On International Day of Forests, FAO, Ministry of Education in Uganda, urge schools to interest young people in tree planting to improve the environment

School-going children are never too young to start learning about trees and forests because helping children to connect with nature, fosters future generations that are conscious of the benefits of trees and forests and the need to manage them sustainably. Schools should encourage and support young generations to love forests and to take care of trees to improve the environment for posterity. This was a call made by the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Uganda- Antonio Querido, during celebrations to commemorate the International Day of Forests (IDF) on 29 March 2019 held at Wanyange Girls’ Secondary School in Jinja, Eastern Uganda.

This year’s celebrations were held under the theme: “Forests and Education” and to commemorate this event, FAO, through its forestry programme- Sawlog Production Grant Scheme, Phase III (SPGS) III, organized a quiz code-named- #IDF Secondary Schools’ Challenge. The Quiz attracted six schools from Eastern Uganda, namely: Kiira College Butiki, Busoga College Mwiri, PMM Girls School, MM College Wairaka, Jinja College and the hosts, Wanyange Girls’ School. The IDF Secondary Schools’ Challenge was won by Busoga College, Mwiri, followed by PMM Girls’ School. The six schools were quizzed on a series of aspects such as forestry and trees, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

"Forest education is crucial to prevent environmental degradation and sensitize society towards a more sustainable lifestyle", FAO’s Querido said while officiating at the celebrations. "I am convinced that investing in forestry education can change the world for the better” he added. By doing so, Querido emphasized that countries can help ensure that there are scientists, policy makers, foresters and local communities working to reduce, deforestation and restore degraded landscapes. “In turn, healthy forests will help us achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals.” The celebrations were also an opportunity for students to present poems, songs and drama on the dangers of deforestation on the environment and the benefits of planting trees, protecting and conserving forests.

FAO, through SPGS III, is committed to working closely with schools to train teachers and students on forest plantation establishment and maintenance, especially tree planting for fuel wood. The SPGS III Project seeks to support the establishment of 2 500 hectares (ha) of woodlots for fuel wood, in institutions such as schools, by the year 2020. FAO supports these institutions by providing them with seedlings and technical assistance in tree planting. Wanyange Girls Secondary School, which hosted the International Day of Forests Celebrations, is one of the beneficiaries and has established over five hectares of fuel wood plantation.

According to the State of Forests in Uganda, 2016 report by the Ministry of Water and Environment, forests supply well over 90 percent of Uganda’s energy requirements in the form of fuelwood. This is expected to be the major source of energy in Uganda for the foreseeable future, for rural and urban households as well as a majority of institutions such as schools, prisons, hospitals and commercial establishments such as factories. However, fuelwood supplies have been rapidly decreasing due to population growth and agricultural expansion which has in turn led to increased deforestation. Efforts to encourage schools to plant trees are therefore imperative.

While officiating at the celebrations, the Director of Education Standards in the Ministry of Education and Sports, Dr. Kedrace Turyagyenda, urged school heads to prioritize environmental protection as a key recommendation for good education standards, grow trees and help students to appreciate the value of trees. "I commend FAO and Wanyange Girls' Secondary School for this innovative learning experience and I encourage you to scale out this intervention to more schools, more communities and more regions of Uganda, to challenge them to think about planting trees and conserving the environment", she said.

Headmistress of Wanyange Girls' Secondary School, Deborah Basekanakyo lauded FAO through its SPGS III Project, for contributing to nurturing young citizens "who are keen to conserve and enhance the country’s resources for future generations". The celebrations also involved tree planting at the school; with students, teachers and guests planting indigenous tree species to contribute to the school’s green cover.

Thursday, April 4, 2019