Dog walking in the wet and cold

Elspeth Dugdale | November 2, 2018

Dog walking in the wet and cold
All that remains - a boundary marker to the disappeared forest

“ You are putting on a short-sleeved shirt? It is so cold you could die!” exclaims one young WTA teacher, after an afternoon of intense, heavy rain. I did point out that at 24 degrees it was still considerably warmer than the weather we had just left, and maybe he should reconsider wishing to study in Europe!

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One of the constants of being back in Uganda, (despite 'the cold and wet'), is the daily dog walk around the small footpaths that criss-cross for miles behind the house. Threading through dense vegetation and numerous ‘gardens’ (more like family allotments) of coffee, cassava, potatoes and matooke, the paths unravel for miles. There is a well-trodden, thirty minute circuit which leads past occasional, small, brick or mud houses, with finely swept (therefore snake-free) compounds and small outdoor cooking areas. Twisting and turning through the small plantations, the track then leads up and into a gorgeous shadowy area of incredibly tall trees, with dramatic, hanging, Tarzan-suitable vines – like a compact, miniature rain forest. At least it used to be there …….

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Previously this path was much narrower and surrounded by hanging vines and dense vegetation

Normally populated by tiny, brightly coloured birds, reptiles and the shy vervet monkey, it is well worth the walk. At least it was  …….  until we returned this week to find a shocking and disturbing change.

The path leading towards the tall trees was so changed in appearance, that it was easy to think it was a wrong turning and a different path altogether. But the tall trees have gone – reduced to logs, firewood and planks. Only isolated tree stumps and scrubby, low-level plants remain.

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As recently as July, this whole area was full of tall trees, like the far line.

Trees are regularly being cut all around WTA, either for immediate use as firewood, for making charcoal, or for selling on and also for land clearance. Cut trees are not being replaced. A 2009 report predicted that, at the going rate, Uganda’s forests will have disappeared within 30 years. 

Of course in poor communities, fuel is essential, people are desperate for any sort of income/cash just to live, eat and put a roof over their heads – not to mention money for school fees. It is a complicated, excruciatingly painful, multi-layered problem. When it is happening so blatantly just outside the back door, the ongoing global becomes instantly local and instantly visible.

The future is uncertain – that much IS certain. And that is just one, small walk on one, small path in one, small village in rural Uganda. How many more….?

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“Uganda
 has already lost two-thirds of its forests in the last 20 years and could have lost all of its forested land by 2050, which would have severe repercussions for its poorest people according to environmentalists.” https://www.theguardian.com/society/katineblog/2009/jun/25/uganda-deforestation