As September rolls around and we begin to witness the subtle changes of the seasons in the US, so too are we in the Native Seeds Project preparing for changes and growth here in Uganda. If you were following the COP21 meetings in Paris last November, you might recall the acronym AFR100. It may only comprise 6 characters on paper, but its potential weight in the world of ecological restoration in Africa is tremendous. AFR100, the African Restoration Initiative, is the effort and written agreement to bring 100 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes into the process of restoration by 2030. Over a dozen African countries are in on the deal, and Uganda is one of them. What does this mean? Ideologically, it represents a potent shift in the way governments and large international institutions are thinking about reforestation and conservation.
In the recent past, the bulk of environmental work has been focused on isolated conservation or reforestation projects as an act of putting trees in the ground. But one thing that we at WildFF know to be true is that not all reforestation projects are created equal. For example, nearly all reforestation in Uganda has focused on monoculture plantations of exotic timber tree species: pine, eucalyptus, and teak. This puts trees in the ground, yes, but does little to amend soil, promote local animal species habitat, and restore local ecology. The solution: mimic forests of the past to create forests of the future. For the Native Seeds Project, this is our mantra, one that we repeat over and over in our advocacy and unwavering commitment to native tree species restoration in the northern Ugandan region. With the recent advent of AFR100, this mantra is soon to be sung by a multitude of stakeholders involved in reforestation and conservation throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect. As we gear up for our next trip to Uganda at the end of the month, we are contemplating how our impact can be most meaningful and farthest-reaching. This upcoming trip is seminal for the Native Seeds Project: armed with the two largest native tree species nurseries in the region established during previous trips, and a holistic strategy that takes into account economic livelihood and public health to complement our focus of ecological restoration, we are positioned to move from strategic development and fact-finding to full, year-round implementation. With AFR100 in place, we can begin to look for governmental partnerships and allies that are committed to make a meaningful shift from simple reforestation to the more complex, and more worthwhile, effort of restoration.
The work we are doing in Uganda can not be done alone. We need the commitment of our partners on the ground, the solidarity of allies doing similar work, and the support of people like you – people who believe in our world’s forests and the life-giving beauty they provide to our world. To support the Native Seeds Project, please visit our website, or check out our GlobalGiving page.
As they say in Acholi-Luo, wawoto kacel, or, we move together. In this interconnected world we live in, I don’t think there is anything closer to the truth.