Nature and Biodiversity

This country planted 10 million trees in Uganda

An aerial view of a settlement in Mabira Forest Reserve, 55km (34 miles) east of the capital Kampala, April 21, 2007. Uganda has suffered violent protests in recent weeks over government plans to give at least 7,100 hectares (17,500 acres) of Mabira Forest, a nature reserve since 1932, to a sugar cane company.  To match feature UGANDA-FOREST/   REUTERS/James Akena (UGANDA) - GF1DVCOAXOAA

Between 1990-2010 the country lost almost a third of its tree cover, and tree numbers are continuing to decline. Image: REUTERS/James Akena

Charlotte Edmond
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of the Environment

'An area the size of Wales.'

For a British journalist, it's a classic comparison - and a useful one to convey the extent of deforestation or tree loss.

But now, a Welsh government-backed scheme has turned that comparison on its head, by working instead to protect rainforests.

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The roots of change

Size of Wales works on projects across Africa - and beyond - with the support of the Wales for Africa programme. Its Mbale Trees project operates in eastern Uganda - an area that's suffered significant deforestation.

But, its impact extends far beyond the canopy.

Skills and schools

Trees have changed Anet Nabumati’s life.

With a series of failed ventures behind her, she was struggling to make ends meet. Married with five children, she lives on a small farm in Busiu, in the Mbale region of Uganda.

Then in 2011 she was selected to be among a group of farmers running tree nurseries to support the Mbale CAP/Size of Wales One Million Tree Planting Project. The scheme also aims to plant two trees for every child born or adopted in Wales - one planted in Wales and the other in the highly deforested areas of eastern Uganda.

Fast forward, and the 10 millionth tree has just been planted and Anet is successfully raising and distributing saplings for the project. Her newly learnt skills mean she can grow other trees and ornamental flowers, such as coffee plants, to sell to local farmers, supporting her household and enabling her to pay school fees.

Image: Size of Wales

A victim of extreme deforestation

Uganda’s forests are severely threatened. Between 1990-2010 the country lost almost a third of its tree cover, and tree numbers are continuing to decline - albeit at a slower rate - each year.

The hilly Mbale area is particularly affected, with swathes of trees lost to agricultural expansion, a growing population, and increasing demand for fuel and charcoal. Weak legal protection and enforcement means logging is also an issue.

Irregular but heavy rainfall means landslides have become an issue, occasionally proving fatal.

Replanting trees in the region helps stabilize the soil, preventing landslips, as well as shading crops from the hot sun. The tree varieties selected help to provide sustainable supplies of fruit and fuel.

Image: Size of Wales

The project has also empowered women like Anet in the Mbale region, who can earn their own income and run their own businesses.

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Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE) oversees the project on the ground. It works with four local NGOs - Share an Opportunity, Salem Brotherhood, MEACCE (Mount Elgon Agroforestry Communities Cooperative Enterprise) and Bungokho Rural Development Centre - who run a total of 39 nurseries.

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What’s the World Economic Forum doing about deforestation?

The global picture

The issues Uganda faces are reflected around the world, with forests suffering as populations expand, agriculture encroaches and illegal logging takes its toll.

Image: Statista

Conservation charity WWF estimates that we lose around 27 soccer pitches worth of forest every minute around the world.

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Nature and BiodiversityGeographies in Depth
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