COTAP partner Ecotrust recently launched its Farmer Focus series to highlight the social impacts of its award-winning Trees for Global Benefits (TGB) programme. In this first episode, we meet 70 year old Musingo Mikhaya, a farmer from Bukuso subcounty, in the Manafwa district of Eastern Uganda. Musingo explains how he got started with tree growing and the benefits he has reaped. He shows us around his farm and shares his perspectives on life, culture and family.
Restoring His Local Landscape
Musingo is originally from Bwakoko and moved to the area with his grandfather. Though growing trees has always been a part of his life, he got invovled with TGB after hearing an Ecotrust radio ad about climate change.
The video, which has English subtitles, is in a Bantu language called Lumasaba, which is spoken by tribes on the Mt. Elgon Landscape. Musingo first explains how the area, especially along the roads around Mbale, used to be covered with millions of Mvule trees planted during the rule of Chief Semei Kakungulu in the early part of the 20th century. He notes that most of them have been cut down. He reminisces along with Jonah Butsatsa, the interviewer and Ecotrust’s Communication and Public Relations Officer, about how the many large Mvule trees once covered and shaded the road so that you wouldn’t feel the heat from the sun.
Before TGB came along, Musingo grew eucalyptus, locally known as Kimitoto. Ecotrust sent tree specialists into the district and organized meetings and trainings. He learned how crops don’t coexist well with eucalytpus, and so he started integrating banana and other crop-compatible trees like Kimiruru, Kumikihili (cordia), and Musizi (maesopsis). The trees provide shade which helps prevent heat damage to his coffee crop, and they drop leaves that provide natural fertilizer, saving him money.
How Musingo Uses His TGB Earnings
Musingo has used some of his earnings to pay school fees for the three of his children (of 24 total, from 3 wives) who are currently in school. “It has helped me so much, really. God is Great,” he says. At 70 years old, he also uses his earnings to help cover medical costs, including those from a doctor’s appointment he’s got scheduled right after his interview with Jonah.
Folklore in the Forest
Another intriguing aspect of the interview is Musingo’s deep knowledge of traditional, local beliefs associated with the many different types of trees on his land. For example, if you place the leaf of the Shishangula in the hand of a deceased person, and then lick the leaf, it will undo any curses which have been placed on them. Then there is the Kumurukhuru tree, which is a good remedy for what the English men refer to as mumps… if you gently step on it (presumably on the root, and with a bare foot) and then walk all the way home without looking back.
Musingo’s Gratitude to Ecotrust, and to You
At the 22:15 mark, Musingo expresses his thanks to Ecotrust. It should also be viewed as a thanks to everyone who has offset their carbon emissions via the TGB program:
“We are so grateful. Well first off I would like to thank them. The little we get, has reached us. Let them not get tired… they should keep helping us like this,” he says. “We thank them a lot. Another thing I like so much is that… is when you have someone watching over you, but they also have the courtesy to come and check on you. It gives you strength. I will keep on as long as I am still alive. I will keep on planting these trees. I will not stop.”
Then the video fades out with some sweet Ugandan pop music, replete with autotuned vocals…