Apr 2, 2018

Farmers Fighting Climate Change

Julie talking about ecosystem with farmers
Julie talking about ecosystem with farmers

Over in Gulu, Uganda, our Native Seeds Project team has been hard at work these past few months. Let me give you a little context: in Northern Uganda, the dry season begins in December and normally lasts until the end of March. During this time, many trees are producing their seeds, making it the perfect opportunity to collect those seeds, dry them at the garden site, and plant them in the nursery. That’s what our team has been doing, day in and day out. With the help of an extensive network of farmers, elders, and other nature-loving folks across villages in the region, our team has been collecting hard to find seeds of trees that are rapidly disappearing. The fruits of their labor? There are currently nearly 30,000 seedlings planted in our tree nursery, and 20,000 more seeds ready to be planted in the coming months. 

As these thousands of seeds grow into healthy seedlings ready for planting, our outreach team has been visiting villages throughout Bungatira sub-county, talking with them about the ways they can take climate change action into their own hands. We call these visits our “Climate Change Resiliency Trainings,” whereby our team covers topics ranging from ecosystem functions to how planting native trees can restore soil hydrology and protect crops from erratic weather patterns.

The result: farmers validated in their suspicions that there is a correlation between the rapid destruction of their forests and rains coming early, late, or not at all. 

It is in these trainings that we begin to realize that climate change is just as much a matter of human rights as it is a matter of environmental well-being. While an abnormally warm winter intermittent with intense snow fall may just seem baffling in the US, overall it does not affect our day to day lives. Yet when the rains come late, as they did last year in Uganda, it is much more than just baffling: it is matter of a farmer being able to have a healthy harvest to put food on his or her table for the family. It is a matter of food security. It is a matter of whether you eat three meals a day or just one. 

This is why equipping farmers with the ability to bring back their native trees is so important. Study after study shows that ample trees in a farmers’ landscape; 1) improves food and water security, 2) protects local biodiversity, 3) increases climate change resilience by expanding dry season farming, 4) combats desertification by improving soil fertility, and 5) reduces disaster risk, when adding fruit-bearing trees to a landscape. 

As the rains come this April to Northern Uganda, we will begin distributing a vast mosaic of tree species to the farmers we work with. We will accompany them through the process over the next year of caring for these seedlings, ensuring that their roots grow firmly in the ground, so that these trees can provide the above services to farmers croplands. 

We are appreciative of you for being on this journey with us. And for the farmers in Northern Uganda, please, take a moment to share this important work with a loved one, and let’s grow this project together. 

Women farmers during training
Women farmers during training
Farmers in Pamin Onon Village!
Farmers in Pamin Onon Village!
Beyo tree seedlings in the nursery
Beyo tree seedlings in the nursery
The benefits of tree planting
The benefits of tree planting
Mar 12, 2018

Plans for the Palorinya Tree Nursery

Nursery Workers Tending to Tree Seedlings
Nursery Workers Tending to Tree Seedlings

After the success of our pilot project in October of 2017 that saw 1500 moringa seedlings transported from our nursery in Gulu to the Palorinya Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda and planted to help supplement the diet of the refugees there, we made plans to expand the project in 2018.  To significantly ramp up seedling production for this region we, along with our local partners and workers, decided to build a nursery in the Palorinya region capable of generating 150,000 seedlings at a time.  

We're happy to report that the funding for the nurseries construction, both locally sourced materials and labor, has already been raised and construction is set to commence in April 2018 with seedling production set to start in May 2018.  

To better service the refugee community the nursery will grow, in addition to the Moringa, a mixture of fast-growing timber species that can be used for the sustainable harvest of firewood, including the following species; Markhamia lutea, Acacia, Maesopsis eminii, Combretum molle, and Khaya senegalensis as well as fruit trees, including the following species; Jackfruit, Avocado, Papaya, Guava, and Orange. 

Trainings and seedling distribution will continue tin later planting months, primarily June and August. Each participating refugee household will receive 5 seedlings to plant on their 30m x 30m plot of land. While there may be some variation dependent on household preference and need, the standard distribution for each household will include 2 seedlings aimed at deforestation-free firewood sources and 3 aimed at increased nutrition (moringa and fruit trees).

In addition to tree seedling distribution and planting at the household level, woodlots for sustainable, deforestation-free firewood will be established next to schools and health clinics. Because host communities have much larger areas of land than refugees, the approximately 1,250 host community households participating will receive approximately 40 seedlings.

We're extremely excited about the potential this project has for this refugee community; our hope is that success of this project will lead to a replicable tree nursery and outreach model that can be used in refugee camps throughout the tropics where moringa grows. Data on all seedlings distributed and planted will be compiled and our team will document the program’s methodology step by step.  A written case study highlighting how the planting of fast-growing timber species can divert deforestation due to firewood needs and how the planting of fruit and moringa trees can diversify refugees’ diets will be produced, including both successes and challenges. The purpose of this case study will be to provide a ‘proof of concept’ so that this program can be replicated at various levels; throughout the rest of Palorinya, to other refugee settlements in Uganda, and adapted to other refugee contexts where moringa grows.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the project's process in the coming months!  In the meantime please continue to offer your support by sponsoring the production and planting of the Moringa trees for the refugees here on GlobalGiving!

Dec 27, 2017

Persistence and hope: a recipe for success

Ocaya tracking seedlings in the nursery
Ocaya tracking seedlings in the nursery

The end of the year is always a potent time of reflection: to look back at where we’ve been, and look forward to where we’re going. For us at the Native Seeds Project, 2017 has been a year of growth, a year that has allowed us to spread our impact to more communities than ever before. Let me give you a little recap of where we’ve been, and why 2017 has felt like such a momentous year.

This project, like many good things, was born from a conversation. In 2015, a group of rural women, all of whom are traditional healers, got together to talk about their lives, their communities, their struggles, their triumphs. Over the course of the conversation, many of them started talking about their medicine, and the plants they derive it from. One mentioned how one plant that she often uses to treat coughs has become incredibly difficult to find. How years ago she only had to walk a few minutes to harvest the leaves, and now she must walk several miles to find one of the trees that is still standing. The other women began to chatter along, fervently validating her experience with their own. It suddenly dawned on them: our trees–the plants we have always used for medicine, for food, for timber–are disappearing. Then the question came: what can we do about it?

They began galvanizing. Brainstorming. Talking. Realizing that in this modern day, where the youth are moving to the towns and farmers with extra land are planting monoculture plots of pine for commercial timber, no one was really interested in the issue of this disappearance of native trees. They realized it was up to them to do something about it. 

Of course, the task was daunting. These women already have a lot on their plates: they are healers in an area of the world where 60% of people still depend on traditional medicine as their primary source of healthcare. They are rural women in Uganda: some literate, some not, yet still expected to enter the cash economy so they can send their kids to school, their grandkids to school, and provide for their families. They are farmers, mothers, caretakers of their households. Suffice to say, they don’t exactly have a lot of free time on their hands. Not to mention that being a woman, and a poor woman, in Uganda doesn’t give you many opportunities to make you feel like you can start an association and get a project up and running off the ground. 

But, these women were determined. So, we started small. We talked about what our vision was, and made a road map for how to get there. We started with capacity building trainings for the women, and started a VSLA (Village Savings & Loan Association) so that they could get access to capital, learn to save money, and begin to find financial stability. Then, we raised money to buy a plot of land, in the women’s association’s name, as a site to construct a tree nursery and begin to plant these native trees that the women were determined to bring back. 

Flash forward two years to 2017. The small plot of land is now 7 acres, with a tree nursery that produced 12,000 seedlings this year. Our team is now 11 people, meaning we are providing full-time, eco-friendly jobs for 11 families. We just finished construction of a fully-equipped building so a nursery manager can live onsite, drilled a well for access to clean drinking water (for us and the neighbors), and finished fencing the land to keep our seedlings safe from grazing cattle and other animals. What was once just a field now is the home to demonstration agroforestry systems: groups of strategically placed native trees that provide different benefits to the people who plant them, from medicine to soil restoration to delicious fruits to sustainable firewood. 

Our Forest Program Manager, Lincoln Ocaya, created a year-long curriculum to teach the women how to produce seedlings, plant them, and care for them. The women just finished the year-long course, and are now primed to go into communities on their own to train and plant seedlings with farmers. From this work, they will receive a stipend that will boost their economic empowerment and financial independence, in a way that also fulfills their original vision: to bring back the trees that used to grace their landscapes. 

While the women were busy learning how to run a nursery and plant and manage tree seedlings, our Native Seeds Project head staff was conducting perhaps our largest success of the year: the distribution of the 12,000 native tree seedlings we produced. Village by village, our team talked with farmers, conducted climate change resiliency trainings, and got tree seedlings into the hands of those that need them most: family farmers that still depend on the land for their livelihood. 

So, when we reflect on the fact that two years ago all of this was just a conversation under the mango tree, it reminds us just how capable we all are of making a change in this world. We are reminded that with a little determination, persistence, hope, and the solidarity and support of people who share our vision, doing good in this world is not only possible, but destined. 

And it is this sentiment that we are carrying with us as we enter 2018. We are doubling our seedling production to 30,000 tree seedlings this year, and the 25 women we work with our more than ready to begin their new jobs as ‘tree trainers,’ going into communities to teach farmers about the importance of native trees in combating climate change and restoring their degraded landscapes, while also guiding them in the proper care and management of the seedlings they plant. We hope you will continue this journey with us, because what Margaret Mead said some years ago has never felt more true– to “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Wherever you may be, I hope this holiday season is filled with family, friends, and hope for the year ahead. 

Florence taking notes during tree trainer class
Florence taking notes during tree trainer class
Julie and Robin checking on a farmer's seedling
Julie and Robin checking on a farmer's seedling
Peter and David loading seedlings for villages
Peter and David loading seedlings for villages
Made, excited for our successes of the year!
Made, excited for our successes of the year!
 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.