The Native Seeds Project is the collaborative effort of Wild Forests and Fauna and the Wise Women organization, Mon Ma Ryek of Gulu, Uganda. The focus of the project is the holistic restoration of the Acholi people, an ethnic group emerging from decades of conflict in a region that has the highest poverty rates in Uganda. WFF is actively expanding the positive influence of the Wise Women, who have already empowered over 150 female traditional healers through the initiation of literacy programs and community outreach.
Rehabilitation of the Acholi Culture Linked to the Rehabilitation of the Forest
Traditional medicine is still widely practiced in communities, and Acholi women play a predominant role in maintaining the customary use of forest resources. However, their wealth of knowledge and cultural heritage is threatened by these realities:
- ECOLOGICAL — Deforestation has impacted the ability for communities to rely on the forest for their health and livelihoods. The disappearance of native species means that treatments can no longer be found for ailments as tooth decay and eye problems
- CULTURAL — Decades of civil war displaced an entire generation of the Acholi population throughout northern Uganda. As a result, knowledge transfer to youth about traditional agriculture, economic botany, and land stewardship were abruptly interrupted
- ECONOMIC — Local and regional demand for fuelwood has led to large-scale deforestation and the production of monoculture plantations (pine, eucalyptus and teak) to meet basic economic needs. The introduction of exotic species has decimated the native ecosystem by severely altering hydrology and increasing soil erosion
Traditional Medicine as a Catalyst For Forest Conservation
In February 2015, the Native Seeds Project held a meaningful 5-day herbalist workshop in Gulu. Attendees were introduced to the significance of medicinal plants and were taught traditional practices by esteemed visitors and local healers. The second half of the workshop was dedicated to producing strategies to restore a landscape where the Acholi can maintain their cultural identity, live in resilient communities and support their families. WFF is actively managing the implementation of the following initiatives:
- ECOLOGICAL — Construction of a native species tree nursery at Ocer Campion Jesuit College, a nearby school campus, to foster plants for the surrounding community. A native species list has been compiled for propagation and seed sources are being pursued. Student environmental clubs have pledged a commitment to ongoing maintenance support
- CULTURAL — Procurement of a 10-acre plot of land to house a cultural center and native plant nursery. The center will double as a shop front, a healing space for retreats, and botanical garden
- ECONOMIC — Development of a business plan for non-timber forest products, such as tinctures, syrups, salves. WFF also created the framework for, and funded, a microloan program which will be administered by the Wise Women organization provide opportunities for income generation, a savings pool, and a buffer for financial distress
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If you’d like to take part in our work in Uganda, the following donations are being accepted:
- TIME — Join the next herbalist workshop or volunteer in the inventory/mapping of native species in Gulu
- KNOWLEDGE — If you or your organization is interested in partnering with the Native Seeds Project, we welcome additional collaborators
- FUNDING —our monetary gift will quicken our steps to restore the livelihoods of the Acholi and the forest frontier of Gulu