By Murinzi Goodluck
- The mission of the Million Trees International Organisation is not just about increasing the world’s green cover; it’s about creating a sustainable future for our planet, one tree at a time.
- With a team of passionate environmentalists, the organization has partnered with several entities to realize the dream of a green world.
- Despite the shortfalls, the organization has so far seen more than 243 hectares of land restored.
Uganda, like many other tropical countries, needs help to tackle the effects of environmental degradation.
In the current world, environmental concerns loom large. As mitigation, one organization is taking the initiative to tackle these challenges head-on.
Million Trees International Organisation, a dedicated non-profit, has set an audacious goal to plant one million trees to combat the pressing issues of climate change, deforestation, and environmental degradation.
Birthing the dream
Way back in 2013, a zealous high school youth, now Amb. Dr. Jibril Ssemakula, a professional clinician, on the belief that the power of a single tree can ripple across generations, started Million Trees International Organisation.
This dream, now a reality, came when he was in the third grade at Ishongororo High School, Ishongororo Sub-county, in Ibanda District, South Western Uganda.
Ever since, he has been tirelessly working to transform this vision into reality.
Years later, in 2019, the idea was finally turned into reality.
Joining hands for the mission
The mission of the Million Trees International Organisation is not just about increasing the world’s green cover; it’s about creating a sustainable future for our planet, one tree at a time.
The journey of Million Trees International inspires hope.
With a team of passionate environmentalists, the organization has so far partnered with several entities to realize the dream of a green world.
Among such entities has been the Uganda People’s Defense Forces, which has offered land and community sensitization on the importance of trees.
Equity Bank Uganda has played a pivotal role in the greening of Kasese District in South Western Uganda.
Kasese District, lying on the slopes of Mount Rwenzori, is very prone to environmental disasters like floods and landslides.
In 2021, the flooding of River Nyamwamba claimed more than 20 lives of the population.
According to Dr. Ssemakula, the organization has also worked with the Buganda Kingdom government to restore the King’s Forest within Buganda.
Other partners have been the Busoga Kingdom and The Kenyan High Commission in Uganda.
The successes of Million Trees International Organisation have also been attributed to the support of the Ministry of Water and Environment, among others.
They have rolled up their sleeves to embark on an ambitious reforestation journey.
As of today, the organization has played a pivotal role in the restoration of Kazogo Pocket forest in Kisoro in South Western Uganda, ‘Akabira ka Kabaka’ in central Uganda, and restored forest cover in Kasese District, among other projects.
The organization has also started environmental protection clubs in schools with the belief that the trained students can have a real impact on the environment.
Currently, the Million Trees International Organisation, together with The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), is planting trees along the Nyakahita-Kazo-Ibanda-Kamwenge-Port Portal road (207 KM) as part of their urban forestry program.
Majority of the road reserves in Uganda are bare patches of land despite the vast forest cover and vegetation destroyed during construction.
The country is currently undertaking a controversial oil pipeline project from Bulisa in western Uganda to Tanga in Tanzania.
Under this project, thousands of kilometers of forest cover have been cleared to pave the way for the project.
Their efforts span across various regions and ecosystems, from reforesting of barren lands to rejuvenating urban areas.
It’s a comprehensive approach that underscores the urgency of their mission.
What sets Million Trees International Organisation apart is not just the scale of their mission, but the profound impact it promises to have.
“Trees are more than just symbols of nature; they are the guardians of our environment,” says Dr. Ssemakula, adding, “They sequester carbon dioxide, provide vital habitats for wildlife, prevent soil erosion, and enhance the quality of the air we breathe.”
By planting a million trees, this organization is sowing the seeds of a brighter, more sustainable future.
As a way of spreading its wings further, the organization has so far partnered with Great Africa Cycling (GACS), a cycling organization with the aim of promoting environmental awareness across Africa to plant 37,000 tree seedlings across East Africa.
But the path to a million trees is not without challenges.
The organization faces logistical hurdles. The land issue has been a serious blockade to the team’s plans.
Securing land for planting the trees as well as the nurseries isn’t anywhere near a bed of roses.
Further still, nurturing these trees to maturity is another hurdle.
It’s a testament to their unwavering dedication and commitment that they press forward, fueled by the knowledge that their efforts will help mitigate the effects of climate change and conserve the planet for future generations.
On this little glimmer of hope, Million Trees International Organisation banks its future.
Despite the shortfalls, the organization has so far seen more than 243 hectares of land restored. This hasn’t gone unnoticed.
They have received recognition from the President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, through the Ministry of Water and Environment and were specially recognized in February.
In addition, they have won both local and international environment awards.
They are the current winners of the Environmental Sustainability Award 2023, given by the Ministry of Water and Environment under the office of the Prime Minister of Uganda.
The United Nations has also recognized and appreciated the work of the Million Trees International Organisation.
With the growth within the organization, questing to solve the environmental question, the organization has employed tens of Ugandans.
The director believes that the number will keep growing as activities increase.
The planet’s hope
According to Gen. Wilson Mbadi, the CDF UPDF, Million Trees International Organisation, and similar organizations are the only hope for the planet’s future.
He believes that the time is now for everyone to step in and save the environment for future generations.
The organization hopes to expand its activities across Africa as a tangible, yet affordable way to save the mother planet.
The organization’s activities are running in Busoga Kingdom, Ibanda District, Sembabule, Lwengo, UPDF Barracks, Kisoro District, and other areas.
Its tree-growing operation runs in 3 ways mainly:
- Agroforestry programs
Local people/farmers are given tree seedlings by request. All beneficiaries of this program are registered for easy follow-up and monitoring.
- Urban Forestry programs
Trees are grown in road reserves. They are currently planting trees along Nyakahita-Kazo-Ibanda-Kamwenge-Fortportal Road together with the Uganda National Roads Authority.
- Conservational Forestry
It’s all about restoring degraded government land. They closely work with the National Forestry Authority and District Forestry Services units.
The National Forestry Authority Uganda has always supported the activities of the organization with free tree seedlings.
These are grown in partnership with local communities and institutions like schools and religious organizations.
Roofings Group Uganda Ltd has also offered fruit tree seedlings grown with local people and institutions.
Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) supports them in mobilizing local farmers, especially during Tarehe Sita operations.
They jointly grow trees in barracks like URDCC Gaddafi UPDF Barracks, Kaweweta 3FAR-SFC barracks, and more.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), has been giving recommendations to most funding units.
This has enabled the Million Trees International Organisation to get some resources.
GRO Initiative is currently the funding unit for conservation forestry. They entirely funded the organization’s work on the Kazogo Pocket Forest Restoration Project in Kisoro District.
- Statehouse Recognition by President Museveni through UPDF on February 25, 2023.
- Awarded the Environment Sustainability Award 2023 by the Government of Uganda through the National Environment Management Authority, NEMA, with Nabbanja Robinah, Prime Minister.
- Recommendation to UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021/2030 by Ministry of Water and Environment, through Beatrice Anywar, as the flagship initiative.
- Community recognition and appreciation for work well done.
- Accreditation for COP-27 whereby our office administrator and secretary Moses Mutyaba was accredited for COP27 in Egypt by Ms Margaret Arthieno Mwebesa, UNFCCC focal person.
- Partnership with Busoga Kingdom, where the kingdom gave them land for nursery beds in all chiefdoms.
- Participation and recognition in Uganda Water and Environment Week 2022 and 2023 with MWE.
- Participation and recognition in Tarehe Sita celebrations 2022 and 2023 with UPDF.
- Million Trees International Organisation is embarking on several projects throughout the country. Among these are:
- Ibanda Saza Forest Restoration Project with Ibanda District Local Government.
- Kakasi, Kasyoha Kitomi, Bihanga CFR restoration project with National Forestry Authority. They have done a field survey and mapped 30 hectares out.
- Kyabazinga’s Forest Restoration Project that involves 7km of roadside urban Forestry to the palace, 15 acres of land in Budondo, and Palace Perimeter walls greening.
- Kasese 64-acre land restoration project with Kasese District Local Government and Municipality through local people.
- Attending COP-28 from November 30 until December 12, 2023, at the Expo City, Dubai.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: How ‘One Health’ protects apes and humans in Uganda