Rising up from the plains of central Uganda, near the Nile River and bordering South Sudan, lie the Acholi woodlands of Uganda. The region’s diverse forests range from dry to humid and are a critical refuge for threatened and endangered species, including lions, elephants, and teak. The forests of the region are culturally and spiritually valuable to the local Acholi people, but decades of civil war and poverty have left large areas of the landscape denuded.

In the areas where forests remain, they are intensely threatened by the charcoal trade, agriculture, and a refugee crisis caused by the war in South Sudan.

Traditional Medicine as a Catalyst For Forest Conservation

Landscape-scale reforestation

WildFF has been working to conserve the forests of northern Uganda since 2015 through the Native Seeds Project, a collaboration with the Wise Women Uganda (Mon Ma Ryek), a community-based organization comprised of women healers in Gulu, Uganda. Using the indigenous knowledge of traditional healers as a catalyst for forest conservation and restoration, the project focuses on bringing back native tree cover to make Northern Ugandan communities more resilient in the face of climate change.

With the largest native tree nursery in Uganda, an all-Ugandan team planted over 40,000 native species with about 900 farmers and partner NGOs. Our goal is to create a model that can be shared with the AFR100, an African initiative to restore ~250 million acres of deforested and degraded land by 2030.

Empowerment of traditional women healers

In addition, the Native Seeds Program empowers local women to play a central role in building a movement of sustainable farmers. Many of the Wise Women partook in literacy classes, enabling them to have a greater say in their community’s decision-making processes and training sessions with the farmers. The women of the community also contribute to the VSLA, a collective savings pot that allows them to save together and take microloans as needed. A variety of activities funded by Native Seeds are now self-sustaining, a major accomplishment in its fourth year of the program:
• Beekeeping provides sustainable income for women during the harvest season
• Training in medicine making has increased the quality of their product, enabling them to be sold at a higher price

Agroforestry and climate resiliency training with farmers

The Native Seeds project contributes to viable forest landscape restoration through the creation of agroforestry systems that address issues of food security, access to herbal medicine, promotion of biodiversity, restoring soil hydrology and ensuring economic viability. These agroforestry systems are spread through local farming communities to bring back native tree cover while making farmlands more fertile, more productive, and more resilient.