October 4, 2012
A Ugandan marketing guru turned environmentalist, Joseph Masembe, is creating quite a buzz in the East African nation. He has started a campaign dubbed ‘Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green— and he’s seeking to build an army of young patriots byhyping fruit tree planting using children.
Environmentalists say Uganda has lost nearly a third of its forests in the last two decades and could lose most of its tree cover in about 40 years unless measures are quickly taken to reverse the situation. Environmentalist, Joseph Masembe a marketing executive has jolted off a nationwide frenzy of fruit tree planting in the country using school children. He says his mission is to instill a sense of belief and responsibility in the children that growing and maintaining a healthy environment is beneficial to them.
“Uganda’s little hands go green is a very simple campaign. It’s an initiative that sets out to ensure that every child in Uganda plants and owns a fruit tree. Now, when people ask why fruit trees, and why children? What is unique to our approach is the co-understanding and belief that children have a proprietary interest in the future.”
Urbanization and rapid population growth are slowly, but steadily, impacting the environment and it appears that little is being done to avert a looming crisis. Uganda, like most tropical countries, is endowed with natural forests and beautiful scenery. Its green canopy keeps the country’s climate loveable and supports the agriculture that feeds the nation. But sadly, Ugandans continue to cut down the tress for charcoal, timber– and have cleared much of forests to pave way for agriculture. Masembe says this mentality needs to change because if any significant change is to be successfully made and cultivated into the country, it has to begin with the children.
“Basically what we are doing as Uganda’s little hands go green is to start this culture, where every child wakes up in the morning, and plants one fruit tree with the help of their parents. So if I come from a family of four kids at least I will expect four trees within our family. Now what that does is slowly, by slowly, going to increase the green footprint within the country. And the beauty of it all is that we’ll watch our children grow up and blossom as they watch their trees do the same.”
The program started in Kampala, and has now grown into a nationwide campaign that is striving to inspire children and their families to plant a family tree in their homesteads. Masembe says that the tree planting exercise helps kids to motivate their parents to plant a special tree for family and stay engaged.
“We can get these kids together and get them to say, I’m john, I’m Michael, I’m Michelle, I can plant just one tree, I own an Avocado tree, I own an Orange tree, and I own a Mango tree. So if this kid, plants a tree when there four years old, by the time that they’re 10 years old, that mean that their trees will be 6 years older. They will never cut that tree; people never cut fruit trees they will always keep growing, growing, and growing.
The success of the tree planting campaign has resulted into another successful kid’s event that unifies hundreds of Ugandan kids under “My kid is a superstar” festival– is simply a fun-filled event for children.
“I started something called “my kid is a superstar” which recognizes that there is superstar in every child. This gives them the chance to blossom, play, have fun, and excel at every little thing that they do.”
The marketing guru turned environmentalist says he decided to focus on children because they are passionate about their trees and they’ve demonstrated that they can succeed where other government efforts have failed. Masembe says his dream is to have 50 percent of school going children plan a tree, as Uganda celebrates 50th year of Independence.