By Arnest Tumwesige
Farmers in Pader district have started large-scale planting of tangerines in a bid to boost environmental conservation while also boosting household incomes.
So far, over 11,700 and 6,800 seedlings for South Sudan teak trees and tangerines respectively have been distributed.
4,500 South Sudan teak trees were distributed to each group and 10 tangerine seedlings for each household in the beneficiary sub-counties.
The 26 groups that received the seedlings on Saturday from Pader Town Council are from the five sub-counties of Pajule, Angagura, Paula, Lapul and Pader.
Samuel Odong, 31, from Ribe Aye Teko Olokilee farmers group, expressed his gratitude, saying the distribution coincides with the sensitisation campaign the group from Pader Town Council with 40 members, had already started on the importance of planting trees.
Odong said farmers are yearning for free tree seedlings to plant but they have limited accessibility.
Other farmers like David Okello from Angagura sub-county, said the initiative by LM International and Pader district builds on the efforts they started three years ago.
Okello told New Vision during the seedling distribution on Monday, May 8, that being passionate about the environment, Wamaru-pit VSLA and farmers group of 30 members are already into tree planting, 10 acres so far established.
“Our plan is to take up tree planting as a business but also as a source of improving food security, by growing food trees like tangerine, avocado, and jackfruit,” he explained.
Milly Akello of Wamak Tic Saving Group in Pader Town Council said the distribution of the seedlings has come at the right time to help improve the mitigation of harsh climatic conditions.
During the distribution, over 1950 kgs of hybrid seedlings were distributed with each group getting 75 kilograms for joint planting.
Project to introduce carbon trade
The exercise was done under the climate change mitigation, adaptation for economic livelihood and environmental resilience project implemented by LM International as a pilot project, and the Pader local government.
The project’s main objective is to increase advocacy, human rights awareness, knowledge and resilience among the 26 farmer groups.
The project intends to establish carbon credit partnerships among successful farmer groups as a direct benefit for those engaged in massive tree planting.
Moses Okure, the LMI program manager, however, told New Vision that the establishment of carbon trading in the district still faces the challenge of the unwillingness of locals to disclose their total land acreage and title deeds as a measure of getting full support.
Similarly, the project intends to introduce fish farming by establishing three fish ponds under the management of the beneficiary communities.
“We want to improve nutrition and boost household livelihood through production for home consumption and commercial purpose,” he noted.
High demand spurs seedling theft
Martin Okello, the Pader district forest officer, said about 50-60 percent of the district’s forest cover is still intact.
He, however, added that four local reserves and one central forest reserve have been severely encroached on since the return of people from internally displaced people’s camps.
Okello cited Acholibur Town Council which is seated on a forest reserve, part of Pajule forest reserve which was cleared for cultivation, Awere central forest reserve which is currently hosting St Kizito primary school, a government-aided school sitting on one acre.
Equally, Atanga and Angagura local forest reserves have been partially cleared by locals and the government respectively to pave the way for cultivation.
Despite the encroachment, Okello acknowledged that there have been fewer efforts to restore the affected areas apart from conducting sensitisations to create awareness among the community.
The district however wants to establish a massive tree seedling nursery due to high demand.
“Last year, the district distributed 4000 tangerine seedlings. Due to high demand, the seedlings are being stolen from the gardens, an indicator of a supply gap, which calls for partners to come in,” he told New Vision.
Milton Odongo the Pader resident district commissioner commended efforts that are geared towards environmental conservation, adding that without them, the harsh weather will affect farming.