Back to work today. Today I spent the day interviewing local elders. We have the seed bank program up and running and there is a ton of community interest. But we are trying to get the seedling program made official.
We should get UWA approval this week for the memorandum of agreement with Big Beyond. We already have an agreement to collect seedlings but this will take it further and allow us to do other things in Bwindi.
So part of the plan is to interview all of elder locals to see what they think of the seedling program. If we bring indigenous trees out of the forest will they partner with us to plant them and regrow micro forests to help add nutrients to the ground, stop erosion and regain local wildlife birds etc.
The interviews are interesting. People really were excited about talking to me about the project because we set it up that they were interviewing / talking to me about growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania and I was going to talk to them about their heritage.
I recorded all of the interviews. Since I’m only writing on my phone it’s hard to go in to a lot of details but i talked with 3 men. 2 were my age and one was 85. The two that were my age had always known the area to be deforested and farmland. Uganda is losing forests faster than any other country in the world.
The 85 year old man said when he was a boy here it was all forests. The only farmland was in the valleys near water. He said there were only footpaths then. So that would have been in the 1930’s or 1940’s. He said that they then built a road from Kibale and the first time they saw a motorized vehicle everyone ran in to the forest and hid. He was great to talk to even through an interpreter.
He said as the vehicles came so did mining and they started needing food so they would burn down part of the forest to make farmland. So the 85 year old guy remembered lots of forest and little farmland and the 50 year old men said the forest was all gone by the time they were 20. So doing the math giant slices of forest were removed from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. I’m not sure what to make of that because the farm land is key to their very existence.
The news from the interviews were that none of the farmers really wanted to give up any land to reforest the area with purely indigenous hardwoods. They all said they would take trees that would give them income or food. One of the three said that he would plant some indigenous hardwoods on the condition that they could get yellow mulberry trees – these aren’t what we would call mulberry trees they are big trees that produce a pineapple looking fruit with lots of seeds in it. It’s the one I ate at Lucas’ farm last week. Apparently they used to be everywhere and now they are rare. But they are plentiful in the forest and the gorillas love them so we are going to start collecting seedlings. It’s a start but really no one wants to plant many trees light mahogany which grows to massive sizes in the jungle. Maybe tomorrow other farmers will have a different answer.
Time for a beer.
Respect, professionalism and perseverance. Life is a gift. Living is a choice.