“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago,” Warren Buffett, an American investor, business tycoon, philanthropist, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and the world’s fourth-wealthiest person as of 2020 said.
Following the rapid depletion of tree cover in Madi Okollo, the Bishop of Madi and West Nile Diocese, the Rt Rev Charles Collins Andaku, has taken the environment conservation campaign to the district.
In the campaign dubbed “The Tree Sunday”, – a diocesan tree planting and protecting strategy observed in all churches every third Sunday of March every year, the bishop went to Muni Church of Uganda in Ulepi sub-county, Madi Okollo district not on an ordinary pastoral visit but specifically to rally locals to change their habits of destroying the environment.
Bishop Andaku said it is a mandate from God to protect the environment lamenting that the land in West Nile had become less productive due to man’s mismanagement.
“God made the world with its resources for man to live and enjoy them. But we have abused this creation by destroying the environment and failure to care for the land and resources given under our care. We need to repent of our sins,” the bishop told the congregation.
“In order to heal our land and make our diocese green and productive again, we must become a tree planting family, community, Church, archdeaconry and diocese”, the prelate added.
Primary seven pupils of Kati primary school drew the congregation in a somber mood through their songs, prayers, poems and skits when at one point, they knelt down, repented and begged for forgiveness for all the havoc that they and their parents had caused to the environment.
The pupils also recited memory verses from the Bible as their parents sat in a large congregation in front of the bishop.
Ms Jessica Anguyo, the Diocesan Head of Household and Community Transformation Department that among others oversees the agriculture and environment sectors said the diocese has a five-year strategic plan (2019-2023) in which tree planting is a key strategy for greening the environment.
Ms Anguyo said the move was taken after it was realised that there was rampant forest cover destruction in the diocese.
“Every year we have been able to plant over 20,000 trees although some died. We are now encouraging tree planting and nurturing as opposed to only planting”, Ms Anguyo said.
To strengthen the fight against environmental destruction, Ms Anguyo said the best archdeaconries and schools in the diocese are usually awarded with trophies also aimed to encourage competition and appreciate the good efforts in the conservation fight.
She revealed that Maracha archdeaconry emerged best in the last tree planting assessment but Covid-19 disruptions meant the 2020 edition of the assessment was not done.
Responding to the urgent plea to restore the environment cover, the Madi Okollo district chairman, Genesis Acema, said that it is a big challenge in the young district.
“The biggest challenge is our staffing levels. In the whole of natural resources department, we have had only one technical officer and one guard who are supposed to move to the communities to sensitise the people and it has been compounded by the lack of logistical support. We only had two vehicles as a district in good mechanical condition”, Mr Acema said.
However, the chairman assured the bishop that “things are gradually changing” chiefly due to a recent recruitment of new staff including in the natural resources department that is set to build on the human resource.
Mr Acema also said the district council had already adopted four ordinances including that regulating charcoal, education, food security and nutrition and alcohol control that will further aid the fight in society ills.
He castigated some local leaders especially politicians for being populists by opposing messages that discourage deforestation and environmental degradation.
The chairman said the district will focus on promotion of alternative livelihoods for the populace in order to draw them away from activities like commercial charcoal trade.
The upper Madi Okollo sub-counties of Anyiribu, Offaka, Okollo and Ulepi are the most affected in the charcoal trade with hundreds of sacks often lined up on the Kampala Highway awaiting clients.