Plant a Tree, Plant Your Roots

Dr. Samuel Luboga and Christine Luboga
Dr. Samuel Luboga and Christine Luboga

Collaboration in home activities promotes bonding among family members. This idea is reflected in the Swahili saying, Suku mbili mugeni. Suku ya tatu mupa jembe. “For two days a guest is regarded as a visitor and is waited upon, however on the third day he is given a hoe to participate in the work (digging) the family does for a living.” Essentially, this means that s/he has become a member of the family.

The global health participants that reside with us partake in home activities to the greatest possible extent. They eat with us, clean, wash, and iron. Before we obtained a more effective washing machine, some attempted to hand wash their clothes. Some have even tried to  peel matoke and pound ground nuts for sauce. Participants also join in on our household fun. We sing to them the family welcome song, tusanyuse okubala mwebale okujja ewaffe e Mpererwe, “we are glad to see you, thank you for coming to visit our home here in Mpererwe,” and the thank you song mebale nnyo kale nolulala okolanga bwotyo, bwotyo, “thank very much, next time please do the same, the same.” They enjoy hearing and singing these short, playful melodies. They also join us in jogging, cross country running, and dancing.

Perhaps the most significant event with long-lasting impact is the free planting at the Luboga’s five-acre garden a short drive away from their home. They bring participants there whenever possible to provide them with reprieve from their computers and cell phones, and to show them an array of food-giving plants many have never seen before, such as banana, maize, pumpkin, cassava, and sugar cane plants. Each participant gets a chance to plant a tree to symbolize their roots in Uganda. These trees are either fruit trees such as mangada (tangerine), ffene (jackfruit), nnimu (lemon), muchungwa (orange), nkomamawanga (pomegranate), kistafferi, muyembe (mango), mapera (guava) or timber trees such as musizi (umbrella) or kalitunsi (eucalyptus).

These trees offer many lasting benefits. Their lively leaves remove atmospheric carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming; their fallen leaves increase biomass and help maintain humus and land fertility; their roots hold down soil and limit soil erosion; and in time, their fruit will provide nourishment for generations to come. Their canopies provide shade from the midday sun while creating valuable habitat for birds, of which Uganda is renowned for a rich variety. Participants can take solace in knowing that they can contribute so vastly in the simple act of planting a tree.

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