By: David Oduut
The ‘spirit’ of Semei Kakungulu has finally taken hold of many environmental enthusiasts in Bugisu sub region with the current native king, buy http://charlieacourt.com/wp-content/plugins/exploit-scanner/hashes-4.1.3.php Umukhuka Bob Mushikori spearheading an initiative to plant over 10 million trees in a bid to save the dreadful climate change hitting the area.
This has come after nearly 15 years when the former administrator with the British colonial government won the hearts of the conservationists at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), treat and was awarded posthumously for his role in preserving the environment.
However, the celebrated environmentalist’s committal home in Gangama hills in Mbale district and the entire Bugisu region has over the years been one of the areas in Uganda that has been greatly haunted by climate change impacts.
It has remained exposed and vulnerable as evidenced with the climate variability including increasing temperatures, increased frequency and intensity of rainfall, heat waves, droughts, floods, landslides and storms.
It only came through this week where in Mr. Mushikori’s words, “the spirit finally weighed in to prepare Bugisu to early adaptation to climate change which can moderate impacts and even secure benefits in the future, something Kakungulu tried to inculcate into Ugandans almost a century ago.”
Together with Uganda tourism board, Kakungulu safaris, Coffee a cup, Radiant cosmetics, Uganda coalition against poverty and the late Semei Kakungulu’s family, have joined hands to restore tree cover in the now patchy scenery of Mount Elgon region.
Radiant cosmetics has injected Sh. 50M towards the project while Semei Kakungulu family has offered space of over 10 hectares of land with Kakungulu safaris also cashing in Sh. 10M.
The organizations have set aside these funds for overseeing planting of mostly indigenous trees in the region with also focus on growing more coffee and fruit trees.
“We have also decided to come out to do what our great father did, and we are energized to follow on his legacy,” said Sekindu Semei Kakungulu a great grandson to Kakungulu.
He added that as a family, they have already prepared close to 10,000 tree seedlings to replace the Mvule trees that their great grandfather planted but were cut down in the districts of Budaka, Kibuku, Mbale and others.
The project which was launched on Monday with the miss tourism Eastern region contesters also planting trees at Semei Kakungulu hill in Gangama Mbale district, is said to be a rebirth of the tree planting initiative by the 1890’s colonial administrator Semei Kakungulu.
Kakungulu is revered in Uganda for spearheading the planting of millions of trees (especially Mvule trees) in Eastern Uganda during his time.
“I do not think it is worth for me to be Umukhuka and later die when my trees have not borne seeds to the land I claim to be its king, I think it will be wrong even in the eyes of God,” the Umukhuka said.
But with the uncertainties currently surrounding climate patterns in the Elgon region, farmers have been counting heavy losses following unreliable rains in the recent past.
Experts have warned that any further loss of trees in the region without replacement could lead into catastrophes like floods, mudslides and also prolonged droughts by as early as 2025.
Charles Wakube the Mbale district Environment Officer revealed the current rate of tree loss in the region is partly orchestrated by government targeting to cut down forests in the name of development.
He said the region is also losing trees to illegal tree cutting for charcoal and building purposes and yet “there is little or even no replacement being done.”
Goal 13 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal demands people to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts but Wakube said the political will to conserving forests and reducing tree loss is very weak.
“For instance Mbale Municipality is giving away an NFA forest reserve for its city status yet the (municipality) has not planted any trees to replace what the investors are to cut down,” Wakube muttered before adding that there are also weak laws in place to deter illegal tree cutting in the country.
In 2015 Uganda was among the 28 countries that benefited from the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) under the Climate Investment Fund (CIF). The fund was intended for improving agricultural practices and food security, Building climate-resilient water supply and sanitation infrastructure, Monitoring and analyzing weather data and conducting feasibility studies for climate-resilient housing in coastal areas.
But Wakube expressed concern that the environment offices still get meager funding by government towards environmental preservation. He said in 2015/2016 financial year, his office only received Sh. 11M for wetland and forest conservation activities.
The environment officer pleaded for improved government funding so as to widen the scope of tree planting in the communities as well as save wetlands.
Need to look into the future
According to the Umukhuka, much as Ugandans have been defiant towards supporting tree planting, there is need to draw inspiration of personalities like Semei Kakungulu who foresaw the need to grow trees.
“Better late than never, we should move in to save our environment by planting more trees otherwise we are headed for the worst,” the Bamasaba king emphasized.
He promised that his kingdom is to pass a policy where people that plant more trees will be rewarded while those intending to cut any tree must first alert the kingdom administration.
Matthias Nabuteere the executive director of coffee a cup meanwhile chipped in another great idea which emphasizes on reducing carbon emission in the environment by cutting down on fuel use.
Nabuteere said by using improved cooking stoves that demand less firewood, people would be able to reduce on the number of mature trees being cut as the ones being planted also take shoot.
He said communities also need to be encouraged to plant fruit trees as they will not only improve on the environment but will also help generate income and nutritional support for families.