By Joel Kaguta
A cultural institution in Rwenzori Region, Uganda has for the last seven years been encouraging her subjects to plant bamboo trees along river banks and bare hills as a mitigation measure to control the effects of floods in the entire kingdom and save the buffer zones.
The cultural institution known as Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu derives the unique name from Nzururu, which means “place of snow” in the Bakonzo language. This unique feature is found on the Rwenzori Mountains.
There has been deforestation and indiscriminate tree cutting in the river catchments.
The campaign of growing bamboo trees is being spearheaded through ridge leaders, chieftains, clan leaders, everybody and households are practicing.
Kasese district comprises principally three topographical features, namely the mountainous areas, which consist of rugged mountain relief, the undulating region at the foothills, and the lowland flat areas in the South and South-Eastern part of the district.
The district has since 2013 witnessed disasters including floods, storm winds, landslides and droughts causing great loss of property built at a great cost and loss of human lives, a challenge the kingdom wisely thought could address.
Most of the rivers in the district originate from the Rwenzori Mountains and empty their waters into the two drainage basins of Lakes George and Edward.
And whenever the rivers flood, they burst banks on several weak points along the rivers. But at points where bamboo trees are grown, the damage is minimal unlike other areas with bog vegetation.
However, unwise human activities such as over cultivation, cultivation on steep slopes, poor agronomic practices and over grazing causing soil erosion and fertility loss, farming activities along riverbanks and wetlands have been blamed for increased occurrence of environmental disasters in the area.
So it is upon this background that the kingdom immediately stepped in to encourage the subjects to impress bamboo trees so that when it again floods, the damage should be minimal.
The Kingdom’s Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Joseph Kule Muranga says that after witnessing the receding of snow and effects of climate change, the kingdom launched the Rwenzori Mountain Green Revolution and water catchment project.
The project is being piloted on several river banks, valleys, along the roads and empty parches so that a green carpet is realized on Rwenzori Mountain.
The ongoing project is yet to be extended to other kingdoms and neighboring districts of Bunyangabu, Kabarole, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo, especially on the mountain areas where rivers are in the youthful stages and erosion is taking place.
The kingdom is now ready to supply over 13 million bamboo tree seedlings at a free cost.
The subjects who have already been sensitized about the campaign of salvaging the mountain are only charged with the supervisory and looking after the bamboo trees given to them.
The bamboo trees among the subjects of the cultural institution holds deep cultural value, especially among the Bakonzo.
The name Rwenzori comes from Nzururu, which means “place of snow” in the Bakonzo language. Also, a grown up bamboo tree is cut into pieces to make a reed flute which is played among the Kikonzo entertainment, known as ‘Ekikibe’.
The Ekikibe, is a beautiful and melodic sound from the flute, drums that are accompanied by xylophone entertainers. The reed less wind instrument produces sound when blown across the opening, resulting from the flowing of air which oscillates to create sound.
Therefore, the kingdom believes that if nothing is done, such instruments might disappear and denies the future generation to see them.
On their website, the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA announced that the government of Uganda received funds from the African Development Bank.
The funds are intended to supply, planting and maintenance of tree seedlings and Bamboo on River and Stream Banks and other fragile landscape in five catchment areas including Mubuku valley in Kasese district.
Other areas are Wadelai, Tochi, Doho and Ngenge Irrigation schemes.
Muranga explains that the kingdom is cordially working with the ministry of water and environment to ensure that the bamboo tree project trickles down to the locals.
Currently, the United Nations is implementing Trees for Global Benefit-Uganda. The Trees for Benefits scheme pays farmers for tree-planting and pools carbon for sale on the voluntary market.
More immediate Intervention
There is a need to conduct hydrological study into the possible causes of flooding in this area with a view of stemming future disasters of this nature.
Also there is need to immediately open up of the flood channels, within and desilting and dredging of the river bed of the affected rivers to redirect the water back to its course.
Geethika Venkatesan, an environmentalist and climate activist, on her face book page posted that trees are environment eco friends. Conclusively, just planting trees alone is not enough, there are cross cutting issues which need to be equally addressed namely: impacts of climate change manifested in increased climatic variability and extremity, vulnerability of the population and socio-economic infrastructures; and adaptation challenges and opportunities.