Makerere takes Climate change project to Mayuge to encourage farmers to plant trees

 Uganda like other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is already severely and disproportionately affected by climate change and vulnerable to future variability, and yet has the least capacity to respond.

With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Makerere University has been provided with a grant to develop the country and regional capacity to stem the challenge posed by climate change through the project titled, “Strengthening East African Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation Capacity through Training, Research and Policy Interventions”.

This initiative will develop capacity to address critical issues of climate change adaptation research, policy development and implementation in East Africa. In addition, it will help to create a regional climate change community of practice with East Africa-focused collaborators.

 Current major thrust being undertaken by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences include Curriculum review and reform to address climate change; Creation of a national think-tank to guide policy, research and reform processes in the University and country; Marshalling national and regional human resources via a regional community of practice and Critical research on climate change adaptation.

Muyuge scenary as pictured from the Local government headquarters. Farmers plant multipurpose trees mostly  edible for income and food.


Pine trees growing alongside the road to the local government headquarters and one of the tree planting methods being promoted on edges, roads and plantations

It is within this background that Makerere’s Ethno botanist from the department of Environmental Management Prof.  John Stephen Tabuti set out to interact with farmers in Mayuge district from three randomly   selected villages of Iwuuba, Bukomya and Nabukone of Bunya County between July and September 2012 to determine which plants farmers valued, the management practices and to establish challenges farmers faced in tree cultivation.

Presenting the study findings to about 100 participants at Mayuge district local government council headquarters on 17thJune 2013, Prof. Tabuti told farmers that the destruction of trees releases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere thus destroying the ozone layer.

“One option to mitigate impacts of climate change  is  to plant trees because trees sequester significant  amounts  of carbon , the green house gas with the most impact on climate change and this is the reason why the University is collaborating with farmers to plant trees.” the professor explained.

 Prof. Tabuti presenting study findings to the farmers

 Prof. Tabuti   informed farmers that the information collected will guide future actions of which trees will be selected for planting in the district and other human inhabited parts of the countries.

He also reported that eleven multipurpose trees valued by farmers were documented because they provide important products that include edible fruits, wood for construction and firewood while some species were sold in the area and had potential for income generation.Of the eleven preferred tree species were Maesopsis eminii  Engl (Musizi), Pinus spp (Pine), Mangifera Indica (Muyembe), Artocarpus  heterophulus (Fene) and Persea American mill(Avocado) among others.

“Farmers in Mayuge are interested and actively involved in tree planting. Trees were propagated from seedlings, wildings and cuttings in farmers owned enterprises or from commercial nursery gardens and maintained in crop fields, home gardens of the compound. However, key challenges identified in the study were tree pests, drought, land scarcity and planting materials among others,” he said

In her opening remarks the Assist.  LCV Chairperson Lydia Njirumugabo thanked Makerere University for choosing Mayuge and called upon residents to utilize the knowledge acquired to encourage their children to plant trees.

“We are so grateful for piloting the study in Mayuge and I want to encourage you farmers  to be role models so that others can emulate from you”, Njirumugabo  advised  on behalf of the LCV  Omar Bongo Dactoor Muwaya.

Farmers reading through the report

Lydia Njirumugabo speaking on behalf of the LCV

Speaking during the same occasion, the Lead researcher,  Climate Change Project who is also Ag. Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Prof.  Samuel Kyamanywa said the project was aimed at developing resilience to climate change.

“Scientist say, Climate change is caused by too much carbon dioxide emission in the atmosphere and therefore we thought of tree planting to avert the situation and as the Principal Investigator, I brought an ethno botanist to look at which trees can avert  carbon dioxide and bring income for farmers”, Prof. Kyamanywa said.

Prof. Kyamanywa said, as the country grapples with climate change manifested by scarce rainfall and other experiences, the college is doing research in different aspects of agriculture such as breeding drought and disease resistant and early maturing crop varieties and pasture for livestock.

Prof. Kyamanywa thanked farmers for participating in the study and advised them to work together with the college to address climate change.

“We are researching to survive and the college has the capacity to deal with climate change because it is a one - stop centre for agricultural and environmental issues. You notice that this whole season people planted maize but rain disappeared at the time of pollination.” Prof. Kyamanywa appealed.

  Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa addressing farmers

Farmers expressed gratitude for the project and workshop saying, a lot had been learnt. They however expressed concern over the increasing incidences of tree and crop pests, lack of extension officers to enlighten them on agricultural and environmental issues and uncontrolled tree cutting for sugarcane production in the district. They also sought answers as to why farmers should seek permission to cut down their own trees on reason that this restriction discourages them to plant trees.

The Range Manager, Kyoga Range National Forestry Authority Jinja office, Galima Stephen explained that government restriction on tree cutting and is done in good faith to control excessive tree cutting that may cause environmental shock and to provide advice on certain aspects.

“You need advice on how to cut the tree because you lack the expertise. At times you need advise on the market, when to cut for timber, what type of timber is for roofing”. Galima explained.

Range Manager Stephen Galime advising farmers on government restrictions on tree felling

The district Environmental Officer, Thomas Aram advised residents to use their land responsibly. He said   Mayuge is one of the districts affected by climate change because of sugar cane growing.

“Even if government passes a policy on sugarcane growing, we should wake up ourselves and put in practice what we have learnt to fight climate change. Whoever cuts a tree for sugarcane should plant 30 trees and surround the plot by trees.” The environmental Officer advised.

Another District Environmental Officer Daudi Waiswa advised farmers to report or call the Natural resources office for help in case they have issues to do with planting materials, tree cutting and disease control.

Closing the function Assist. Chief Administrative Officer, Kabakubya Samuel cautioned farmers against giving their land away for sugarcane plantation but utilize it well for multiple achievements.  He told farmers that sugarcane does not conflict with tree planting.

“They can co- exist but you are giving away land in the name of renting for 500,000 to one million, they cut all trees, deny you fene and mangoes.  A law was passed by council and the Natural Resources Ordinance endorsed it. We are going back to the village to help you. So take care! “The CAO warned.

The CAO also informed farmers that the district lacks extension officers due to the government sealing on recruitment. He said a few available extension officers were overwhelmed. He requested farmers to inform them whenever need arises.

“The structure of this unit has not been given to the district. There is a sealing and we cannot employ them. In 13 sub counties and a town council, we have two agricultural extension officers. What you need to know is that their services are demand driven.” The CAO advised.

  Assist. CAO Samuel Kabakubya speaking to farmers

He thanked Makerere University for taking and implementing the project in Mayuge saying it will improve on peoples’ livelihoods. He also thanked the University for providing feedback on grounds that   many people do research and do not communicate the findings.

He advised farmers to read the report and put in practice what they have learn pledging the district support to the University to address issues of climate change.