In dry Karamoja, caring for trees is hard work, not quite a pleasant gardening exercise one might imagine in a water-rich context. To water the trees, participants walk 3 - 4 kilometres (a 5 hour round trip) a day, three times a week, to the nearest water source. Clearing and preparing the land, adding manure, establishing fences and planting also takes a lot of effort. Despite the workload, however, the community is diligent and joyful in taking care of these trees. One such joy is to have work in an area where over 90 per cent of the population is without a formal job.
"Before, I used to just sit in the shade" says Madalena, a participant of the project.
Community members also recognise the benefits of these trees: providing shade, attracting and storing water, and improving the land. They also use the leaves as medicine and utilise grown trees to add bee hives to generate income. Each participant takes care of five trees and receives 40.5 kilos of maize for 13 days of this work. Since they are food insecure, receiving food assistance is not only crucial to alleviate their immediate hunger for themselves and their children (94 per cent of the participants consumed the food they received), but also encourages and enables them to keep working, providing them with daily meals to have the energy for productive work.
During the first phase of the project in 2012, four types of trees (Markhamia, Indian Neem, Sudanese Teakand Gravellea) were planted according to the guidance from the Natural Resources Department of the Government. At the end of the first cycle, an evaluation found that the Sudanese Teak did not do well, while the Indian Neem thrived. Additional water-harvesting land preparation techniques were introduced to maximize rainwater usage and these lessons were reflected as the community expanded the lot during the next phase. The participants also agreed to water the trees daily, irrespective of the allocated rations, so the trees can grow well, which shows the sense of ownership the participants have developed for these trees.
World Vision mobilises the community, providing the necessary input such as seeds, tree seedlings, watering cans and tools, and training the participants. The trees, the land and the benefits belong to the community. With strong support from the government and local leaders, some 240 community members in Nakongmutu village are working together for food, a better environment, and better land for themselves and their children.