African Refugees Seek to Reforest Uganda, One Tree at a Time

Jan 22, 2024

Thought Question: What are some ways that individuals and communities can contribute to protecting the environment and ensuring a sustainable future for everyone?

The East African country of Uganda is known for its greenscapes of mountains, verdant grasslands, diverse wildlife, and thickly wooded forests. In fact, nearly 70% of the country, which is about the size of Oregon, is layered by trees and grasslands.

But over the past generation, Uganda’s forests have been fading at a rapid rate. Trees have been felled to make burning fuel. They're also cut for illegal logging. This has stripped the country of 13% of its tree cover since 2000, the conservation group Global Forest Watch reports.

So a program has been launched by the United Nations (UN) and a new Ugandan conservation group. It seeks to reverse this trend. And, in the process, it aims to provide work for refugees who’ve sought safe haven in the country.   

The program launched in 2016. A handful of the 180,000 immigrants living in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement near the Tanzania border witnessed deforestation up close. And they chose to start planting trees themselves. 

“We saw that in the days to come, when the trees are finished, we will also be finished,” Enock Twagirayesu told The Associated Press (AP). “Because if there are no trees to be used for cooking even the people cannot survive.”

Twagirayesu's family fled violence in Burundi. He now heads the Nakivale Green Environment Association (NGEA). The NGEA, with the UN’s help, is trying to reforest land where trees have been lost. He told the AP that planting trees is hard labor. He said it's far more intense than planting seeds for crops.

Still, the work is vital and worthwhile, he told the AP: “When we are walking in the places where we planted trees, we feel much (joy).”

GIF courtesy @headlikealamb on GIPHY.

Based on the details in the story, what is the mission of the group launched by the UN and a new Ugandan conservation group? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. increase the deforestation rate in Uganda
b. provide immediate shelter for refugees in Nakivale
c. establish new refugee settlements along the Tanzania border
d. reverse the trend of deforestation and create employment opportunities for refugees
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