Joseph Masembe is the CEO of Little Hands Go Green, a nonprofit, which educates children under 13, to care for the environment. Through the organization, children have planted over 250,000 fruit trees across Uganda.
Ahead of the World Environment Day, we caught up with Masembe nicknamed ‘the Green Superstar General’ to talk about our depleted forest cover, wetlands, plastics, and the future of environmental activism.
1. What is Little Hands Go Green up to this year ahead of World Environment Day?
Little Hands Go Green has teamed up with NEMA to activate a Kavera Free Uganda World Environment Day Caravan along the eastern corridor starting from Kireka, through Seeta, Mukono , LUGAZI and all the way to Mbale through Tororo and Jinja.
2. Your organization, Little Hands Go Green, has been educating children about environmental conservation and the climate change over the past couple of years, what shows your message is ringing a bell among youngsters?
Well ever since we started we have planted in excess of 250 thousand fruit trees and the green gospel seems to have picked up left right and center. All of a sudden there is a something go green campaign cropping up every other day and when we started our environmental Green Festival you in the media can bear testament to how many mushrooming children’s festivals there are today.
It is also pertinent to note that our number one objective was to kick start a nationwide frenzy of fruit tree planting using children as well as develop a consciousness among the general public that taking care of our environment is our responsibility.
I believe that has been achieved so far albeit with a lot more work to do in today’s changing environment.
3. By the way, why do you think working with children on environment campaigns, is a winning strategy?
Children still have the innocence and purity of tomorrows generation. They are tomorrows leaders. They can therefore beour only change agents and climate justice ambassadors. The onus is on us the adults to give them a greener healthier planet to inherit but most importantly equip them with the knowledge and will to learn that our environment is our future and our future is our responsibility.
4. You were born in Kampala, and you have seen wetlands reducing in sizes over the years, what is your take about encroaching on wetlands?
We are doomed. Slowly but steadily. Because the far reaching effects of wetland encroachment cannot be felt spontaneously , we are selfishly damning our children and grandchildren. We need to wake up and smell the coffee. Disaster is round the corner.
5. Let’s talk about single use plastics and the kavera ban. Uganda seems to have failed on the enforcement of the Kaveraban.There is also the push to avoid the use of single use plastics. What do environmentalists like you think could be the solution?
Rwanda banned Kavera 10 years ago and enforced it spiritually with no political or other exceptions. Uganda on the other hand has had problems in the enforcement of the ban because of very obvious reasons. This however cannot be the excuse. We need to be selflessly patriotic and put the interests of future generations before the interests of a few investors and capitalists. We must enforce religiously and have government fully support NEMA . For this to work there can be no double standards.
When we are safely on course we can try and catch up with Rwanda whichcannow after 10 years of the ban on Kavera( polythene bags) start off on kicking out single use plastics.
6. What are you asking children, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders this year as Uganda celebrates World Environment Day?
Mine is a call to arms. Not literally but a call to action. There is no Planet B. we owe it to our children and grandchildren to support them in sound environmental practice because it is only through this that we can salvage a greener Pearl of Africa for them. There is a lot to contend with, depleted forest cover, charcoal burning, plastic pollution, wetland encroachment , poaching and loss of biodiversity. I could go on and on, therefore if we can stop thinking that the job of securing a greener future is a job for NEMA ,UNDP, ESKOM , LITTLE HANDS GO GREEN and other organizations and start to look at it as a job for you and me we will start to see real progress.
7. Do you have anything special planned for us this year?
As a matter of fact yes. On Sat July 28th we will have a Children’s Climate Change March – a single statement of Unison by the children re-affirming their commitment to making their world a better place. It will climax with a special one of a kind Climate Change Concert for children and by the children. Prepare to be thrilled.