Hi, my name is John Harrington and although I am from Newtown in Powys, mid Wales, I spend much of my time in Uganda working with the Gumutindo Fairtrade Coffee Cooperative.
I have recently returned to Mbale after five months in the U.K and it is good to see how far things have progressed with the four organisations involved in the tree planting scheme. Other than Gumutindo, the organisations working to help the environment are Bungokho Rural Development Centre, Salem Brotherhood and Share an Opportunity.
This is part of the Size of Wales project and aims to plant a million trees and contribute to the reforestation of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda.
Each of the four organisations has a different orientation but we are all united in working with village and interest groups wherever we are and supporting them to make tree planting and care a part of their concern.
Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative Enterprises is a Fairtrade and organic certified group of co-ops on the mountain. Though weather patterns here have always been variable, there is now a firm belief amongst farmers that there is a change outside of the norm: higher temperatures in the dry season and heavier rains in the increasingly erratic rainy seasons.
Arabica coffee is a vital part of the cash economy here and hundreds of thousands of livelihoods are at stake on this vast mountain area. Arabica coffee will not flourish in high temperatures so shade trees are an important part of climate change adaptation and that is where Gumutindo is making its contribution to the scheme. 100,000 shade tree seedlings were raised this year as part of the 300,000 raised by the four members of the consortium.
Last week I drove up to one of the higher co-ops and we passed through a landslide only just passable in a strong four wheel-drive vehicle. The slide happened in August and killed one of the founder members of a Gumutindo co-op together with many of his family. It was a grim reminder of the dangers and what is at stake.
Deforestation and heavier rains can be devastating for people with few choices. Reforesting the Mbale area with the help of Size of Wales will help stabilise the soil, and so reduce the number of dangerous landslides.
Planting trees alone will not solve climate change but the Size of Wales scheme is an important first step in mobilising those affected to make a start on their own account. A full understanding of climate change will take time to become accepted here as indeed it is doing in the west though for different reasons.
For some of the problems of communicating climate change to those living and working on the land, see Hidden Heat-Communicating Climate Change in Uganda www.Panosea.org.
If everyone in Wales donates £1 to the Size of Wales then we will be able to reach our target of protecting two million hectares of forest in South America and Africa – which is approximately the same size as Wales.
For every ‘like’ the Size of Wales Facebook page receives, their partners will donate £1 to the charity which is enough to save an area of tropical forest the size of a rugby pitch.
To find out more about the Size of Wales, visit their website at: http://www.sizeofwales.org/
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