Text and photos by Meng Tian, Communication and Multimedia Editor
Even idyllic locations are not without their daily problems. The seedlings growing at the Forest School in Mpigi, Uganda need more water but it’s a long way to the nearest source.
The Buyijja Forest School in southern Uganda is only 2 ½ hours by car from the hustle and bustle of the capital Kampala - so near and yet so different. The air is fresher, tempting you to savour each breath. Everywhere, there are the pleasant aromas of nature - whether from the trees, medicinal plants or natural fertilisers. Look into the distance and you soon start to dream.
However, even such an idyllic location is not without its daily problems. There is an increasing need for a central and reliable source of water - particularly now that drought is a reality. Benard Kato works for Prometra and is responsible for cultivating the seedlings. "I have noticed that the plants need more water than usual. They dry out more quickly and grow more slowly. That means more work as I have to water and check them".
In particular, watering the plants is easier said than done: It is a long way to the nearest water - bearing in mind that Benard only has two watering cans. Some 100 metres from the seedlings, the land drops away to a pond where Benard fills the cans and carries them back to the plants. "I have to make four or five return trips to fetch enough water for each bed of growing seedlings. This makes a total of fifty trips for each watering session and I do that every morning and evening," explains the botanist as he returns with his two cans now full. "A water pump near the nursery would be great and would save me a great deal of work. I could then spend more time on research and planting".
The spacious 30-hectare plot at the Dr Sekagya Institute for Traditional Medicine and Indigenous Knowledge is a good place for learning. In cooperation with its local partner Prometra, Biovision has been supporting this project since 2012. Every Wednesday 100 trainee healers attend the Forest School as part of their three-year course. The students - women and men, young and old from Buwama sub-county in Mpigi District- not only increase their knowledge of traditional healing but through the work initiated by the Forest School also learn about environmental protection. The forest, the plant seedlings and the fish pond represent just the beginning. Having raised their understanding of nature conservation, the students will take their respect for the environment into the wider community outside the school and in the longer term this will benefit the entire region. "