Schools can make a difference


Schools in Armuria District

Kasese Humanist Schools Tree Initiatives

Activity: School Tree Project

Schools in Armuria District

Source: International Tree Foundation

In Armuria District in Eastern Uganda 10 schools are working with the NGOs International Tree Foundation and Save a Seed for the Future (SAFE). Teachers and students have created the Armuria Schools Tree Planting Project (ASTREPP) to give students skills in tree cultivation, planting and care.

Planting a tree is one thing but, unless it is watered and cared for it will quickly wither and die. Each school has established a tree nursery and formed “Green Clubs” to mobilise the students. The project, which started in May 2017 has already planted, and is caring for, 25,000 trees around each of the schools. The two most popular species of tree are the Nile Tulip tree (Markhamia lutea) and the Umbrella tree (Maesopsis eminii). Both are fast growing native species which provide timber, fuels and fodder and provide shade for more tender shrubs, like coffee. The trees also have medicinal properties. M.Lutea is used to treat skin-related problems. The leaves of M. eminii can be boiled and used as a purgative and diuretic agent.

In the group of schools involved in the project, Green Clubs have become a popular co-curricular activity, which provides prospects of earning a living for some students after leaving school.


Kasese Humanist Schools Tree Initiatives

Contributed by Robert Bwambale the schools Director

Kasese Humanist School is built on the foundation of Science and embraces Humanist values. The school has three sites in and around Kasese Town at Rukoki, Muhokya (Bizoha) and Kahendero on Lake George

In addition to teaching the curriculum, the schools have also invested heavily in tree planting initiatives, with the aim of giving the schools a greener look while enjoying the many other benefits that come from growing trees.

Trees provide many benefits to the schools, including:

  • Very welcome shade from the mid-day sun
  • Essential vitamins and mineral nutrients from the fruits
  • Renewable energy in the form of firewood for cooking food
  • Income from the sale of poles, timber and firewood
  • Soil binding and protection from soil erosion
  • Serving as demonstration grounds for gardening lessons
  • Provide a habitat for animals, birds, and insects
  • Trees help to buffer noise pollution
  • They add beauty to our schools
  • They provide us with oxygen and improve air quality
  • Trees contribute to the water and carbon cycles and combat climate change
  • Tree reduce water run-off and help to prevent water pollution
  • They help us mark the seasons by the changes in their appearance over the year.

Types of trees grown at our schools

We have chosen trees purposely to serve specific needs:

  • Fruits Trees:

These provide fruits for our children and staff and, as the yield increases, we will sell to local markets to generate extra income to support the school economically. On our Rukoki & Bizoha campuses the main fruits we grow are: mangoes, guavas, oranges, avocados, papaya, jack fruits and sour sop.

  • Medicinal trees

We have planted some trees to provide herbal remedies to some ailments. These include:

Neem (right)– extracts from the seeds have many traditional uses. Neem is known for its pesticidal and insecticidal properties. It can be used as a mosquito repellent. It is also used in hair washing to repel ticks and fleas.

Moringa – also called the miracle tree, has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It is thought to have antifungal, antiviral, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties. The seeds contain many useful vitamins and minerals, including: vitamins, A, B and C, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. They are very low in fat and contain no cholesterol.

Castor Oil Plant – This is a source of castor oil. Although the husk contains small quantities of the deadly poison ricin, castor oil extracted from the seeds has been used as a medicine for centuries. It is commonly used as a powerful laxative and has been used to start pregnancy. The oil is added to skin care products. It is a natural moisturiser. It promotes healing of wounds, is an anti-inflammatory and fights fungal infections.

These are all in demand from local people.

  • Commercial trees

We have planted bamboo trees, Gluveria, Eucalyptus trees and Acacia trees on a large scale to ensure our schools invest in some way for the future.Some of these trees take years to mature but we are committed to establishing forests which will provide a steady income for our schools in the future.

Bamboos will be much needed in building the cottages which are common in safari lodges in the tourism sector. The Kasese Schools are close to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Eucalyptus forests provide building poles, timber for building and making school furniture. Acacia trees to provide firewood much needed in kitchens.

  • Edible Forests

We have created edible forest initiatives where we have invested in planting banana farms at the schools to provide extra food to the school kitchen. This food has been consumed by the children and staff and has reduced on expenditures.

We also grow vegetables under the shade of the trees. This allows us to supplement the schools diet with: tomatoes, onions, egg plants, sukuma wiki, dodo, cabbages, green pepper etc..

We have also planted staple food crops like beans, cassava, sweet potatoes, maize, sim sim and chia seed.

Creation of hedges at the Schools

We have invested in planting hedges to beautify our schools at the same time adding a greener and environmentally friendly look. These hedges provide manure from the cuttings, fresh air and help improve security.

Creation of Nursery Beds and Green Houses

In order to keep the tree planting costs low, Kasese Humanist Schools have invested heavily in creating our own nursery beds and green houses such that it becomes easy to grow as many trees without the worry of needing to find funds to buy more seedlings.

Mango World Ecological park

Several years back we procured a large piece of wetland with a thriving eucalyptus trees. We reduced the number of eucalyptus trees and added fruit trees instead. We now have hundreds of trees growing up on this land, including: palm, eucalyptus, mangoes, reeds, bamboo, avocadoes and we also grow some vegetables.

Bizoha Farmland

Although this land is principally for growing crops, we also have some fruit trees such as: mangoes, jackfruit and guavas. In future we intend to reserve some acres for a tree project as well.

Kahendero School Acacia Tree Forest

The Kahendero School has a tree project that helps to ensure that the school looks green. This school is on the boundary of Queen Elizabeth National Park and we are trying our best to make it as green as possible. We planted a forest of acacia trees outside the school several years back and now we have embarked on a programme of planting trees inside the school fence.


Activity: School Tree Project

Form a tree planting project in your school. If you already have a Gardening Club or a Humanist Club, it could be an activity that they undertake. Otherwise, you could set up a School Tree Project. Some things you will need to think about?

Where will you plant the trees, and how many?

Will the trees be planted on school land or is there some other public land, in villages or along roads, where trees could be planted? You could organise a campaign to persuade local farmers to let you plant trees on their land.  You will need to consult when choosing the variety of tree you are going to plant for them.

Set a target for how many trees you think you will be able to plant?

What varieties of trees will you grow?

There are a number of things you need to consider when choosing what varieties of trees to grow.

  • Certain trees grow best in certain areas so planters should bear this in mind. A water source, nature of soils, altitude and location are important. It is better to plant trees in places that favour their growth.
  • Are you going to grow trees for shade, commercial trees for poles, firewood or for wood; fruit or medicinal trees, or hedging to make the school more private and attractive?

Obtaining and preparing tree seed.

The first thing you will need to decide is where you will get your seed. If you have money you could buy seed from a tree seed merchant. The advantage of this is that the seed is likely to be a good quality.

If you have no money to buy seed, then you will need to collect your own seed. To be successful, you need to find healthy trees that are producing a large crop of healthy fruits and seeds and collect the fallen fruit and seeds from different trees, because this will ensure you have a genetic diversity, and some will germinate better than others. Check the seed carefully to ensure there is not sign of disease or mould growth, and make sure it has been thoroughly dried.

Seed Treatment: Most tree seeds need some pre-treatment if they are to germinate. The treatments include:

  • Soaking the seed in hot water until the seeds look swollen. This is essential, for example, with acacia.
  • Boil water and pour it over the seeds in a container. Allow to cool and leave the seed in the water until the seeds look swollen.
  • Soaking seed in cold/cool water. This is recommended for seed that have soft outer coats. The soaking tie is between 12 and 48 hours. Throw away all floating seeds.
  • Seeds with hard coats need to be cracked before sowing. This allows water penetration. Cracking is done with a knife or a stone.

Seed Sowing: Fine seed can be mixed with sand or fine soil and broadcast evenly over the seedbed.

Larger seeds should be planted in individual holes (preferably in pots or containers, at a depth of 1-5cm. Sowing too deep will prolong germination and the seeds may rot. Water the pots twice a day – in the morning before 9am and evening after 4pm. The evening watering is the more important as there is little evaporation, so more water is available to the seed.

Seed bed preparation: Nursery beds can be arranged in different ways. Potted seedlings can be raised on a flat bed, or can be set into a sunken bed, which is a basin like excavation of about 1 m by 1 m and about 10 cm deep.

Figure 2. An example of a sunken bed, filling a raised bed made form bricks with a mix of soil and manure.

Such a structure holds seedlings together and helps to conserve water in dry areas. Raised beds are used for establishing bare- rooted seedlings; as the sides of the bed can be broken down to reveal the roots of plants, ready for transplanting.

Staking slats of wood into the ground in a square or rectangle with sides of about 1m and then filling this structure with soil (mixed with sand if possible) makes a raised bed. Alternatively, the sides can be made from bricks or the like.

For further detailed instruction on how to manage a tree nursery, please read the following pdf document produced by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation: Establishing a Tree Nursery in Kenya.


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