Private firms have partnered with the Ministry of Water and Environment to fund the Running out of Trees (ROOTs) initiative which targets to plant 40 million trees countrywide.
These companies include Uganda Breweries Limited, American Tower Corporation (ATC) Uganda, Stanbic Bank Uganda and MTN Foundation and they want to see the restoration of the indigenous tree and fruit species.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga on Sunday launched the tree planting campaign at Parliament Grounds in Kampala. Speaking at the event, the speaker called on the public to “do more” in the area of environment protection, as “we have done so much damage and we owe it to the future generation”.
The Ministry of Water and Environment launched a National Tree Planting Campaign in 2020 built around engaging local stakeholders in attaining national restoration goals with the aim to rally Ugandans into action through increased public awareness and participation, especially the private sector in the conservation and protection of indigenous tree species to address ongoing loss and conversion of primary and secondary natural forest.
The campaign approach also involves adopting restoration strategies to fit local social, economic and ecological contexts and a wide range of eligible technical strategies for restoring a mosaic canopy of trees on the national landscape.
In addition, we aim at fast-tracking national restoration goals and commitments that include but not limited to; The plan, according to officials, is to restore 2.5 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge, restoring forest cover of total land area to 24%, among other things.
Officials say 65% of forest degradation takes place on private land and on several occasions the landowners choose land-use change from forestry to agriculture, industry or settlement over biodiversity conservation. Current national deforestation rates stand at 2% annually with an average of 122,000 hectares lost every year yet 6% of the GDP of Uganda and more than 90% of the population depends directly on forest for their energy needs, officials say.
The ROOTs Campaign was launched as a 5-year project geared towards soliciting commitments from the private sector to support Government’s initiative to restore forest cover. Last year, the campaign managed to attract the support of various corporate companies who came together and supported financially and also by physically taking part in a relay run that started in Kampala and ended in Gulu.
This year, the corporate companies joining Uganda Breweries Limited include, Stanbic Bank Uganda, ATC Uganda and the MTN Foundation.
Speaking at the launch of this year’s ROOTs, Alvin Mbugua, the managing director of Uganda Breweries Limited affirmed the company’s continued support to the Ministry of Water and Environment.
“The Ministry’s bid to restore forest cover and reduce on the country’s Green House Emissions ties well with UBL’s Spirit of Progress which is our 10-year action plan to help create a more sustainable world. We do this by playing a significant part in preserving the natural resources on which we all depend by regenerating and restoring the landscapes and resources we rely on,” he said.
On her part, Anne Juuko, the Stanbic Bank chief executive, reiterated the importance of the private sector coming together to play a role in this important initiative.
“Our world is changing and we as corporate companies and our customers are completely dependent on this changing world. It is our shared responsibility as companies who benefit a lot from it, to protect it, to nurture it and as evidenced by the current need, to replenish it,” she said.
“On behalf of all the corporate sponsors, I would like to say that we take this responsibility seriously and that is why every year we do what we can to pitch into the government efforts on environmental protection”.
According to ATC Chief Executive Michael Magambo, “the environment is one of ATC's five core pillars of corporate responsibility.”
“As a key player in the telecommunications industry, we strive to conduct our operations in an environmentally friendly manner. The ROOTs initiative, therefore, provides a unique platform for us to contribute towards greening our environment and contributing towards the national reforestation effort,” Magambo noted.
As part of the launch activities this year, the organizers have included a mechanic for the public to participate in through a mobile phone app called ROOTs.
Using this app, participants will “run” by downloading the app and purchasing a tree seedling at Ush 1,500 each using MTN/Airtel/Africell Mobile Money, Visa or Mastercard.
What this means is that the Tree Planting this year will mainly be a virtual exercise where the 40 Million will be achieved through Virtual donations on the day but the actual physical planting of trees will happen over a period of 3 months.
Between March 21st and the end of May, a team from Tree Adoption Uganda which has been designated by the Ministry will support the planting and mapping the seedlings in the designated bulk planting areas.
The Running out of Trees initiative is an annual initiative that will be held over a 5-year period to end in 2025 with the planting of over 200 million Trees and sequester an estimated 15million tons of carbon.