Uganda: Mbale Trees Programme

Working with our Partner: Working Partner

The Challenge

Uganda’s forests are under severe threat. In fact, they are being lost at a rate of 1.8% each year. Between 1990-2010, Uganda lost 31% of its forest cover – a decline from 5 million hectares to 3.6 million hectares.  

This project is based in Mbale in Eastern Uganda, a large hilly area that is heavily deforested primarily from expansion of agricultural, an ever-growing population, increasing demand for fuel and charcoal, logging due to weak legal protection and enforcement of forest protection laws. The rains have become irregular, and when they come, the heavy rainfall causes landslides, occasionally proving fatal.

Project Aims

The overall aim of the project is to increase community resilience in relation to climate change impacts in the Mbale region of Uganda through adaptation and mitigation interventions.

Specific objectives are as follows:

• Poverty alleviation: To contribute to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by improving and protecting crop yields and thus food security, leading to more sustainable livelihoods. Particular emphasis is placed on empowering under-represented groups, especially women, youths and people with disabilities in sustainable agroforestry and land management practices.

• Climate change adaptation: To help the region develop its capacity to adapt to climate change. The project will address the adverse effects of deforestation, over-cultivation, soil erosion and landslides by bringing about attitudinal and cultural change in relation to tree planting and conservation of the environment through increasing knowledge and understanding of climate change.

• Climate change mitigation: To assist with climate change mitigation by reducing reliance on wood and charcoal as fuels especially in cooking stoves.

How it Works

This project is working with four local NGO’s and tree nurseries to plant 25 million trees, and directly employing 55 staff from those NGOs. The nurseries distribute seedlings during the rainy season – which, now 10 million trees in, has already begun to regulate itself once again – to local farmers, schools, businesses and individuals. Staff are trained on skills such as agro-forestry, GPS mapping, and tree nursery management, among others.
Project staff also educate local communities on the benefits of keeping the trees standing. A tree that is left to grow to maturity could bear fruits or provide medicines for instance. To further incentivise communities to keep the planted trees standing, small scale livelihood opportunities that are integrated with the trees are encouraged. For example, beehives can be placed in the trees allowing for honey farming or trees providing shade for coffee plants will benefit coffee farmers. 

At a global level, these millions of trees will help to tackle climate change by absorbing vast amounts of carbon.

This project is also linked to Welsh Government’s Plant! scheme which is now in its 10th year.
Plant – meaning child in Welsh – celebrates the birth of every child born or adopted in Wales by planting two trees. One is planted in new Welsh woodland ensuring trees for our future generations, while also nurturing a close personal relationship with nature from an early age. The other is planted in Mbale, helping us reach our target of 25 million trees. 

Place & People

Uganda’s forests are home to at least 7.5% of the world’s known mammal species, 11% of the world’s bird species, with over 1,000 different bird species (according to the Convention of Biological Diversity).

The area our project serves comprises 6 districts within Eastern Region of Uganda, namely Mbale, Bududa, Manafwa, Bulambuli, Sironko and Namisidwa and lies on the southern and south western slopes of Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano, which straddles the border of Uganda and Kenya. The 6 districts together cover an area of over 180,000 hectares with altitude ranging between 1,500 – 4,300m above sea level. 

The total population of this region is around 1.26 million, Mbale itself being the most densely populated. It was originally intended to be the capital of Uganda before it was moved to Kampala. As you leave Mbale, the landscape of the surrounding districts becomes increasingly rural and is predominantly made up of hillside farming communities.

These communities experience 2 rainy seasons per year. The first comes around early April and the second in July. The climate in the region is humid tropical with a mean annual maximum temperature of 27oC-32oC. Average rainfall around Mbale town varies from 880 to 1,775mm per year with a mean of 1,186mm. The average rainfall increases to 2,000 mm around Mt. Elgon, where the rivers of the districts originate.



Sustainability Goals

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.