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Can Schools Save Indigenous Trees? :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Can Schools Save Indigenous Trees?

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This initiative has spread to 16 African countries, with a target of each school planting at least 30 different types of native trees.
21 Apr 2024 14:52
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Uganda has witnessed the spread of exotic trees as Commercial tree planters rush to cash in from species like pine and eucalyptus.

The demand for indigenous and exotic tree species for timber has seen a rapid decline in Uganda’s tree cover. And now, there is concern that most indigenous tree species could be lost shortly if nothing is done to save them.

One Ugandan, Victor Nsereko, the founder of Lukango Tree Conservancy has embarked on an initiative to promote the planting of indigenous trees in school compounds hoping the the initiative will see millions of indigenous trees standing in Uganda in the future.

Nsereko believes that his new initiative is away from the usual practice where fruit trees have been emphasized. He says that sixty-nine schools have embraced the idea within one year.   

Dr. Victor Nsereko Watante was the brain behind Indigenous Tree Day which is marked annually on 15th April.

The Day was adopted under the umbrella of the African Tree Seeds Group (ATSG), united for a shared mission: combating biodiversity loss. The Day serves as a global platform to honor and safeguard our indigenous tree species.

   

Because of their high-quality wood products, indigenous tree species are highly sought after. This has led them to become endangered, which has also impacted the environment since trees are an instrumental factor in the preservation of biodiversity.

Speaking at the Indigenous Tree Day celebration in Mpigi, Dr. Victor Nsereko said that they decided to plant these trees in schools because schools are a safe environment for these trees.

There is also an educational element that comes along with inspiration to future conservation leaders.

This initiative has spread to 16 African countries, with a target of each school planting at least 30 different types of native trees.

According to Nsereko, this initiative is out to push back on the rapid biodiversity loss, with younger people tagged along to ensure continuity of the knowledge about these species that could have been imparted to the students. He adds that the initiative started with schools with larger pieces of land but has revolved to smaller ones, helping them to set up structures to support the initiative.

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Mpigi district Natural Resources Officer, Tony Mudyeke applauded the initiative, saying it is in line with the district administration's program of aggressive tree planting in the area.

He revealed that Mpigi district is losing most of its natural forest cover at a very alarming rate, a trend which has not spared the central forest reserves.

He expressed hope that with such initiatives, the district has lost will have more trees standing.

Mundyeki said the demand for land for agricultural land has been the major driver of the destruction of natural forests in the area. This has even led to disasters, as unbroken heavy winds have destroyed property and once claimed the lives of two children.

He said this initiative will complement Mpigi’s natural tree recovery program which has had over 20,000 native trees planted.

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This initiative is expected to pass on practical knowledge and experiences to the younger conservationists.

Richard Bagenyi, the stakeholder engagement officer of Conservation through Public Health Organization, conservation is not a one-man show.

Therefore, as the older ones are leaving, there is a need to pass on the skill to the next generation, where there is no setup better than a school environment.

“Most of the indigenous trees are over-exploited, and unless we take action and reintroduce them in the areas where they used to be or plant more, there is a risk that soon they will be no more,” said Bagenyi.

To ensure that the trees thrive in schools, Lukango Tree Conservancy has devised a follow-up program that involves terminal visits every six months, and an online monitoring structure.

Teddy Auma, from Tree Adoption Uganda, said the initiative aligns well with their environmental awareness in schools, and these particular trees will be added to the digital tracking system to monitor their progress.

“The root systems of most of our indigenous trees are very strong, so they are able to control things like flooding and landslides by holding soil particles together,” Auma added.

Fr. Robert Mayiga, the Headteacher of St. Mary’s Secondary School Nkozi in Mpigi district, where the celebrations were hosted, expressed gratitude about the initiative, saying it is a God-given opportunity to help students understand more about indigenous trees that are threatened at the moment.

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A total of up to 30 trees were planted at this school. To ensure strict care, responsibility has been placed on the leadership of the school’s heritage club, whose president Andrew Otim, committed to taking good care of these trees like they have always done with the older trees found at the compound.

Studies suggest that as many as 3 in 4 undescribed vascular plants are likely to be already threatened with extinction.

Of the 58,000 tree species that have been assessed and confirmed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 17,510 or 29.9% are threatened with extinction and it is feared that this

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