Background to the problem
Income poverty in our community leads to illegal burning of charcoal, timber, firewood and logging. Inadequate literacy on environmental related matters and traditional beliefs leads to people felling trees, burning bushes to make wild fires, killing trees by burning, uprooting trees and debarking them for herbs and other needs. Also failing to replace trees, farming at stream banks causing erosion, seeing bushes as enemies because they attract other creatures to inhabit so clearing them are all contributing factors.
Shifting farming is a widespread practice and causes widespread environmental degradation.
Population increase furthers environmental deterioration. Climate change (Not at local level only) leads to a change in rainfall timing and amount, drought, increase of crop attacking diseases and insects, increased heat and winds speed, all of which are causing poor agricultural production. To maintain food needs, farmers are expanding the farms and mostly are going to virgin land by encroachment and so causing deforestation.
The overall environmental impacts associated with the factors stated above are deforestation and loss of natural vegetation cover, land droughts and soil erosion, inadequate and unreliable rainfall in a year, the decrease of agricultural produce and increased poverty intensity, migration and unsettled families.
Local people need a strategy to encourage them to plant trees which they are not sure to eat in the short term. Many people refuse to plant trees by claiming that they are going to die before benefiting from them. However, we are slowly changing the mentality of the majority of Zeze toward planting different tree species and protecting the natural vegetation for the sake of the wider environment both now and in the future.
Since 2012 we have been providing moringa seeds, planting and telling the community about the benefits moringa oleifera species have. Such benefits include medicinal, nutritional, beekeeping and soil improvement values. In Zeze village alone more than a half of the population have it either at home or at the farms. Despite that it is not regarded as economical plant, however it has an opportunity to be and people are ready to make it a cash crop for the area following our work.
We encourage people to grow trees for timber and firewood as instead of depleting the natural forest. Trees like coniferous pines are the best replacement and are well accepted by the community so far we have planted more than 9700 tree since 2017 for this purpose, either from the nursery we established or bought and distributed to small farmers.
We are improving the status of fruit trees growing through education and supply. Many farmers hadn’t a culture of growing fruit trees because they take a long time to produce fruits. However, people now understand that the trees are not only for eating but also for shade before they fruit. We have been providing palm trees, avocado and mango seedlings and individuals grow them as part of their involvement in the processes of managing the environment.
Protection of natural forest
We set up a beekeeping project whereby hives are hung on trees. Bees are the soldiers to arm against any person trying to harm the tree on which they are nesting. People are educated about the disadvantage fire burning is to the beehives and bees. Fire is decreasing in the areas with hives. We show people how bees are so beneficial for the income, nutrition and environmental conservation. We have now installed more than 600 hives in bushes made locally by locals.
Plans for 2020 onwards
In 2020 we are starting a 3 year plan to plant 200,000 trees in 4 villages involving 1000 people, 16 institutions and at 11 streams will be planted by community groups in collaboration with local government. The trees will include trees like palm, pines, fruits and drought resistant Mvengi will be planted. The organisations involved will include Zeze secondary school, Rusesa Secondary, Makingi Primary school, Zeze, kitbitibi, Kigembe, Kakirungu, Rusesa, Kwaga and msebeyi schools, and 5 health care centres at Zeze, rusesa, nYaanganga, Kigembe and Kwaga.
Benefits from this programme will include improved soil by reduced erosion and additional of fertility from land cover as well as improved livelihoods and nutrition from cash and fruits foods.