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Pauline Nantongo: Steward of Forests in Southwestern Uganda

In celebration of the International Year of Forests, we are highlighting those individuals, communities and businesses actively safeguarding the lungs of the planet.

Pauline Nantongo: Steward of Forests in Southwestern UgandaIn Southwestern Uganda’s rural Bushenyi District, farmers are planting native trees, sequestering carbon dioxide and providing habitat for wildlife through an innovative tree-planting project. The Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST), which created and manages the project, says that the Trees for Global Benefit project has involved 2,000 households in planting over 1.5 million native trees in critical conservation areas since its launch in 2003.

After visiting a number of farms participating in the project, meeting with local farmers, community members and funders, and closely reviewing project plans, the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program validated and verified 637 acres (258 hectares) of the Trees for Global Benefit project to the Plan Vivo Standards in 2009. “It’s important to have a project verified because we want to ensure that it meets international standards based on the opinion of a third-party professional verifier,” explains Pauline Nantongo, executive director of ECOTRUST. “We wanted to work with the Rainforest Alliance because we have common values and definitions of sustainable development.”

In addition to providing food and habitat for wildlife, the trees planted as part of the project offer a range of benefits for the local community: enriching the soil and preventing erosion, supplying medicinal extracts, sequestering carbon dioxide, providing supplemental income through the sale of carbon credits and, eventually, supplying timber and fuel wood. “It takes a bit of time to develop trust with the communities because the carbon trading concept can be difficult to understand,” explains Nantongo. “But after we have paid the first participants, we’re usually overwhelmed by the response from people who wish to join.”

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