Tree Planting in Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese

Tree Planting Programme in Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese

Bishop Nathan Kyamanywa

One of the most successful programmes in Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese has been its tree project. For those not knowing about this undertaking, I will give a brief background before I describe why I think the project is both a success and a blessing to us. One of the highlights in my Charge at my consecration in Hoima in 2002 was the introduction of the tree planting plan: at the end of my Charge and the function I distributed a seedling to each and every Vicar in the Diocese so they could to go and launch the programme in their parishes. The plan was to be implemented continuously every year, and the primary targets were confirmation and baptism candidates and wedding couples; each candidate was required to plant a seedling on church land and the tree would then belong to the church: that would be their way of supporting the church.

This plan was triple-pronged: firstly as a means of environmental protection, secondly as a long-term income-generation activity for the Church (we had worked out the costing and discovered that it made economic sense) and thirdly to protect Church land from encroachers (of whom there are many as our population is expanding rapidly.)

It is already a blessing because, in some parishes the trees planted at the start have already started yielding; for example Buhamba Parish has recently used some of its own trees as timber for the roof of its new Vicarage. Secondly, wherever you go around the diocese our parishes and churches have become a trade mark.

Initially we concentrated on just one species but the specialists advised us to include indigenous trees as well and so we started planting mahogany and musizi; however, these species are less popular because of the time before they mature since our people are more interested in trees which will benefit them in their lifetime. Mahogany, for example, matures at 90 years, and yet the people are struggling with day-to-day survival; however, we have set up a tree nursery bed at our head office to produce seedlings for that purpose. This programme has a lot of prospects for our financial self-reliance. We have set up a number of wood lots in partnership with Help Hoima and they are all doing well and thriving.

We have undertaken this enterprise at a time when Climate Change is the in-thing. Because of the role that trees play in preserving the environment the programme has been recognised as working positively and effectively against climate change and has catapulted us into the limelight and given us opportunities to meet and discuss with those from many different parts of the world. As a result in 2008 I found myself chosen by the British Council in Uganda to be an Icon for Climate Change and currently I have been chosen as Climate Change Ambassador for ACT Alliance, a coalition of 137 churches and faith-based organisations working together in over 100 countries to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of the poor and marginalised.

Further to these blessings, this project is helping us to participate in the Global Sustainable Goals recently launched at the U.N. So we are contributing directly to the attainment of SDG 13 which calls us to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” and SDG 15 which states “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.”

As a Church we are doing this because of the divine mandate to be good stewards of God’s creation: “The Lord God took man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it: (Gen 2.15).” And this is the duty of each one of us. As Pope Francis has recently written in his Encyclical Laudato Si, “the Globe is our home, given to us by God to sustain us and all the generations to come but we have exploited it with greed and unsustainably”. Let us all find something to do to help preserve Planet Earth and we will be happy in it as we await the enjoyment of heaven – after all, we pray and say “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. God bless you all.

Rt Revd Nathan Kyamanywa is Bishop of Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese and ACT Alliance Ambassador for Climate Change.