Uganda: Mbale Trees Programme

Working with our Partner: Working Partner

Deforestation in Mbale is causing unpredictable weather conditions and declining living standards. To address this issue, the Mbale Trees Programme is planting millions of trees annually and providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for the community.

The Challenge

Uganda has one of the highest rates of forest loss in the world. Between 2001 and 2020, the country lost 918,000 hectares of tree cover, a 12% decrease. Based on current trends, it risks losing its entire forest cover by 2040.

To address this problem, the Mbale Trees Programme, based in the Mount Elgon region of Eastern Uganda, supports local farmers to grow trees and promotes sustainable livelihoods.

Mbale is a large hilly area that has become heavily deforested primarily due to the expansion of agriculture; increasing demand for fuelwood and charcoal; and weak legal protections and enforcement of forest protection laws.

The once predictable weather has become irregular and the local soils, destabilised by the reduction of trees and heavy rainfall, causes flooding and landslides. Landslides have resulted in a loss of homes, schools, livestock and sometimes costs lives.

Project Aims

The Mbale Trees Programme supports the local community to plant, nurture and conserve 25 million trees by 2025. These trees will:

  • Support the community to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
  • Address the drivers of deforestation.
  • Provide local and sustainable livelihoods opportunities for the local community.
  • Protect and enhance biodiversity.

The project works in collaboration with four local implementing partners to distribute over 3 million nursery-grown tree seedlings annually to local smallholder farmers, agricultural co-operatives, families, churches and schools, free of charge.

Gender equality and the promotion of women’s leadership runs across all activities within the project. The number of women-run tree nurseries has increased and the programme has supported women’s groups in activities such as beekeeping.

The programme provides direct employment to 116 employees. Roles include nursery bed operators, data clerks and community facilitators. These roles support the delivery of the programme, including increasing the reach of people aware of and receiving free seedlings.

Since its inception, the Mbale Trees Programme has planted over 15 million trees and brought important environmental and social benefits to the local community, whilst contributing towards global efforts to tackle climate change.

Key to the design of this programme is understanding and addressing the factors that drive deforestation. This includes the production of charcoal which causes deforestation and is exacerbated by a lack of employment opportunities.

Impacts and initiatives to address this include:

  • Growing trees in a sustainable way to provide fuelwood.
  • Installing fuel efficient stoves for community members that run more efficiently and reduce the amount of firewood needed for cooking.
  • Nurturing trees that offer multiple benefits, such as fruit trees that provide nutrition and income; trees with medicinal properties, such as neem; or trees that provide shade for crops like coffee plants on farms.
  • Supporting other sustainable livelihood options.

The community are trained on relevant topics including how to nurture trees, sustainable farming practises, agroforestry and where to plant trees for the best purpose or outcome. These are often held as peer-led knowledge sharing sessions.

Many of the trees planted are a part of the Welsh Government’s Plant! Scheme which celebrates the birth of every child born or adopted in Wales by planting two trees. One in new Welsh woodland and the other in Mbale.


An exciting development which has strengthened the links between Wales and Uganda is the coffee brand, Jenipher’s Coffi.

This Fairtrade certified and organic coffee is grown in the hills of Mount Elgon by a coffee farmer co-operative called MEACCE. MEACCE, which is also one of the Mbale Trees Programme’s four implementing partners, helps distribute and grow tree seedlings which eventually provide shade and protection from extreme weather and increases coffee quality and yields.

Partners in Wales and Uganda have been working together to bring the delicious coffee to Wales and it can be bought online or in Fairtrade shops across the country.

Partner Profile


Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE) oversees the project’s implementation in Mbale. They work with four local NGO’s who run a total of 39 nurseries. These partners are Share an Opportunity, Salem Brotherhood, MEACCE (Mount Elgon Agroforestry Communities Cooperative Enterprise) and Bungokho Rural Development Centre.