Planting Trees One Farmer at a Time

Opoka and his fellow farmers remember that the parish of Atiyaba in northern Uganda was once forested. This mosaic landscape of savannah-like grassland was punctuated by great swathes of tropical forest expanding out from river ways and swamps. Tree cover was the norm and not the exception, and even in grassy landscapes trees were everywhere.

These trees were necessary to human survival; providing food, medicine and materials for building homes and creating useful items like baskets and clothing. In this regard, little has changed. Though the global economy has provided plastic replacements for some of life’s necessities, trees are still the only source for many of the essentials.

Ocaya training village women on reforestation

What has changed dramatically is the area and quality of forest in Atiyaba. Juliet, an herbalist who harvests medicine to heal her community, describes having to go further and further away to find the plant remedies that were once close to home. “You just cannot believe how people are living without trees. It makes you sad to see it. Even now they take down mango trees for charcoal to sell, because the other species are not there any longer.”

Deforestation in northern Uganda has happened in just a generation or two. The way the land looks has been totally transformed within Opoka’s lifetime. But he and other farmers in his area know there can be another way. They are part of a growing group dedicated to the reforestation of their villages and landscapes.

Reforestation can mean many things, including exotic fruit orchards and commercial timber plantations that in ecological terms can’t really be called forests. What is unique about the farmers in Atiyaba and elsewhere is that they are planting native trees, which have always defined their homeland but are now hard to find.

Perhaps surprisingly, planting native trees was an unfamiliar concept to Opoka and his neighbors. That is, until Juliet and Wise Women – Uganda arrived to Atiyaba in May. Providing training in tree planting basics and seedlings of a variety of important native species, this group of women traditional herbalists arrived to Atiyaba with knowledge, seeds, and hope.

Planting native tree seedlings with local farmers
Supporting Wise Women – Uganda

We have supported community-based organisation Wise Women – Uganda since 2015, helping with seed production and enabling them to grow into a force for native species restoration.

Working with local leaders at a grassroots level, the Wise Women have reached 29 villages so far, providing trees and training to over 350 farmers this year. Several schools and institutions have also joined the effort. While many farmers received a modest 10 seedlings, some have planted a thousand trees or more. Once planting season is over, the Wise Women dedicate themselves to monitoring and evaluation until the trees are old enough to survive alone.

Outreach training at a local village

Your support has allowed the planting of thousands of trees in climate-vulnerable communities throughout northern Uganda. Donate today, and you will be helping to ensure the survival of the trees that have been planted, as well as allowing the project to support even more farmers and plant more trees. You will be supporting us in sharing knowledge and seeds from community to community, farmer to farmer. This is how we’ll reforest Uganda: one farmer at a time.


About the Author

Robin Van Loon

Robin Van Loon

Native Seeds Project Team

Robin is the founder and Executive Director of Camino Verde, and has been based in the Tambopata region of the Peruvian Amazon since 2004. A long-time student of traditional and indigenous agricultural and medicinal practices, Robin's work has focused on developing community-based reforestation strategies to preserve important endangered plants of the Amazon. He is a writer, regenerative designer, and consultant in agroforestry, reforestation, and sustainable development.

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