‘Safeguarding the Environment Through Afforestation’ (SETA) was a one-year project implemented by Associazione Centro Aiuti Volontari (ACAV) with funding from the Autonomous Province of Trento (PAT), Italy. The project covered the four Ugandan Districts of Arua, Koboko, Maracha and Yumbe. The scope was to support 400 farmers who were trained in the establishment and management of forest areas through the planting of various species of trees. The seedlings distributed to the farmers were raised by 20 farmer groups across the four districts. The capacities of these farmer groups were equally built in tree-nursery bed established and managed with the support of ACAV and partners. All-in-all, 200 farmers were trained in raising tree seedlings which were then planted by the 400 individual farmers.
The overall objectiveof the project was to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants of the Districts of Arua, Koboko, Maracha, and Yumbe.The specific objectivewas to contribute to the preservation and improvement of the afforestation status in the named districts by ensuring that existing wooded areas are maintained, so that they do not suffer adverse decrease. More into details, the intervention aimed at establishing 400 forests on a land area totaling to 320 hectares (800 acres) planted with 220.000 cocoa tree seedlings, 25.000 musizi seedlings and 8.000 grafted mango seedlings. Each of the selected and trained farmers was expected to plant an average of 400 to 500 seedlings.
The study conducted to evaluate the project found out the following:
- Farmers were selected, trained and supported to afforest the target area as foreseen in the project plan
A total of 385 farmers were surveyed out of 400 targeted, representing 96,3%. Overall, 251.418 seedlings were distributed and planted. At the time this study was conducted, 187.160 trees were found to be surviving and thriving (74,44% survival rate), including 164.753 cocoa trees, 5.920 mango trees and 16.487 musizi trees.
The conclusion from the survey is that the overall results point directly to the success of the project. The findings show that all the interviewed farmers have profoundly owned the project. The farmers were also able to plant additional seedlings of cocoa, mangoes, citrus and coffee thanks to the support provided by other local partners like Natures Harvest (NH) and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC).
Nevertheless, because of the effects of the prolonged drought in some areas, there is a need to do gap filling for those plants which had dried up. Moreover, ACAV and its implementing partners need to continue with technical support to all farmers in order to ensure the environmental and economic benefits that will contribute to the improved and sustainable livelihoods.
- Overall positive survival rates for the three species of seedlings were registered across the target area
While it should be remembered that seedling’s survival rate varied from farmer to farmer, district to district and also from tree type to tree type, positive percentages of plants surviving and thriving were registered overall. Cocoa registered the highest survival rate (75,48%), followed by mango and musizi with lower rates (respectively 74% and 66,55%). The average survival rate for the 3 types of trees was the highest in Koboko at 77%, followed by Yumbe at 72%, Maracha at 71%, while Arua registered the lowest at 67%.
However, it shouldbe noted that these results are generalized averages: they should not negate the fact that some farmers across the four districts recorded tremendous performances of 100% survival and very good success rates. High survival rates could be attributed to three elements: a. favourable weather conditions; b. compliance with agricultural methods and techniques acquired through training; and c. inputs and extension support.
- The SETA project contributed to the maintenance of wood areas in the four districts
The maintenance of wood area highly benefited from the training and technical support of farmers, the establishment and training of nursery groups and the promotion of relevant agronomic practices also with the support of local partners.
- The unreliability of rainfalls was pointed to be the main challenge faced by beneficiary farmers involved in the afforestation activities
The wide majority of respondents (85%) indicated unreliable rainfalls as the main challenge faced in the carrying out of the afforestation activities. Other problems frequently mentioned by interviewed farmers were pests (61%), the lack of finances to support the operations (54%) and the lack of water for irrigation (52%).