The current rains have transformed all the patchy green areas in the city to a luxurious green much to the delight of many of my peers.
It has reminded of the times I used to travel with my parents to our home village during my childhood. Mityana town is located about 77kilometres west of Kampala city along the Kampala- Fort Portal road. I used to be fascinated by the variety of tall indigenous trees with dense crowns growing along the road. I could not see anything beyond them; I did not know the names of the rolling hills behind them. By a simple game that I played in my mind, I could identify similar trees and group them together. Over time I came to know this area like the back of my hand.
Then in the early 80’s, things started changing little by little: pickups filled with sacks of charcoal and heading to the city became a familiar sight.
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Uganda had a population of 16,671 in 1991 and the growth rate was 3.2%.
In the last population census of 2014, our population had grown to 34,856 and the growth rate was 3%- one million people are added to the population every year. The big population demands that trees be cut down to create space to build houses, to grow food and cash crops, to keep livestock, to use in the building industry and to supply wood and charcoal as heat energy for domestic use.
They say that it takes twenty years to grow a dense forest, sadly for the twenty years I have been away; many more trees have been mown down than planted. The indigenous trees along the road to my home village have been so indiscriminately cut down that I am now seeing rolling hills that I did not know that existed. The grassland and woodlands have been cleared for human settlement. Forests are now left in small patches along the road. It is another transformation that comes with a price tag.
At the same time, the effects of Climate change are being felt by all of us. The rainy and dry seasons have become extremely unpredictable. Last year, the September rains never came and the country experienced a long spell of drought and famine. The current rains are causing floods in some areas. It is now clear to most of us that trees play a central role in the environment. Trees reduce soil erosion and reduce the risks of floods and landslides, they absorb Carbon dioxide from the air and produce more than 40% of the Oxygen that we all need for breathing ,they absorb pollutions in the air and they cool environmental temperatures.
We just cannot keep taking from the environment without giving back to it. This is unacceptable. Each one of us has to take on the responsibility of planting and protecting trees to conserve the environment. It is our responsibility to educate the people around us of the benefits of tree planting.
The best place to begin is the Primary schools: students should be encouraged to form Environment clubs, to nurture and own trees at school and at home. Since more than 70% of our population depends on agriculture, students should be taught better farming methods like how to use small pieces of land for bigger yields supported by irrigation schemes. Such students will grow up to sustain our environment. In such clubs they need also to be educated on how big populations which translate into big families at the local level destroy the environment. They should be trained on the need to support and adopt the use of safe, renewable forms of energy like Solar, wind and Biomass. Climate change and conservation of the environment are extremely important factors that call for full participation of our children- adults-in-the- making.
One Biblical Proverb endorses this: “Teach children how they should live and they will remember it all their lives.’’
“Great changes in the destiny of mankind can be effected only in the minds of little children.” by Sir Herbert Read.
They should be encouraged to think out of the box and come up with locally appropriate solutions in their communities to clean and sustain the environment.
Kenya is very much ahead of us in developing homegrown agricultural and environment conservation innovations.
The environment belongs to you, me, our children and their children and should be protected by all.
We should all work towards the restoration of forests, woodlands and wetlands as Nature-based solutions to the global challenges in climate. Let us endeavor to make it a daily practice where we are.
One last quote: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.’’ By an unknown author
Let us make the collective effort to colour our environment green once again.
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