Straddling the border between Uganda and Kenya lies Mount Elgon. Formed 24 million years ago and covering an area of 2,200 square miles (3,500 square kilometers), it is the oldest and largest solitary volcano in East Africa.
The region around Mount Elgon is mostly hot, flat and dry. Humans, flora and fauna have enjoyed and thrived in the cooler temperatures of its five major peaks of over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). Several rare plants, such as Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Carduus afromontanus and Echinops hoehnelii, have made the mountain’s slopes their home.
But while this massive extinct shield volcano has anchored the region’s lifeforms for millennia, the ecosystem here has been feeling the effects of population growth as well as anthropogenic climate change, which Kate Wedgwood of the UK Department for International Development called “the biggest health threat for the 21st century,” citing “increased rainfall causing floods and drought causing hunger,” according to a report by Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a humanitarian news and analysis service based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Around 800,000 hectares of crops are lost annually to natural disasters in Uganda, according to Oxfam.
“Our environment is depleting at a fast rate; people are cutting down trees up the mountain, encroaching into wetlands,” said Joseph Wesuya, an official of the African Development Initiative. “The snow caps high on Mount Elgon are melting and you hardly see frost.”
But things will hopefully change, thanks to the Territorial Approach to Climate Change (TACC).
Launched last week in the eastern Uganda town of Mbale, the $1-million, three-year project supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UK government is meant to increase forest cover and help the region’s almost 1 million residents — most of them subsistence farmers — adapt to the effects of climate change.
“The planting of one million trees has started to sustain an area of tropical forest in Africa the size of Wales,” according to John Griffiths, counsel-general of the Welsh Assembly, which is also supporting the project. “These trees will not only absorb carbon but provide shade for crops.”
“Mount Elgon’s ecosystem plays a crucial role in determining the weather in eastern, central and northern Uganda and western Kenya,” said Bernard Mujasi, the Mbale local council chairman.
“We hope that by protecting and restoring the forest cover of the mountain and protecting the environment, we will help mitigate the challenge of climate change.”
(GET INVOLVED : November is Tree Month on 13.7 Billion Years)