Mark Drakeford and Leah Namugerwa took part in simultaneous tree-planting ceremonies to celebrate milestone of the Mbale Tree Planting Programme on the 11th October 2019
The Size of Wales Mbale programme passed its 10 million milestone as climate change activist Leah Namugerwa and First Minister Mark Drakeford plant trees on two continents on the 11th October 2019.
The ambitious Mbale tree planting programme, which is funded by the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme, plants trees in the heavily-deforested region of Mount Elgon region in eastern Uganda.
It is also supported by the Welsh Government’s Plant! scheme, which plants two trees for every child born or adopted in Wales – one in Wales and one in Uganda. Leah Namugerwa, 15, planted the 10 millionth tree in a special ceremony in Uganda. At the same time, First Minister Mark Drakeford planted a “twin tree” in Bute Park, Cardiff. He was joined by children from Cwmcarn Primary School’s Eco team.
As well as fighting climate change – one of the biggest issues of our time – fast-growing trees protect local people in the Mount Elgon region from the effects of soil erosion, which can cause deadly landslides.
The trees also provide local communities with fresh fruit and shelter and an important source of income.
The tree planting took place as Wales and the world celebrated the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child.
Leah Namugerwa is one of a new generation of young, female climate change activists, blazing a trail alongside fellow activist Greta Thunberg. Her work campaigning for tree planting and a ban on single use plastic has begun to have a significant impact across Uganda.
She was joined by 600 children from Makunda Primary School and the members of the Sunu Women’s Group, who were planting more trees to celebrate the project and its plans to plant 25 million trees by 2025.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The Mbale tree planting programme has been a great success, helping the most vulnerable Ugandan communities adapt to climate change.
“Tropical forests absorb nearly a fifth of all man-made CO2 emissions, making them crucial in stabilising the world’s climate.
“Planting trees in Wales and Uganda is vital in helping to tackle climate change, and helps the children of Wales feel a personal connection with their environment.”
Elspeth Jones, director of Size of Wales, said: “The planting of the 10 millionth tree in Uganda is an enormous achievement. The programme has been working towards this point for many years and immense passion has been invested by a lot of people in both Wales and Uganda to make this happen.
“We are all extremely proud to see these trees being planted today to mark this amazing milestone. We hope that many people from all over Wales will visit our tree in stunning Bute Park and use it as an opportunity to learn about this wonderful project and the importance of trees in tackling the climate emergency.
“We’re really excited about the next stage of the project, which is to plant 25 million trees by 2025 – anyone who wants to support this effort can donate to plant a tree in the project via the Size of Wales website.”
Uganda’s forests are under severe threat, being lost at a rate of 1.8% per year. Trees are being planted by partners in the Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE) region, largely in the gardens of poor farmers. The agroforestry trees improve crop yields by providing shade and improved soil fertility, shelter from storms and extreme weather and many provide fruit. Some trees provide firewood and others are cut and sold as timber and are replaced.
Currently about two million trees are planted every year. The Welsh Government is committed to planting a tree for every person in Wales and in Mbale every year in its draft International Strategy.