Official sign of AYOWECCA Uganda Supervised young people carefully plant a young fruit tree in Uganda. All following photos are courtesy Jonathan Olwenyi.
By Alfred Robert Hogan
Ugandan school children are becoming activists. They have been planting fruit trees on their school grounds that will bear fruit in about 18 months, in an environmental education practical lesson. The students in that East African country will eventually enjoy eating the resulting fruit.
Climate and environmental activist Jonathan Olwenyi’s nonprofit environmental and climate group, AYOWECCA Uganda—that stands for African Youth Women Emancipating Children and Community Alliance—received moral and some financial support from Fridays 4 Future Online, based in New South Wales, Australia, which let the East African nonprofit reward some of the schoolchildren with FFF “Protect Our Future From Fossil Fuels” T-shirts. The group Children for Climate Team Uganda was also involved.
“Our charity is called AYOWECCA UGANDA simply because all our projects are to benefit the indigenous people who are affected by both social and environmental challenges,” he said
Jonathan Olwenyi, far left, stands with some of his young tree-planters each holding one of the trees they were about to plant.
“The kids will be able to enjoy fruit during break time or lunch time,” said Olwenyi, of Uganda’s indigenous population, who earned his master’s degree in geographic information systems (GIS) from Makerere University Kampala in Kampala, Uganda. “They have a hard time concentrating when they are hungry.”
The different species of fruit trees planted were oranges (Citrus x sinensis), mangos (Mangifera indica), avocados (Persea americana), jackfruits (Artocarpus heterophyllus), pawpaws (Cyclimorphs solmsii), and guavas (Psidium guajava). A few other nonprofits have been helping plant trees in Uganda too.
Students, some wearing aqua-colored Fridays for Future T-shirts, plant trees in Uganda.
So far, this inspiring project has planted some 200 fruit trees on the grounds of 23 Ugandan primary schools, and more trees at 14 health centers there. In about six weeks, in September and October 2021 alone, some 1800 trees were planted. In Uganda, 3 million hectares of forest were lost between 1990 and 2015 from trees being cut down for firewood, charcoal burning, and timber, plus encroachment and unsustainable farming. The “ massive cutting down of trees is still taking place,” Olwenyi said.
In addition, on just one day in September 2021, Olwenyi and others planted some 2500 trees off school grounds in Uganda. “We want to increase forest cover and protect nature,” he explained. Young students in Uganda watch and learn how to plant young fruit trees. “We're still planting fruit trees and after the initial 64 schools, we shall then extend to more schools and communities, because there is high demand,” Olwenyi said, communicating via Facebook Messenger and Fridays for Future ZOOM interviews. “We have a tree nursery/greenhouse, where we're raising more than 50,000 fruit trees on our own,” making them ready for transplanting, he noted.
Students pose with young fruit trees they will soon plant near their school.
Olwenyi also traveled to United Nations COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in October and November 2021, and he attended the UN Environmental Assembly/Youth Environment Assembly in March 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya, where the UN Environment Programme has been based for close to 50 years. (UNEP was formed by that 1972 UN environment meeting, held in Stockholm, in June 1972. The UN held a 50 th -anniversary meeting there this month to mark the occasion. As of December 2021, 127 of the 193 UN member states actively participate in UNEP, though only 79 contribute financially. The UN scheduled a two-day commemorative meeting in Stockholm, and FFF put on a major related climate inaction protest outside, with FFF founder Greta Thunberg and others featured, on Friday 3 June 2022.)
Olwenyi has also been involved with “media campaigns” to stop the green-lit 1443-km-long East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, which would start near the Lake Albert oil fields in southwestern Uganda, then cross most of southern Uganda and northern Tanzania—including traversing many rivers, streams, and wetlands, such as the southwestern shore of vast Lake Victoria—to reach the Indian Ocean at Port Tanga, Tanzania. In December 2021, the Uganda Parliament rubber-stamped and railroaded through the EACOP Special Provisions Bill, and on Tuesday 1 February 2022 in Kampala, the leaders of both countries staged a ceremonial “final” approval signing. But Olwenyi and FFF Uganda leader and author Vanessa Nakate—whose slogan is “You Can’t Eat Coal and You Can’t Drink Oil”—and others continue their opposition, facing up-cliff odds—as does our planet’s climate. (Vanessa Nakate was profiled in FFF Calendar in June 2021.)
AYOWECCA Uganda Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ayoweccauganda.org
AYOWECCA Uganda on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/@ayowecca_uganda
Information on the environment/climate threat posed by EACOP: https://www.stopeacop.net/for-climate
Al Jazeera (TV) THE STREAM – “East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline” – 25-minute cable/satellite television program aired live on Wednesday 21 April 2021, third of four programs produced as part of Covering Climate Now: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cI5IUmE-G3A ---