FIFTEEN million trees have been planted in Uganda as part of a Welsh Government initiative to help tackle the climate emergency, with ambitions to plant 25 million trees by 2025.
The Mbale Trees project – funded by the long-standing Wales and Africa programme – aims to plant over 3 million trees a year in the hilly, heavily deforested area of eastern Uganda in a bid to increase community resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Working with Size of Wales and the Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE), free tree seedlings are distributed to local people to be planted on smallholdings and land in the community, along with fuel efficient stoves and advice and support for other livelihoods, like bee-keeping.
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.
In recent years Mbale has been affected by heavy rainfall and fatal landslides, caused by a combination of climate change and excessive logging due to poor enforcement of protection laws and a growing population.
Fast-growing trees protect local people from the effects of soil erosion and fruit grown offers a sustainable source of food and an extra income.
The 10 millionth tree milestone was achieved in autumn 2019, with First Minister Mark Drakeford marking the occasion by planting a tree in Cardiff’s Bute Park as another was planted Uganda by a young climate change activist.
Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, whose portfolio includes Wales and Africa, said:
“For more than a decade Wales has developed and deepened its community-based links with sub-Sahara countries in Africa. This mutually-beneficial approach has long supported sustainable development and solidarity, of which we can be justifiably proud.
“On top of planting 15 million trees – a fantastic achievement in itself – Wales has helped to protect an area of tropical rainforest twice the size of Wales and supported 16,000 families across 30 villages who may have otherwise faced severe hardship.”
Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, said:
“The Mbale Trees initiative is an example of what can be achieved when nations work together to combat climate change.”
“Our pledge to plant 3 million more every year for the next 5 years will deliver substantial benefits, not just for those within Mbale, but it will have a considerable global impact on climate change.
“This flagship scheme is another example of Wales leading the way in sustainable development and action on climate change, for all.”
Director of Size of Wales, Nicola Pulman, said:
“We are delighted to have hit the landmark of 15 million trees. It is a testament to the hard work of the communities and local organisations in Mbale who have worked tirelessly to make it happen.
“Every tree grown benefits the local area, but also helps strengthen our planet’s resilience to the threat of climate change. We therefore encourage everyone in Wales to support the programme in its next phase and help us reach our ultimate goal of 25 million trees by 2025.”
Godfrey Natwaluma, Progrmme Manager at the Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE), said:
“We are proud Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise has supported over 30,000 households in 6 districts to plant trees. These districts have all previously experienced the devastating landslides.
“Since 2010, we have at least distributed 15 million trees and counting and we are optimistic that by the year 2025, we shall have supported our target communities with 25 million trees.
“Our technical field team, through implementing partners, have been in position to monitor the production process of tree seedlings right away from a network of 45 community tree nursery beds that we have as an organization, and we plan to expand the project to further regions.”
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