According to the study, planting one trillion trees could absorb more than half of the carbon produced in the past 25 years saving the planet from the great threats of climate crisis. Although this study has stirred controversies and raises the question of whether ending the burning of fossil fuels will be a priority or not ,it was embraced at the 2020 World Economic Summit in Davos.
In Uganda, an initiative known as Tree Adoption Uganda was founded in 2012 to preserve and protect the environment through planting trees. In an interview with our correspondent, Charles Batte, the founder of TAU gave insight into the problem of climate crisis in Africa and the role TAU has been playing in various Ugandian communities to make the environment safe for living.
Diinsider: Climate crisis is now considered one of the biggest problems to the only habitable planet we have. There are scientific proves that life on earth will become impossible if something is not done to end the emission of fossil fuels. How livable is Africa today?
Tree Adoption Uganda (TAU): While disproportionately affecting Africa, the climate crisis is being experienced in many parts of the world. It affects continents differently depending on the adaptive capacity of their constituent countries. Africa has become less livable in the recent decades as countries chiefly depend on agriculture which largely depends on climatic conditions. The changes have led to disruption of agricultural seasons affecting agricultural production. Poor agricultural output inevitably leads to food insecurity, economic challenges, health issues and migrations. The climate change crisis in Africa is worsened by the high levels of vulnerability, exposing communities to the impacts of extreme weather events like prolonged droughts, erratic rains, floods, landslides among others. The planet is becoming less livable every day that passes by, fortunately for Africa, it’s not too late to reverse encroachments and restore landscapes to make the environment better.
Diinsider: What are the activities going on in Africa today that lead to making our planet unlivable?
TAU: There are many activities. One is degenerative agriculture which is evidenced by commercial farming initiatives which use a lot of agro-chemicals and encourage mono-cultural. This is driving massive deforestation, swamp reclamation, eutrophication among others.
Another is industrialization. As most countries are striving to grow their volumes of exports to stabilize their economies, this requires enormous energy resources in form of fuel, biomass among others to increase production which has a negative impact on the environment.
Third is Oil exploration and power generation. The ecological foot print is increasing exponentially with expected demands for energy. Countries are working hard to utilize natural resources like oil and water resources and these have a great potential in raising African emissions.
Then fourth is Geo-politics. Displacements and migrations as a result of political instabilities in some African countries has increase refugee influxes in host nations like Uganda growing pressure on natural resources in such areas as a result of construction and energy demands. The clearance of vegetation is a serious concern as it eventually leads to changes in micro-climates as well as causing conflicts with host communities.
Finally, increasing consumerism is also doing more harm than good. There are new trends which are currently fueling high rates of consumption among communities in Africa for example product promotion days with discounts which encourage people to purchase more than they actually need. This is putting the environment on un-necessary pressure as most raw material are derived from natural resources. Excessive consumption inevitably leads to a net increase in the generation of waste threatening both terrestrial and aquatic life as well as increasing the emission of greenhouse gasses.
Diinsider: Can you describe how Tree Adoption Uganda is contributing to making this planet a livable one?
TAU: Tree Adoption Uganda is providing practical environmental conservation solutions through planting trees to stabilize natural ecosystems and create climate resilient communities. Through farming systems like agro forestry we reduce the household ecological footprint. We believe that trees are the lungs of the world so if we have each and every one plant a tree we solve complex environmental degradation problems. Through creation of community forests and woodlots we create a solid starting base to have a sustainable life in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
We also carry out sensitization on environmental conservation in communities and schools to create awareness about possible actions of people that threaten life on the planet for example poor waste management, un-sustainable farming, deforestation among others.
Tree Adoption Uganda also uses a tree mapping technology to give an opportunity to all people from any part of the world to contribute to ecosystem restoration through adoption of trees planted by the organization. The technology provides details about every planted tree including GPS location, increasing trust in our work and support for our restoration initiatives.
The organization is also empowering young people through trainings to set up green enterprises like tree nurseries and farms in their communities to earn a living. This way, the young people become agents of landscape restoration in their communities as they market their green products to earn a living.
Diisnider: What are some of TAU’s projects/impacts to date?
TAU: We have so far worked with 856 individual households on Sustainable land Management approaches and planted over 135,000 trees with communities in Uganda – 55,000 of these trees have been mapped by GPS coordinates in our new innovative tree tracking effort. We have trained 2,500 young people on variable aspects of environmental conservation ranging from setting up tree nurseries, grafting, pruning, propagation, human and nature interactions as well as established 40 School Environmental clubs in the Manafwa watershed to enhance resilience and stimulate stewardship of the watershed through environmental education.
Over the years we also noted that transparency and efficiency of tree planting (TP) initiatives is limited due to the manual processes of recording TP data. Through work on pilots with partners (EcoMatcher Ltd), we identified that emerging technology, not yet highly utilized by TP organizations, could increase transparency and efficiency of recording and managing TP data. Together we completed the development of a technology platform and mobile phone application
(TreeCorder) that enables tree data for every tree planted to be recorded easily. This robust and user-friendly platform eliminates doubts about TP data and is almost immediately accessible by anyone. Currently we can capture an image of the tree, species of the tree, farmer planting the tree, date of planting and Global Positioning System (GPS) location of the tree with "one-click" of the mobile application. The data is saved to the cloud and can be accessed remotely. This way we give an opportunity to people from all walks of life to contribute to landscape restoration and climate action by adopting the geo-tagged trees, enabling us to scale up as well as support farmers.
Diinsider: How will you describe its projected future impact in the coming years?
TAU: Our vision is to create communities where people and nature flourish. Through landscape restoration activities like planting trees and agro-forestry, we believe we shall be able to point at increased resilience for small holder farmers against the changing climate, restored landscapes, more green jobs for young people and most importantly communities which appreciated and live in harmony with nature.
Diinsider: What are the challenges you face in implementing your projects?
TAU: Our enterprising model of adopting trees gives us some level of financial sustainability, however, we can only go as far as the model can support us at the moment. We strongly believe with more funding our impact will be bigger and our vision will be achieved in a shorter period.
We are a team which believes that trees don’t need rain to grow, but need water. However, the large number of trees we plant means we have to rely on rainfall, which is no longer evenly distributed and reliable as a result of climate change leading to seedling mortality.
Diinsider: What other initiatives are needed to solve the problems of climate crisis in Africa in particular and the world at large?
TAU: Streamlining climate action agenda in National development action plans of different countries. Streamlining and activating policy guidelines centered on climate change. Promoting public and non-motorized transport in cities. Promoting principles of waste management (Reuse, Reduce and Remove). Incentivizing environmental conservation through green entrepreneurship. Investment in clean energy like solar and hydro power. Political stabilization to reduce forced migrations which put pressure on natural resources in host nations.