in a third of the available land. Such institutions are Primary Schools, Secondary Schools, and Technical institutions, Health Centers, Landing Sites, Town Councils and even Trading Centers.
Sub County Land when planted will provide Leisure Parks, firewood that can be used in their prisons, timber for income and future constructions.
Schools should have tree planting as a practical subject where every pupil must plant and nurture a tree. More over schools can plant fruit trees such as avocado, jambula, mangos and guava. These trees will not only bring in the cool breeze with clean oxygen but fruits that are necessary for the healthy growth of the children.
Schools are always in furniture shortage and yet trees planted at the school land can solve this problem eternally. They can also have the required timber for future constructions of staff houses and class rooms.
Trees also provide a very convenient reading atmosphere.
When Primary schools introduce tree planting as a practical subject, they can impress upon pupils how trees are an investment that can pay their fees in secondary. For instance if a Primary One pupil planted ten trees, by the time he/she reaches S.4, these trees will be ready for harvest in form of timber. Income from the timber sold can surely pay for this student’s A ‘Level fees. With every pupil planting ten trees, in one year only an average of 25 Million trees will have been planted considering that P.1 enrolment is estimated at 2,159,050 as at 2004.
Let the crusade against environmental degradation be as swift and vigorous as was the fight against HIV/AIDS, smuggling and most recently the fight against illegal fishing.
Government must put aside a fund to avail tree seedlings, to carry out vigorous sensitization of our people and establish an Authority to oversee the restoration of our forest cover, protect the wetlands especially against the powerful persons in government who are constructing in wetlands with the protection of soldiers.
The time to take these steps is NOW; in fact it should have been in 1986, however, the NRM Ten Point Program missed out on this one and quiet unfortunately.