“Some children asked me if they could climb trees,” Masembe recalls.
But the airstrip and its surrounding neighbourhood hardly had any trees. For Masembe who grew up in Kololo, it was a revealing moment: increased urbanization and rapid population growth are slowly impacting on our environment. Yet little is being done to avert the looming crisis.
“Thirty years ago, every home in Kololo had a garden with a nice compound with trees but all that has been eaten up by buildings and pavements,” Masembe says.
Now Masembe, an avid marketer and keen environmentalist, has found a solution, at least before the next festival in August - a nationwide tree planting campaign. The campaign dubbed ‘Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green’ will front children as champions of environmental restoration.
“One million children are born in Uganda every year. If we could plant a tree for every child born, Uganda could truly go back to being The Pearl of Africa,” Masembe says.
“As adults, we have done a lot of talking but continue to destroy our environment and deprive our children of the kind of green that we grew up with,” he argues.
According to Masembe, Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green is seeking to create a patriotic culture of “Our Environment, Our Future and Our Future, Our Responsibility” by creating a mass hysteria about tree planting by children both at school and at home. Masembe plans to rally celebrities like Bobi Wine, Julianna Kanyomozi, Sylvia Owori and Judith Heard to spread the campaign all over the country.
“We will pitch camp in different schools and give seedlings and potted tree plants to children for them to plant at their homes, schools and churches. We will also ceremoniously plant a tree at every school in Uganda to kick-start the Superstar schools campaigns,” Masembe says.
The children will then be encouraged to keep track of their trees by taking photos and will be rewarded with green certificates. The children will also be given books to encourage them to document the growth process of their trees.
“We want children to keenly watch the growth of their trees as parents watch their children grow. Children unlike parents spend a lot of their time at home and can easily find time to water their trees,” he notes.
Children today make up an estimated 57% of Uganda’s population and Masembe believes they can create quite a buzz.
“People are concentrating on eucalyptus and pine. We are going to concentrate on fruit trees; trees that make a difference in people’s lives. I want every child to be proud of planting a tree at home, school or church,” he adds.
Uganda loses 80,000 hectares of forest every year due to human activities such as charcoal burning and timber cutting. This has had adverse effects on the environment.