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Uganda's "Mango Wall": The world's first peaceful, fruitful border

The Mango Wall will encircle and fill Butembe chiefdom with fruit trees to feed, nourish, and encourage growth and collaboration in Uganda.

Photo of Lizzy Rainey
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Fruit Tree Planting Foundation

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Africa Partnership on Climate Change Coalition

Website of Legally Registered Entity

ftpf.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Butembe Chiefdom, Jinja District, Busoga Kingdom, Uganda

What country is your selected Place located in?

Uganda

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, in collaboration with our in-country partners Africa Partnership on Climate Change Coalition, has been working in Uganda since 2014 to bring the myriad benefits of fruit trees including a cleaner environment and source of healthy nutrition to farmers, families, schools, and low-income communities. Since that time, we have established a local nursery that grows tens of thousands of trees annually and have planted over 170,000 fruit trees with plans to plant another 80,000 in 2020. We have seen first-hand the growing interest in perennial, sustainable fruit production by local communities of this region, and the real, tangible, and long-term impacts fruit trees have on household incomes, family nutrition, and the local environment.

Through our work, our Uganda program director and the head of our partner organization, Mr. Edward Paul Munaaba of APCCC, has been elevated to the position of Prime Minister of Butembe Chiefdom. Mr. Munaaba plans to use his new position to help expand our efforts and to continue to evaluate the needs and desires of his constituents and how best to engage them fully in project planning and implementation.

Due to the constant demand for our planting, distribution, and education programs, as well as the increased risks of malnutrition, food access, loss of biodiversity, poverty, and climate change on this region, we are committed to continuing to bring fruit trees to those most vulnerable in Butembe. This commitment is constantly reinforced by people who participate and benefit in our programs. As Owlekitibwa (Hon) Wakalali Matia, State Minister for Agriculture for Busoga Kingdom told us last year: “We love fruit trees! Our children, our families, our elders, our kingdom. There is no greater gift than one that provides us with clean air to breathe and fresh fruit for our tables. FTPF and APCCC are making a true difference in our world!"

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Butembe, home to approximately 200,000 people, is one of eleven chiefdoms within Busoga Kingdom, one of the eight historical royal kingdoms of Uganda. Our Place is defined first as the border surrounding this chiefdom and the communities living there, and second as the broader chiefdom and all its residents. Butembe includes Jinja, which in 2020 is home to 93,000 people and is the third-largest economy in East Africa. The area where the Mango Wall will be planted is mostly rural, but there will also be opportunities for plantings and distributions in the urban areas of Jinja and other cities throughout the chiefdom. A precise map of the area using the latest surveying data as made available by the Prime Minister’s office is pending for use in this project.

Butembe is home to Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile, many smaller rivers, wetlands, and fertile soils, leading one to expect it to be one of the richest areas in the country. Instead, as reported in 2018 by the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, the region has one of the highest percentages of people living below the poverty line at 43%. According to the most recent publicly available census, 24.3% of Butembe county households are dependent on subsistence farming and 40.1% are engaged in crop growing (non-livestock agriculture). Large scale monoculture production such as sugarcane and livestock have taken their toll on the land by clearcutting forests and depleting soils for these very extractive and harsh forms of agriculture.

According to the World Bank, the forest area in all of Uganda has fallen from 47.5% in 1990 to just 19.5% in 2016. Just by visiting the chiefdom, deforestation is blatantly obvious as the few remaining large, old-growth trees stand out clearly on the horizon surrounded by open land and pastures.

Urban population growth has remained relatively static, falling from 7.2% to 6.2% over the past four decades, indicating that rural communities like those in Butembe are likely to stay in their home towns. Additionally, population growth continues and thankfully life expectancy is rising, meaning there are more people to care for and feed. Investments in local livelihoods, sustainable food systems, and clean environments will impact Butembe’s current residents for the rest of their as well as their children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Resources:

Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2016

World Bank Uganda report World Population Review

New Vision “Busoga to swap sugarcane growing for animal husbandry”

FAO “Perennial Agriculture: Landscape Resilience for the Future”

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

200000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Southern Uganda’s food system faces challenges now that will only intensify by 2050. Through our work and collaboration in the region, we encounter many of these issues directly.

The area is blessed with a climate well-suited to growing perennial tree crops and supporting a verdant landscape. However, current agricultural practices combined with the rapidly increasing effects of climate change are challenging and changing the relationship between agriculture and the environment. The focus on large scale monoculture and clear-cutting of forested lands has led to soil, water, air, and wildlife loss.

These same challenges make their way into the diets of local people as hungry families lack perennial food sources that ensure they have year-round access to fresh and healthy food. We have seen first-hand the change in availability of traditionally abundant fruit like jackfruit, the largest fruit in the world loved for its flavor, nutrition, and ability to feed so many from just one fruit. Jackfruit has gone from cheaply and widely available to a rarity in the markets. Without change, this will be the story of many other delicious and nutritious tree fruits.

 The story of the jackfruit highlights economic challenges as well, with fresh fruit becoming a luxury item unavailable to many. Nearly half the population engages in agriculture, and the demand for new, innovative systems such a perennial food forests persists and is indicative of the current food system’s failings. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations points out: “Perennial agriculture, including…trees can take sustainable intensification to the next level and achieve productivity goals as well as social benefits and functioning ecosystem processes and services.”

Perennial agriculture is present, but the culture still largely depends on unsustainable practices that do not support soil health, watershed management, climate-adapted crops, small farmers, or regenerative practices. Environmentalism is at times divisive, splitting people along political, religious, and generational lines. Communal agriculture, cooperatives, and small-scale personal farming have lost momentum but are critical for current and future food security.

Access to advanced agricultural technology and inputs that annual crops require limit many. Technology also means education and up-to-date information on what sustainable food production looks like in these communities. Solutions must realistically approach growing food using resources readily available, rather than relying continually on outside aid and inputs.

In Butembe as well as the broader Busoga Kingdom, tree planting, sustainable agriculture, and environmental protection dips in and out of government and public focus. The many nuances that contribute to a sustainable food system can be difficult to articulate to the broader public, and therefore a simple, clear project with wide-reaching appeal and easily understood benefits is critical.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Uganda’s Mango Wall addresses environmental, nutritional, economic, and social inequalities all while providing a clear vision to unite and inspire people to take charge of their collective food future.

According to World Agroforestry (ICRAF): “While the emphasis has been on forest trees, those trees outside the forest have also a role to play, especially with proper fruit orchard management systems and propagation protocols that maximize carbon reservoirs.” The carbon-fighting capacity of tropical trees is greater as trees grow rapidly to capture carbon quickly. Planting climate-adapted, region appropriate fruit trees results in better soil moisture, nutrient retention, watersheds, water filtration, carbon and pollutant sequestration, shade, and cooler habitats.

Our Vision address the most common barriers to healthy food including availability, visibility, distance, knowledge, and price. We will replant trees in communities that have been previously cut down, simultaneously providing food and reinforcing the importance of maintaining these trees. Fruit trees at households create opportunities for families to feed themselves as well as generate income for years (fruit trees live decades, with mangos and avocados easily reaching 100 years). Food forests are a simple, approachable introduction to regenerative, perennial agricultural practices that can lead to higher yields both now and as they are implemented and integrated into the broader food system.

Fruit trees reintroduce a culture of integrative, holistic, and inclusive food systems that benefit all. Trees at community centers bring people together in a shared sense of pride in their communal trees; orchards at schools encourage youth directly to participate in the growing of food and flame the fire of environmentalism in the younger generation; trees distributed to low-income families and farmers support a culture of small scale and personal agriculture necessary to create a secure food future.

Fruit trees are a relatively low-maintenance, low-input crop with huge outputs and other benefits. This program does not require new or continual inputs, but rather puts the responsibility and knowledge in the hands of those who will directly benefit. The technology required is simple yet effective: teach people how to plant, care for, maintain, and harvest their communal and household trees which in turn serve them and their communities for generations.

The Mango Wall, with accompanying plantings, distributions, and education, will not only support a food system that is sustainable, nutritious, profitable, equitable, and easy to implement, but it will also provide an example of a peaceful, collaborative approach to growing food. This is a unique, never before attempted idea that will garner attention from media, governments, and the public, thus inspiring and rallying Ugandans behind a peaceful, living border that will feed its people and our planet now and in 2050.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our Vision is to create a Mango Wall of approximately 90-165 kilometers encircling Butembe Chiefdom in the Jinja District of Busoga Kingdom in Uganda. This project will plant fruit trees at approximately 40-foot intervals along the border with families, farmers, community centers, and schools. In addition, there will be orchards and distributions to the broader communities near the border and within Butembe in order to support nutritional, economic, social, and environmental equality among residents. Community and school orchards will include in-depth planting and maintenance support and fruit trees distributed to families and farmers will be accompanied by tree care and horticultural workshops. We envision a Butembe that is well-fed, healthy, happy, and more verdant due to a sustainable food system that engages all members of society…but we must start planting now to accomplish these goals!

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our Vision is to create the first of its kind Mango Wall by engaging farmers, families, schools, and communities in its planting in order to facilitate a more healthful, resilient, equitable, interconnected, bountiful, and verdant Butembe Chiefdom now and into the future. To achieve this goal, we will work directly with local communities and stakeholders to plant tens of thousands of fruit trees that will literally plant the seeds of change necessary to create the fruitful future we envision. We envision unique benefits for each of the stakeholders in the project: schools, farmers, families, communities, and the area’s food system overall.

Butembe schools in the future will be vibrant centers of health and learning, with the ability to nourish children, feed the community, support a sharing culture, provide new educational opportunities, create beautiful outdoor spaces, and inspire youth participation in the local environment and food system. We imagine a world where every student has the opportunity to pick fresh fruit directly from a tree at the height of ripeness, learning to appreciate what local foods their community can grow and how this food feeds their growing minds and bodies. Schools will have enough harvests to not only provide free fruit for their students but also support those vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty in their neighborhoods. This will promote a culture of sharing and abundance among children, adults, and neighbors alike. Educational opportunities will abound with teachers holding lessons on science, botany, art, and language all outdoors in edible classrooms. The verdant, clean, and safe schoolyards will be teaming with life that inspires and supports healthy children. Students receive an education based on health, community, safety, and abundance, inspiring many to continue to work in conservation and growing food sustainably.

Farmers in 2050 will be well-versed in maintaining perennial food forests that employ sustainable and regenerative practices to support both themselves and the larger ecosystem. Through a shared network and history of arboricultural knowledge, trees will play an important role in farmers’ overall production, with large annual harvests from fruit trees sustaining them throughout periods of drought or unforeseen issues with other crops. Farmers’ lands are fertile, with strong soils, sufficient water, and clean air, allowing both orchards and other agriculture to thrive. Fruit trees will play an integral role in the livelihoods of farmers while asking little of them in return.

In the future, all families, no matter their income level or location in Butembe, will have fresh fruit to eat and sell, and valuable horticultural knowledge to use and share freely. Locally and sustainably grown fruit will be easy to come by in local markets or from ones’ own backyard, with fresh fruit a common sight on the plate at every meal. Extra harvests from family orchards will assist the costs of running a home, with this relatively passive form of income paying for some of the basic household needs. Family land values will have increased over time as the trees on their property have grown and produced harvests, creating value simply from the sun, soil, and water trees require. Arboricultural knowledge is readily available, with most homeowners having some familiarity with tree care and, if not, knowing that their neighbors are very likely to. Families in 2050 feel secure in their ability to provide proper nutrition and income in a food system that works for them, rather than against them.

Butembe will be full of publicly accessible and communal orchards of which their residents are infinitely proud due to the beautiful environment, free food, and culture of plenty they have created in the neighborhoods. Mature fruit trees at places like community and health centers, government buildings, parks, penitentiaries, and along streets have created cleaner and safer neighborhoods that bring pride to their people. With less pollution and cleaner, safer streets, people feel more secure and happy living in the communities they do. The society of the future thrives alongside the blossoming fruit trees, and therefore is a more nurturing, interconnected, and healthful place to live.

The above will be part of a larger future food system that is sustainable, equitable, diverse, healthful, bountiful, local, and interdependent upon all of its parts to support its People and Place. This system will be sustainable as it always considers its effects on the future as well as the present. Immediate gains are never preferred if they come at a cost to future generations. This mentality was put into place back in 2020, and with 30 years of a system that grows food in integrative food forests that support rather than takes from local ecosystems, sustainability is a way of life rather than a fringe movement. This system is equitable in that it engages and considers the needs and desires of all members of its society, from youth to elders, all religions, income levels, across borders and between neighbors; healthy food is a human right meant for all people to enjoy, not just the privileged few. This food system has health and nutrition at its core, focusing on locally grown and produced foods that give back to the community and to the land it came from. Public, backyard, and schoolyard orchards, all living parts of the Mango Wall, now make up a larger framework that has helped create a society based on abundance rather than scarcity; where every tree and every tree caretaker is interconnected to the larger forest that feeds and cares for all its People and its Place.

This Vison has been guided not only by the themes and values presented in the Food System Vision Prize but also by FTPF’s own mission: to bring the beauty and bounty of fruit trees to those people and places around the world that need them the most. Our work in Butembe and southern Uganda is rooted (pun intended) in the communities the trees will serve, engaging participants in every stage of the planning and implementation process to ensure they are vested and excited by the potential benefits that will grow alongside their newly planted trees. This Vision so clearly marries our values with those of the Prize, providing simple, tangible, effective, and long-term benefits to Butembe Chiefdom all in one beautiful package: the planting of fruit trees.

 Our team has already had great success in the region, including stories of schools that can now offer fresh fruit to every student, communities that have reclaimed barren land to create shared orchards, and individual farmers and families whose lives have been improved from the simple gift of fruit trees. The Mango Wall will build upon these successes, expanding the program and its reach to the entire region and demonstrating how a peaceful, fruitful border can inspire change and create a symbol of hope for its People and Place. One hundred years from now, future generations will talk about the time when the chiefdom came together to create a living, peaceful border at a time when in some parts of the world borders were violent and built for the sole purpose of exclusion. Rather, the mango border invites citizens from everywhere to visit and breathe the clean air it generates and enjoy the healthy nutrition it provides.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email
  • Shared directly to FTPF by our supporters

Attachments (1)

2014 - UgandaLetter.jpg

Letter of endorsement from the office of the Prime Minister of Uganda from 2014, the first year of our programs in the area.

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Photo of Trupti Jain
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hi Lizzy: Good morning. We also applauded your entry. Will appreciate your feedback on our entry ""Antodaya" through Food".

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