Kampala — PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni boosted the national re-aforestation campaign over the weekend by launching a tree planting campaign in Mubende.
Museveni, who was celebrating the national tree planting day on Friday, asked the forests authorities to desist from harassing encroachers, but negotiate with them a mutual co-existence with the forests. He said there is no conflict between man and trees.
He planted a pine tree seedling on a 9,000 hectare piece of land owned by The New Forests Company, a British firm.
The firm intends to plant about one million pine and eucalyptus trees this year and two million next year. The function took place at Namwasa, Kassanda sub-county.
The Minister for Water, Lands and Environment, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, said there was dire need to increase tree coverage, which he said currently stands at only 21%. He appealed to the Land Commission to cooperate with his ministry to secure land for investors who are interested in forest preservation and tree planting.
Museveni told the National Forest Authority (NFA) to leave the eviction of people from central forest reserves to the government.
"The problem is leaving the environment to the NFA technical people. Technical people like Dr. John Kabogozza (chairperson of the NFA board) know only how to handle trees but not people."
Speaking in Luganda, Museveni said, "These 'because people' (those who speak English) should only teach wananchi to plant fruit trees,"
"We need to find a win- win situation.
One acre of mango orchard in a year on average yields sh12m," Museveni said while referring to Nyanzi Nyombi, a Mityana farmer. "I will send you fruit trees to plant," he told Nyombi
He said the government would provide fruit tree seedlings to interested people. He also criticised the colonial mentality of planting food and cash crops on hill tops.
"Now most hills are empty. The hills should not be for crops," he said.
He appealed to the residents to appreciate the value of trees.
"Trees have many values which include cleaning air, timber, honey, fruits, fodder, cooling the climate, fuel wood, wind breakers and medicine. Trees keep the water table high, resink rainwater and help to control soil erosion," he lectured.
"These forests gave us protection during the five-year struggle to remove the Oyite Ojoks. I have heard some areas around here lost their crops due to strong winds. Trees resist wind. We need the trees and the people. We need to harmonise our plans."
He said investors should only strive to get the investment licence showing their plans and land shall be provided by the government.