BOTFA Regeneration Project
At least two of the trees that are essential to the cultural crafts of Uganda require urgent action to ensure their survival.
The Bukomansimbi Organic Tree Farmers Association (BOTFA) promotes the planting of wild fig trees in the Bukomansimbi district of south western Uganda as part of an agro-forestry strategy. These mutuba trees provide valuable shade for food crops such as coffee and additional income for farmers from their annually harvested bark.
In a project led by artist and environmentalist Fred Mutebi (https://fredmutebi.org) and his brother Stephen Kamya, experienced barkcloth makers are passing on their knowledge and techniques to a younger generation. As these young people are being trained in this highly skilled but endangered craft, a new generation of makers will help to insure the future of this important element of Baganda culture and identity.
The BOTFA makers need a market for their barkcloth. One of the aims of the Barkcloth Research Network is to promote barkcloth as a sustainable, luxury textile, raising its profile and sustainably increasing the demand for it.
Another important activity of BOTFA is the planting of wild date palm trees in the district to support local crafts such as mat making and basketry. The wild date palm, know as esansa in this region, has been placed at risk by the swampy areas where they grow being drained for agriculture, or by their trunks being illegally cut down to use as fence posts. Unless action is taken, these trees - that are essential to the cultural crafts of Uganda and which enable women in rural communities to earn much needed income - are at risk of dying out.
BOTFA is raising awareness of the value to these trees, and helping to revitalise local crafts.
Barkcloth makers in Bukomansimbi.
Environmental concerns affecting the mutuba tree
Some indigenous trees in Uganda, including the mutuba tree (ficus natalensis) are at risk because of increasing deforestation. Ancient rainforests are being cut down to plant sugar crops and in south western Uganda a lot of eucalyptus is being grown as a cash crop with damaging effects on the local ecosystems. Eucalyptus is a thirsty crop, draining the soil of moisture and nutrients for a large area around plantations, impacting the health of essential food crops grown nearby. BOTFA grow and share mutuba tree saplings to encourage their community to plant them on their land.