A TREE growing programme aiming to tackle the climate emergency is celebrating after a landmark 20 million Welsh Government-funded trees were planted in Uganda.The Mbale Trees Programme – orchestrated by the long-standing Wales and Africa initiative – aims to plant 25 million trees by 2025 in the hilly, heavily deforested area of eastern Uganda in a bid to increase community resilience to the impacts of climate change. Working with the charity Size of Wales, the Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE) and four other local NGOs, distribute free tree seedlings are distributed to local farmers and schools to be planted on smallholdings and land in the community. The tree planting programme is having a significant impact on the area. Satellite imagery has shown tree gain within 5km of nursery sites is seven times higher than further away It is also reducing the need for logging of mature, established trees at the edges of forests further away, including the Mount Elgon National Park, as well as providing a sustainable fuel wood source. Benefits from the tree planting programme also include: producing fruit to improve nutrition and health of local families, providing medicine for local families and fodder for animals, providing shade and shelter for crops, schools and farmsteads, stabilising slopes, and providing forage for bees and other pollinators. The programme also helps install fuel efficient stoves to reduce the need for firewood and works with women to increase their participation in climate change action across the region. The programme, which aims to plant more than 3 million trees a year, is helping communities living on the front line of the climate crisis adapt and improve their livelihoods. More than 100 staff have been recruited and 50 community-led tree nurseries have been created. The project links with the Welsh Government’s Plant! Scheme, planting two trees for every child born or adopted in Wales – one planted in Uganda and one planted here in Wales. Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt met with representatives from METGE and Size of Wales at the Temple of Peace earlier this week (November 7) to congratulate them on their progress and discuss the future of the tree planting programme. She said: “This isn’t just about planting trees, it’s about engaging people of all ages in Wales and Africa on climate change and the importance of trees and forests as part of the solution.
“We have made phenomenal progress in recent years, edging towards our ambitious target of 25million trees planted by 2025, benefitting not just the environment but many people’s livelihoods too.”Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “The Mbale Trees programme and Plant! show our commitment to tackling the climate emergency, by both raising awareness of the plight of deforestation and how we can tackle it.
“Reaching the milestone of planting 20 million trees in Uganda just as world leaders are preparing to gather for COP27 and to mark Decarbonisation Day, shows how through persistence and working together we can make a real difference.
“Our pledge to plant three million more trees every year for the next five years will deliver substantial benefits, not just for people living in the Mbale region, but much wider as it will have a considerable impact on climate change.”Director of Size of Wales, Nicola Pulman, said:
“This programme is important for both the global and local climate. The landmark of 20 million trees is an important one and is a testament to the efforts of the communities and local organisations in Mbale, who have worked tirelessly to make it happen.
“This programme has become well-known across the region and is changing peoples’ attitudes to trees. This will benefit not just the environment, but future generations to come.”George M. Sikoyo, Executive Director at the Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE), said:
“Hitting the 20 million trees landmark is great news! It authenticates the partnership and determination that METGE and Size of Wales have and with funding from the Welsh Government, which is highly appreciated, to reverse environmental degradation and increase climate resilience in the Mount Elgon region of Uganda.
‘’The tree planting programme is playing an integral role in land restoration and making it more sustaining for farmers, their community and entire landscapes.
“These collective benefits of trees help to enhance food security, self-reliance, economic development besides resilience to climate change and environmental restoration.”