During 22 years of civil war, northern Uganda was stripped of trees. People who had been forced off their farms and herded into camps during the conflict had no choice but to cut down trees for firewood. They also removed the bushes and vegetation where soldiers from Joseph Kony’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army would hide before they attacked and kidnapped people.
The environmental disaster that followed was hardly surprising. Whenever it rained, the top soil was flushed away in floods. During the dry season, what soil remained turned to dust and blew away.
Now, Network for Africa is training local people to plant trees and to care for them. Our Ugandan partner teaches how to space trees, where to plant them, how to transplant them, how to guard against disease, and how often to water seeds and saplings. The project also trains people to keep records of their planting activity, so they can learn what is best suited to their patch.
Thirty-two-year old Helen wasn’t aware women were even allowed to plant trees. Tradition dictated that it was men’s work. However, as a single mother of four children, she needed a source of income beyond subsistence farming. Helen attended the course, and soon put her knowledge to work.
Already, she has noticed that her young fruit trees are preventing soil erosion around the fields she farms, blocking the wind from damaging her crops. She is also earning money from selling saplings from her small nursery. She uses some of the branches to make furniture and for firewood, saving her money every day.
But for Helen the trees also represent an investment and a form of collateral. The bank has given her a loan because of her trees, and instead of farming crops on one acre she can now afford to plant three to five acres each season. She has used the extra income from her successful crops to send her children to a good private school, and to buy them mattresses, so they no longer sleep on the ground. The Vitamin C from the papayas and mangoes she grows are good for her children’s health, and her increased earnings mean she can afford to include more protein in their diet.
Helen educates the people in her community by example, and with her infectious enthusiasm. As we mark the International Day of Forests, we salute her for the practical difference she is making to her homeland, field by field, tree by tree.
Helen joins us in thanking you for providing the training she attended, and hopes you will continue to help Network for Africa in its work. To donate, please click the DONATE button at the top right of the screen.