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Refugee-hosting community restores 2,000 hectares of degraded land

Terego district host community members tilling the land to plant trees

Terego district host community members tilling the land to plant trees

Robert Ezati, 57, a resident of Adim parish, Beliafe sub-county, in the West Nile district of Terego, has endured years of agonizing helplessness as refugees cleared down the forests for purposes of finding space to settle, wood fuel and poles for construction, thereby leaving the land bare up to now while others cleared trees to make room for tobacco plants to thrive in his area.

Since then, the district and surrounding areas have experienced significant environmental degradation and climate change effects. Drier spells have become more frequent and once-high-yielding crops now hardly yield enough for a respectable harvest each season.

For about ten years, Ezati, who was distressed by the impact, pondered on what to do to save a situation so dire. By 2021, the land had become so bare that he and other community members realized the need of restoring it.

“I had to step in and stop people from cutting down trees. Through collaboration efforts with other host community members and environment not-for-profit organizations, we started replanting trees and the area is actually becoming green again,” he said.

On the small mobilized pieces of land where this is being done, Ezati said, his colleagues have started inter-cropping the trees with food crops like sorghum and cassava mainly for food security. Both indigenous tree species like mahogany, sheer nuts, afzelia and turmeric, and exotic ones like gmelina arborea, giant lira and teak trees are being planted.

Terego district is one of the major hosts of hundreds of refugees with most of them coming from the neighbouring restive South Sudan. Currently, Uganda is home to over 1.6 million refugees coming from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Somalia and Eritrea, among others.

However, such an influx has aggravated the pressure on the environment resources caused mainly by wood fuel consumption for cooking and timber for temporary house construction, leading to land degradation and vegetation cover depletion in the district.

In order to mitigate this environment catastrophe, the European Union, through its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, stepped in and started implementing a four-year project aimed at restoring and conserving degraded fragile ecosystems for improved community livelihoods among the refugees and host communities in Uganda’s West Nile and Albertine sub-regions.

The project, which is in line with the European Union’s response to address increased environmental degradation by providing or promoting alternative energy sources in the refugee-hosting areas of Uganda, is being implemented by the Uganda Biodiversity Fund in collaboration with the Ecological Christian Organization, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Nature Uganda.

Ezati and other community members are working with the Ecological Christian Organization, a non-profit organization working towards the realization of sustained livelihoods for marginalized, underserved and vulnerable communities in Uganda, which has sensitized them about the need to conserve the environment and also provided them with tools, logistics and seedlings to restore the degraded environment.

According to Harriet Tumushabe, the project manager, the project has been running since 2020 but was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. She said the European Union has invested Euros 5.4 million (Shs 21.4 billion) in the restoration of degraded ecosystems in Terego, Yumbe, Kyegegwa, Kikuube and Kamwenge districts.

“This very project has so far been a great success as it has enhanced the adoption of sustainable land management practices, agroforestry, climate-smart agricultural practices and woodland establishment. We have restored 2,279 hectares of degraded forests and woodlands, established 596 hectares of woodlots and 400 hectares of wetlands, and river banks have been restored,” she said.

The project has also seen the introduction of alternative sources of livelihood including fruit planting, beekeeping, and others which could sustain families and keep them away from environmentally unfriendly acts like charcoal burning.

“If we the local community are very serious with these efforts, I am hopeful that in the years to come, our area will have restored its natural vegetation cover like it was before the coming of the refugees. We however request the government and local leaders to continue with their sensitization efforts among refugees and host communities about the importance of conserving the environment such that this goal is achieved,” an optimistic Ezati said.


0 #1 kabayekka 2024-07-08 22:28
Well then where exactly is the Uganda National Environmental Management Authority?

It seems it is all about political Pan African propaganda concerning Uganda being the best country to pump itself with African refugees from about five adjacent countries.

These are refugees running away from political persecution and brutal civil wars that are caused by political incompetence in their various countries.

How can Uganda that is economically debt ridden, hope that it will continue to settle economically and peacifully such huge numbers of refugees for many years and counting?
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0 #2 Akot 2024-07-09 14:14
United Nations & Agencies are responsible for destruction of lands as they encourage dictatorship, bad rule & go along with wars that displace people & build refugeecamps in Uganda, Kenya... that destroyed, destroys will destroy grass, wet lands, forests!

Time Ugandans stop Museveni in UNITY & make their stand; decide, especially as the earth, air are fighting to breath!

Why are Ugandans not concerned about a tomorrow that should be different for the next generation, in a Uganda that will belong to them & not Rwandese Museveni's family business?

What do Ugandans still expect from Museveni, or his son who will replace him?
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