The Tree Planting Story

The Tree Planting Story

The backers on Kickstarter were kind enough to pledge 1188 trees and then a few more made it up to 1200.  A fantastic effort but little did I realise what 1200 tree saplings looked like or the logistics behind the pledges.

On the Thursday afternoon of our prep week, we drove with Isaac – back in the truck – to Fort Portal Botanical Gardens – about an hour and a half away.  What a beautiful place.  We wandered up and down the aisles of the tree saplings and with Isaac’s help (well mostly Isaac actually) we chose the right trees for the setting where the trees will go.  Most of the villagers wanted a fruit tree so we promised a fruit tree plus one other, with each plot being mapped by Isaac.   We made our way back, very carefully and slowly over the bumps to The Rwenzori Founders with 150 trees, meaning the truck was packed with trees.  We had them on our laps, down between our legs and held on to a few, precariously balanced.   The rest of the trees were sourced a bit more locally at fruit tree growers meaning plenty more truck runs over the following week.

Once back on site, Isaac mobilised the planters who had made pegs out of wooden pallets and coloured the end of each peg according to tree type.  The next step was to plot the pegs and put them in the ground wherever they were promised.  Once the pegs had been hammered in, the planters were free to visit each site on the map for themselves, knowing exactly which tree to plant where.  Isaac was i/c pegging too and made sure that every single indigenous tree was planted for best chance of survival and effect on the landscape – a very carefully worked out process.

The planters, supervised by Francis, are going to plant the trees and water them, wherever they are, for the next six months.  This is a piece of cake when the plots are by the river, or on the lower slopes, but we want to plant on the local mountain too – we have to get the trees and water up there – so think of us next Saturday when we attempt the mountain climb with filming kit (including a drone) as well as trees and water.  Trees by the river will sure up the banks and prevent flooding.  Trees on the hillside will stop the soil erosion.  In both cases the forest cover will expand the shaded cover for wildlife, soak up the carbon dioxide and help regulate the rain… hence the nickname locally for the Founders and the title of our documentary – The Rwenzori Rainmakers.

Asking permissions was a huge deal so a village meeting was called with the Chairlady chairing (as you would) and the village Mayor in attendance.  Isaac and Emmanuel from the Rwenzori Founders spoke so well encouraging everyone to have the free trees and to see beyond their use as firewood and charcoal.  We talked at length about helping with the upkeep of the trees and if they promised only to prune them and not chop them down then they would benefit from their fruits and from the birds and animals returning.  It amused me to see that some villagers weren’t keen on more snakes returning.  There are already a lot – so I could see where they were coming from.  On our first day we were joined by a Black Headed Spitting Cobra at a meeting, but it slithered away quite quickly – far more frighten of us I was told.  From Zuleika’s perspective it was such a shame it wriggled off before she had had a good chance to study it but at least she had it on camera.  From my point of view, well… I beg to differ as my fear levels were only just under control!

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