Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | In a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Water and Environment and various private sector stakeholders, including Uganda Breweries Limited, Stanbic Bank Uganda, ABSA, Roofings, TotalEnergies EP Uganda, and others, the nation celebrated the annual national tree planting day on October 6.
Led by Minister of Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris, the initiative, known as Running Out Of Trees (ROOTS), aims to restore Uganda’s diminishing tree cover by planting 200 million trees over a five-year period, with one million trees planted during this year’s event.
ROOTS, established in 2020, has witnessed a remarkable growth in partnerships, with over 30 companies, religious and traditional institutions, schools, government agencies, and development partners actively participating.
The campaign addresses the urgent need to counteract deforestation, a critical issue highlighted by a 2017 inventory by the National Forestry Authority revealing a 50% loss in Uganda’s forestry cover over the past three decades.
Forestry, contributing 6% to Uganda’s GDP and supporting over 90% of the population’s energy needs, has become a focal point for collective action. The private sector, represented by companies like Total Energies, Stanbic Bank, and Uganda Breweries, emphasized the business imperative to combat deforestation, recognizing the tangible impacts such as floods, landslides, and prolonged droughts.
Jean Gavalda, Business Development and Corporate Affairs Director at Total Energies EP Uganda, stressed the need for companies to move beyond rhetoric and take purposeful action, citing their engagement in preserving and restoring threatened natural forests. The ROOTS campaign has also garnered support from various organizations, including the Catholic Church, Church of Uganda, and different kingdoms within Uganda.
The transparency of the initiative is reinforced by the integration of digital tree data collection by Tree Adoption Uganda, ensuring immutable evidence of each tree planted. This approach enhances reporting efficiency and boosts confidence among investors, funders, and the public, crucial for sustained participation.
Reflecting on their commitment, Cathy Adengo, Stanbic Bank’s Head of Sustainability, announced the bank’s pledge to plant one million trees through its employee community programs. Other partners, such as Roofings Group, actively contribute to environmental sustainability by operating a tree seedling nursery and championing reforestation initiatives.
The national tree planting day saw the planting of diverse indigenous species, including mahogany, muvule, Afzelia, and fruit trees, highlighting the campaign’s focus on biodiversity conservation.
With over 25 million trees planted since the launch of the ROOTS campaign in 2020, the initiative perseveres despite challenges, including disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The campaign continues to seek commitments from the government to gazette a National Tree Planting Day, encouraging public participation in the collective effort to restore, protect, and replenish Uganda’s forests.