Restoring degraded land in northern Uganda by planting indigenous trees

Climate changeNature-based Solutions

Notes to broadcasters

According to Global Forest Watch, in 2010, Uganda had almost seven million hectares of tree cover, extending over 29% of its land area. In 2022, the country lost 64 thousand hectares of tree cover, which represents 33 million tons of CO2 emissions. From 2000 to 2020, Uganda lost 1.05 million hectares or 23% of its tree cover.

Today, forest covers 24% of the country’s total land area. And there is constant pressure on forest land for cultivation and settlement, as well as an increasing demand for wood fuel.

This script is based on interviews done with farmers and with people employed by Kijani Forestry based in Gulu, Uganda, who are involved in reforestation efforts.

You might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.

If you are creating your own programs on using reforestation to address environmental and community problems, talk to farmers and others who are implementing reforestation on the ground, as well as experts who are experienced in the details of how to successfully reforest areas, and experts who understand the environmental benefits of reforestation. You may wish to ask them questions similar to the following:

  • What local problems are your reforestation efforts designed to address?
  • What tree species at what spacing are you planting, and what is the purpose and uses of each species?
  • What environmental and community benefits have been experienced from reforestation?
  • What challenges have you encountered and how have you tried to address them? Have these efforts been successful?

Estimated duration with music, intro and extro, is 25 minutes


Hello, dear listener, welcome to our radio program.

Today, we are going to talk about the promotion of tree planting by Kijani Forestry, based in the Gulu district of northern Uganda.

We will look at the challenges they face and discuss the species they plant.

We will also talk about the impact of climate change and the measures taken by the women and men who struggle every day to find solutions to the challenges of reforestation in Uganda’s communities.

We will be speaking to Catherine Cynthia Nagaddya, Manager, Community Outreach and Partnership Engagement at Kijani Forestry, who will give an overview of their work, particularly in Lango and Acholi, sub-regions of Karamoja.

We will also talk to Ambrose Obao, a field officer with Kijani and youth tree promoter, and a forester, Layet Mary of Paibona sub-county, Gulu district.

We will then wrap up with Quinn Neely, the overall director of Kijani Forestry, a non-profit organization.

Welcome, Catherine Cynthia Nagaddya. You are busy planting trees every day on farms, especially in Acholi and Lango sub-regions. Would you please give us a general overview of Kijani Forestry?

Thanks for welcoming me into the studio.

Kijani Forestry is a social enterprise that was established in 2018. We are now working in 20 districts with over 25,000 households throughout northern Uganda’s Karamoja sub-region, Bunyoro sub-region, and West Nile.

We work with farmers to plant trees in an agroforestry system in order to produce charcoal and timber, which we guarantee the market for buying and selling. We buy the mature trees that we plant with the local community.

We mostly plant indigenous tree species that grow back well after cutting, are fast-growing, and are drought- and pest-resistant, multipurpose trees that work well in agroforestry systems.

We establish local nurseries and provide farmers with inputs like potting bags, seeds, watering cans, and spades, while the farmers provide labor, poles, and grass.

We provide all the training and support farmers to successfully raise seedlings right in their community.

We usually sign a contract with farmers, promising to buy the charcoal and timber that they produce. For the charcoal, we let farmers use our efficient kiln so that they can produce more charcoal from the same amount of wood.

We buy all the charcoal at the local price. With our efficient kilns, they get 20%-50% more bags, which means 20-50% more money.

Our contract also guarantees that we will buy farmers’ timber trees. The land still belongs to the farmer, they are only required to sell the charcoal and the timber trees to us.

We also guarantee that, for every tree that farmers plant with us that survives until January of the following year, we will give them 100 Ugandan shillings (about 2 ½ cents US). Our tracking team follows up and checks on the spot.

What spacing do you recommend for the trees?

For timber trees, we encourage 4×4 metre spacing, which is around 250 trees in an acre. We recommend planting half an acre of timberland and half an acre of charcoal trees, which gives the farmer 500 charcoal and 125 timber trees in an acre.

Farmers can also plant trees around the boundary of their fields to create a living fence to help demarcate their land, fence off unwanted stray animals, and also increase the number of trees planted and the amount of money they can make.

We encourage farmers to plant between 750 and 1,000 seedlings. For charcoal, we encourage 2×2 metre pacing, which is about 1,000 trees in an acre.

For example, a farmer could plant 125 timber trees in half an acre at 4×4 metre spacing, 500 charcoal trees in a half acre at 2×2 metre spacing, and then plant a row of ongono, botanically called Acacia polycantha and also called the white thorn tree, on the farm boundary at 1×1 metre spacing. This would be another 250 trees.

That would be 875 trees in total in one acre. If farmers do that, they would receive 87,500 shillings (US $23) from Kijani in January if all their seedlings survive. And if they managed their trees well, in four or five years, they could harvest their charcoal trees—and after 10 years harvest the timber trees.

We bring the kiln to the farmer’s garden for them to use. It takes five trees to make a bag of charcoal, then these 500 charcoal trees would make 100 bags of charcoal. A bag of charcoal is currently about 20,000 Ugandan shillings ($5.30 US), so farmers would make two million ($524 US).

And the price of charcoal is rising, so, by the time farmers sell their charcoal, it will be worth more than two million, and they also have an acre of timber trees they can harvest in 10-15 years.

We buy each mature timber tree for at least 70,000 ($18.60 US), depending on the species and the management. For the least expensive species, that would be 17.5 million (US $4,645) for 250 mature, well-maintained trees after 10-15 years.

We expect farmers to plant every year to address deforestation. That way, farmers have trees to harvest every year and, as the trees grow back, they will get even more charcoal and money.

Which types of trees does Kijani promote planting?

We plant Terminalia glaucescens or opok for fuelwood and for construction poles, Melia vokensi commonly known as giant lira for beekeeping or timber, Senna siamea and Gmelina arborea for fodder production, charcoal and timber, Albizia lebbeck or owak for charcoal mainly and also for firewood, musizi, botanically called Measopsis eminii for timber, and ongono and Faidherbia to fix nitrogen in soils, as well as for charcoal, as a repellant, and to plant on field boundaries, and Makharmea lutea, called nsambya, which is used for charcoal.

What impact is climate change having on communities in Lango and Acholi sub-regions?

The impacts include unreliable rainfall, high temperatures, climate-induced poverty, uncontrolled deforestation, and water shortages.

You’ve mentioned the economic benefits to farmers from planting charcoal and timber trees. But what are the benefits to the environment and biodiversity from the community tree planting?

They include reducing deforestation and increasing forest cover, diversifying agriculture, increasing the potential for beekeeping, improving soil fertility and quality, and restoring, biodiversity and hence promoting tourism.

Does planting trees mitigate climate change?

Planting trees helps reduce the pressure on naturally growing trees since farmers can use their own trees for wood, timber, construction poles, and other needs, instead of cutting trees in the forest.

The local temperatures go down, and the trees release more oxygen as they hold carbon.

Also, with our new kilns, we improve the quality and quantity of charcoal, which reduces the number of trees cut down to make charcoal.

Do some trees work better than others?

Yes, but it depends on the local conditions: the type of soil, the amount of rainfall they require, their fit with agroforestry systems, and their ability to grow back. The most useful trees are multipurpose trees where farmers can benefit from using and/or marketing one or more end products.

Why do you plant indigenous species?

They are compatible with the soil types, are resistant to local conditions, termites, and fungal disease, are cheap to manage, and they coexist well with crops

Thank you.

We are now going to speak to Ambrose Obao, a 20-year-old parish coordinator in Adigo parish. Mr. Obao, you are most welcome to this program. How many trees have you so far planted in Lango sub-region and what other work are you involved in?

Thank you for honouring me in your program. I have so far planted more than 24,400 seedlings in the 15 villages of Adigo parish.

We are also teaching children practical reforestation skills at Adigo, Atop, and Alutkot primary schools. They learn how to propagate seedlings in nurseries and later plant them either at school or at home.

Youth nursery workers like me are trained by Kijani and posted to work in Acholi and Lango sub-regions. We go into the villages to establish nurseries and plant seeds in addition to training the local people.

The tree species we plant are used to hold carbon, which reduces carbon in the atmosphere, and to fix nitrogen in the soil.

How do you manage your seedlings?

We collect water nearby, mix it with chemicals, and soak the seedlings in it to avoid fungal infections. I have been planting seedlings at Joel Ojuka’s place recently, a nursery in Apedi 111 village. I first planted seedlings at Engoda Patrick’s nurseries about 200 metres from this nursery, and they are now halfway grown.

Before planting, we clear the vegetation and choose good soil given by the residents. We prepare the seeds and plant them, not broadcasting but planting in rows so they grow best. We plant them near a water source, because they are difficult to maintain where there is no water.

In this way, we are restoring depleted forests which were cut down by our ancestors, and we are teaching people how to raise trees from seedlings. Individual farmers plant the trees and we buy many of them. If farmers have no access to nursery kits that contain equipment which is essential for tree planting, we provide them with kits, and then they provide the labour and a site for the nursery.

If the trees get diseased, we treat them for free. We buy only small trees, not huge ones.

We mainly plant alira, locally known as musizi, because they last 8-10 years in the field. But for charcoal, we plant okutu, also known as ongono or Acacia polyacantha, nsambya, and gacia, botanically called Sena siamea, depending on the pH of the soil in that area.

After planting, we sign an agreement where farmers promise not to sell the trees to anybody else when they mature.

We have specific alira trees called giant lira, also known as Melia azedarach, which take 3-5 years to grow. We have 400 acres on two farms where we raise seedlings. In Lango sub-region, we mostly plant Acacia polyacantha and Gmelina aborea, locally called oywelo munu.

How do you maintain the trees?

Everything needs maintenance. If you don’t keep it well, it grows haphazardly. We always water the plants. Currently we have 1,166 seedlings in the nursery. We always choose the seedlings with good growth. We spare the growing indigenous trees and buy the trees that the farmers received from us. We don’t buy the ones we did not plant, but we allow them to continue growing so that they provide us all with oxygen.

Thank you.

Please introduce yourself and tell me if you receive any benefits from the work of Kijani Forestry.

I am Layet Mary, a widow from Pugwiny village, Awach sub-county, Gulu district. I have benefited from the trees I planted on the boundary of my field in 2022. Since then, there have been more animals near me. I planted mainly Gmelia and ongono, but most musisi died in the garden due to heavy sunshine

Thank you.

Please introduce yourself and tell us if you have benefited from tree planting.

I am Oryema Patrick, a farmer from Gwengdia village, near Gwengdia primary school in Paibona sub-county in Gulu district. In my planting group, there are a high percentage of women farmers.

Since I planted Acacia trees last year, I am due to receive financial incentives this year. My home trees have already been visited by Kijani to assess their survival. I have planted many species intercropped with bananas, including alira and Gmelina. They are doing well.

Next in the studio with me is the Executive Director of Kijani Forestry, Quinn Neely, who is going to speak about restoring forest ecosystems in Uganda’s deforested land.

Thank you.

How many acres of land do you plan to reforest in the near future?

We are going to reforest 5,000 hectares of land to increase biodiversity and climate resilience, and to improve local livelihoods. In addition to deforestation, Uganda’s forests have been depleted by subsistence agriculture and charcoal burning. We will employ local communities to plant, protect, manage, and monitor reforestation on large plots of private land that has been leased by Kijani for restoration purposes. We will use a combination of native species to address food security and support community agroforestry to reduce pressure on existing forests. We will plant fifteen million trees each year to restore tree cover in the northeastern region, which has a huge potential for tree planting. Trees improve soil texture, increase soil biomass, add nutrients to the soil, and are helpful in protecting soil against heavy rainfall and preventing soil erosion.

I understand that you will be offering carbon credits to farmers who plant trees. Please explain that initiative.

Although there is a growing demand, the price for selling trees on the open market is not very good. We buy trees from farmers at better prices than the open market. There are actually more benefits for farmers by growing charcoal and timber trees than receiving carbon credits. Each timber tree is sold for 70,000 shillings (US $18.40).

Many people are more interested in planting trees than receiving the carbon credit. Carbon credits are a kind of grant given to the farmers after inspecting or assessing the trees they planted that survived. We give a small amount of money, 100 Ugandan shillings, for every tree that survives as a one-time payment. We have put $150,000 aside to give to farmers as carbon credits after we review their progress with managing the seedlings they plant. This can motivate farmers so they don’t have to wait for the harvesting market. Currently, we are planting various species. I think we will mostly plant trees for charcoal and timber.

How are your efforts providing benefits to the environment and to biodiversity?

We work in two main ways. We work with farmers to create tree nurseries. The idea is to produce a lot of seedlings so farmers can make charcoal and timber. This takes the pressure off indigenous forests and protects them, and protects biodiversity. So this is forest restoration. And we have just started a 500-acre project where we are creating forests by planting new indigenous species while also protecting existing species.

I think most people in the area see tree planting as something only done for and by affluent people. Trees are expensive. So we are removing the economic barriers to tree planting by bringing nurseries directly to farmers. And we don’t ask farmers for seedlings, we just ask them to involve themselves in doing part of the work—for example, clearing the site, transplanting seedlings, and watering.

The trees shed leaves which can be used as mulch on farms, and are very good at retaining moisture in the soil. We are also looking at things like erosion of topsoil, which is carried away by runoff water from heavy rains. But densely-planted trees can hold the topsoil together so that it is not eroded.

How are women involved with Kijani Forestry?

In most areas, we work with existing groups. We go to these communities and try to reduce the barriers to tree planting. I think that about 60-65% of the people who plant trees with us are women. We are providing opportunities for women to plant trees, which otherwise they wouldn’t have.

How do you tackle climate-induced poverty?

All over the communities, there is a lot of poverty—people go hungry. This year, a lot of people planted maize, beans, and soya in the first season and the rains came for a week and then stopped. Five years ago, the rains came from March until June, but now it is August to December, which has a huge impact on the crops. I believe planting trees is the solution.

Thank you, Quinn Neely.

Climate change, large-scale farming, overpopulation, displacement of populations due to conflict, poor land use, and logging are putting a lot of pressure on Uganda’s forests. But reforestation is becoming more and more widespread. For a sustainable solution to the accelerated deforestation of our country, we need better use of land, control of agricultural and pastoral activities, implementation of management plans, and the updating of forestry policies in Uganda.

Kijani Forestry, based in Gulu city, Uganda, is replanting indigenous trees in places that have been degraded by human activities and at the same time protecting existing forests.
That is the end of our program today. Thank you to all our guests and all of you who have been listening to us. Until we meet again for another program, I am Williams Moi Arimo. Bye.


Contributed by: Williams Moi Arimo, freelance broadcaster with Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, member of the International Federation for Agricultural Journalists, and President, Uganda National Agricultural Journalists.

Reviewed by: Catherine Cynthia Nagaddya, Manager, Community Outreach and Partnership Engagement, Kijani Forestry, and Onyanga Patrick, Senior Environment Officer, Otuke District Local Government.


Quinn Neely, Director, Kijani Forestry, Gulu, Uganda.

Kevin Carol, Operations Manager, Kijani Forestry.

Catherine Cynthia Nagaddya, Manager, Community Outreach and Partnership Engagement.

Virginia Dimande, Manager, Kijani Forestry, Kenya branch.

Obao Ambrose, Parish Coordinator, Kijani Forestry, Adigo Parish, Oyam district, Uganda.

Layet Mary, farmer planting seedlings with Kijani Forestry, Paibona Nursery, Gulu, Uganda.

Oryema Patrick, Parish Coordinator, Kijani Forestry, Gwengdia sub-county, Gulu district, Uganda.

Engoda Patrick, farmer planting seedlings with Kijani Forestry, Adigo Parish, Loro sub-county, Oyam District.

Joyce Laker, student from Kitgum district, Acholi sub-region.

Bedogwar Jimmy James, monitoring and evaluation field officer, Kijani Forestry.