Ambitious Tree Planting Campaign Kicks Off as Oil Activities Intensify

By Herbert Ssempogo & Laura Sseezi

TREES remain a key feature of our surrounding, utilizing carbon dioxide for nutrition purposes in a process called photosynthesis. This natural capture of carbon dioxide helps to, among others, reduce the gas, which creates a layer that traps heat near the earth’s surface.

Without the natural extraction by trees, and activities lacking mitigation measures, cardon dioxide would increase leading to undesirable global warming and the attendant consequences.
Additionally, trees (forests) are vital catchment areas ensuring availability of water for agricultural production and are habitats for forest wildlife.

Unfortunately, in part due to the need for agricultural land and the widespread energy poverty-lack of efficient and affordable energy-most people continue to rely on trees (forests).

Trees are cut and chopped into firewood or burned in kilns into charcoal. Charcoal burning exacerbates challenges as it emits carbon monoxide, a dangerous gas particularly indoors.

Seven in every ten households in Uganda (73%) use firewood for cooking while two in every ten households (21%) use charcoal. Combined, biomass fuels (firewood and charcoal) constitute the main fuel for cooking in 94% of the households, according to the Uganda National Household Survey 2019/2020 Report.

According to the National State of Environment Report 2018-2019, forest cover in Uganda has been declining, from 23.8% (4.8 million hectares) in 1990 to about 9.9 % (2 million hectares) in 2017.
“Natural forests have experienced a decline in the past decades while plantation forest has registered an increment between 2010 and 2017 from 3% to 8%,” reads the report, adding, “overall decline in forest cover has also been halted and, for the first time since 1990, a net forest gain has been recorded.”

The worrisome trend highlighted in the report, has prompted officials at the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) to launch an ambitious tree planting campaign dubbed the UNOC Go Green Campaign. This is in accordance with goal number 13 (climate action) of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Under the campaign, a total of 40 million trees are to be planted countrywide in a span of five to seven years. UNOC is one of the key players in Uganda’s oil and gas sub-sector.

The campaign kicked off recently at the Uganda Petroleum Institute in Kigumba (UPIK) where over one hundred trees were planted. Various tree species will be planted depending on the extent of deforestation, area, and type of soil.

The initiative will involve 36,950 hectares comprising natural forest restoration and private plantations among others.
Areas where the trees will be planted, will include Taala Central Forest Reserve (in Kyankwanzi District (the only forest reserve traversed by the East African Crude Oil Pipeline), Buyaga Dam Central Forest Reserve and Kazooba Forest Reserve in Sembabule and Mabira forest enclaves.

Others are Kabaale Industrial Park (KIP), a UNOC project in Hoima, West Nile, road corridors and private land.
It is anticipated that at the point of project implementation, the trees, will facilitate ensuring carbon neutrality-striking a balance between emissions and natural capture by trees as mentioned earlier.

This highlights commitment to sustainability and environment protection whilst addressing economic and energy needs. Moreover, the potential emissions from key oil and gas projects, will be minimal. Noteworthy is that UNOC’s partners including TotalEnergies have unveiled and committed to a comprehensive biodiversity plan to ensure protection of flora and fauna in “sensitive” ecosystems.

To date, discussions with potential partners like the Church of Uganda (COU) have been initiated including the UNOC CEO, Proscovia Nabbanja meet with Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu to discuss the project. COU’s presence countrywide, authority and land, according to Archbishop Kaziimba, would facilitate buy-in and the partnership’s subsequent success. More partners are expected to come on board soon.