Woman and family planting trees in Uganda.
Betty Amito showing USAID and Kijani Forestry staff how she is preparing to plant 500 more trees during the next planting season. Photo credit: Marian Siljeholm, USAID

Agroforestry for Resilience

By Annah Natukunda

Forests purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, prevent erosion, and help address climate change by absorbing planet-warming carbon. Particularly in the developing world, forest ecosystems are absolutely vital to local communities, as they provide timber, poles, firewood, and medicines — all crucial for community survival.

And yet, without a way to replenish these precious natural resources, these communities who rely on the forests are also contributing to their destruction.

Betty Amito is a smallholder farmer in a remote village in northern Uganda. She and her husband grow cotton and some vegetables to support their three children. She is also a volunteer teacher at their local primary school.

Betty is fortunate to live close to the boundary of Rom Central Forest Reserve, where she collects firewood for cooking. Like the many other farmers in the region, her life will grow more difficult in the coming years if forest resources are depleted.


Woman and three children smile in front of their home in Uganda.
Betty Amito and children stand in front of their house. Betty plans to build a better house for her family with the money she will earn from the sale of mature trees in five to eight years.

With the goals of creating lasting environmental change, enhancing economic sustainability, and increasing community and household resilience for people such as Betty, USAID reached out to these communities.

In January 2022, Betty learned how to earn money from tree planting during a village savings group meeting. She welcomed the idea as it would mean increasing her small income while also conserving the environment that her family and community rely on.

I like planting trees,” Betty said, proudly. “When I heard about tree planting, I was among the first to agree to be part of the project. Some people refused. But now after seeing my garden, even my husband has been encouraged; he is going to prepare his own garden for trees for next planting season.”

USAID partners with Kijani Forestry, a social enterprise, to promote activities such as tree planting, farmer-managed forest regeneration, and community forestry management. These activities protect and enhance the health and diversity of forests, while ensuring they continue to provide environmental, social, and economic benefits for present and future generations, particularly those living near the central forest reserves.


A group of community members in Uganda preparing to plant trees.
Community members preparing pots for the community tree nursery.


A farmer smiling in his field of new trees.
A farmer proudly shows off his new tree garden in northern Uganda. Behind him is Rom Central Forest Reserve.

With USAID support, Kijani Forestry provided fast-maturing, indigenous tree seeds and education about improved tree planting practices to more than 200 farmers living near Rom and Napono Central Forest Reserves in Agago and Kitgum districts in northern Uganda. Kijani also helped farmers set up community tree nurseries.

Equipped with their new understanding of tree planting, these farmers successfully tended the 270,000 newly planted indigenous tree seedlings until the rains came in August and they were able to transplant.

The farmers responded well to the call to join tree planting and were eager to tend to community nurseries before transplanting to their private gardens, said Innocent Lubangekene, Area Coordinator for Kijani Forestry.

“Most of the seedlings we distributed were planted,” Innocent said. “The major emphasis was on boundary planting along the border with [central forest reserves]. We encourage them to plant Acacia polycantha around their timber tree gardens and acacia thorn trees for charcoal production. Sometimes, the timber species are attacked by livestock and even wildlife, so we encourage farmers to plant Acacia polycantha as the boundary and plant timber species on the inside.”


Four people stand around tables with grass, hay, and seedlings surrounding them.
Staff from Kijani Forestry and USAID’s Biodiversity for Resilience Activity visit a community tree nursery in Orom, northern Uganda.

Betty is one of more than 200 smallholder farmers who planted indigenous tree species after training facilitated by Kijani Forestry. In August 2022, she planted 700 trees, most of which are thriving today. This year, she is expanding her tree garden with 500 additional seedlings.

The acacia tree species will mature over a five-year period, while the timber species will take about eight years before harvesting. Kijani Forestry will buy the timber and other trees at a premium price, increasing incomes for these farmers.

“We have our contracted and registered farmers and won’t buy from unregistered farmers,” Innocent said. “For timber, we will buy standing trees in the garden, harvest and transport the trees at our cost.”

Kijani also provided improved seeds for simsim (sesame) and soya beans to plant in the tree gardens as an alternative way for the farmers to earn income while they wait for the trees to mature. The farmers have made over UGX 20M (over $5,000) from the first harvest of sesame sales. This income helps farmers pay daily expenses. They also use some sesame to feed their families, increasing household resilience.

By using their own planted trees for wood, fuel, and other purposes, farmers will provide their communities a new sustainable income source, as well as allow the nearby central forest reserves to regenerate.


Man smiles with "Kijani Forestry" shirt on.
Innocent Lubangakene of Kijani Forestry, which provides indigenous tree seeds and tree-planting knowledge to farmers in northern Uganda.

With the money she will get from the sale of mature trees, Betty plans to build a better home for her family. Farmers like her are at the heart of the USAID project’s strategy — by reducing the local reliance on finite existing natural resources, the project is helping to conserve these resources for future generations, and helping communities become more resilient.

This blog post was originally published on Medium.com

Strategic Objective
Agriculture, Economic Growth, Forest/Forestry, Natural Resource Management

Annah Natukunda

Annah Natukunda is the Communications & Knowledge Management Specialist for the Biodiversity for Resilience (B4R) Activity at USAID’s Mission in Uganda.

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