A 4 Days’ community exchange meeting between the Buliisa,kihagya and Kabale communities has just ended in Buliisa at the Hotel Tamarine near Wanseko Fish landing site. The 3 communities,composed of small scale women farmers,youth and Custodians of Sacred Natural Sites ( SNS) regulary meet in form of dialogue to discuss community food,land and natural heritage. The dialogues took place outside in the hotel compound where big trees were located.The sitting arrangement,the discussions and whole process facilitated by NAPE and Gaia staff,was determined by elders who dominate the dialogue and the nature of the issues discussed.
The morning sessions were characterized by silent meditations ,punctuated by observation,listening and seeing what happens in nature. This meditation which brings participants in close connection with Earth is called “Mystica” . Participants get instructions on how they conduct themselves while in the solititude which normally takes place in the nearby bush. Instructions include,observation of total silence,no movement with phones,no movement or discussion with another person.The exercise is to listen,observe and see what happens in nature and what it means to you. Participants come and ,individually,share on their experiences and reflections with the whole group.The reflections generate discussion on nature,traditions,signs and symbols of nature that informed communities about preparation of seeds,planting and harvesting seasons.
The ensuing discussion was focused on the following;
The 3 community groups have been dialoguing both as individual communities and in exchange meetigs on food situation since October 2016.They again shared their experiences and what they have so far done as a result of these dialogues.
Both the Kabale and Buliisa communities,have formed Formal community based organizations (CBO) and registered them at the respective subcounties. The organizations will attract other members of the community and the objective is to revive the indigenous seeds and related food production knowledge systems. They have identified old women seed bankers who will lead the groups in the transferring traditional knowledge on seed identification, selection, Soil identification ,planting ,immunization against pests and diseases,storage and food harvesting.
Both groups of Buliisa and Kabale are starting demonstration gardens where the seeds will be planted and to demonstrate to the rest of young women and youth. Through sharing of knowledge on seeds,the women who still have them and appreciation of how the seeds are shared,women have started planting some of the seeds that are disappearing. The days’ session was crowned by an excitement created when one of the participant, Bikara Mantulensi, through down a variety of seeds in the midist of the dialogue circle and women scampered for picking the seeds.She later,and the rest of other women,explained that traditionally, seeds are not handed out from one person to the other but thrown on the ground for others to pick.
Sacred Natural Sites
The Custodians of Sacred Natural Sites,the Balegezi in Rugungu language,and Balamansi, in Runyoro Language, were another section of participants. As custodians of the L.Albert and its ecosystems,the discussion which took place in a separate place during group discussions,was focusing on the ways and means of strengthening their practices and laws that ensure reduced bad practices on the lake and degradation of the ecosystems. Led by Mzee Aron Kiza,85, the 9 custodians of the various sites echoed again the need for the King of Bunyoro to visit their sites and make Public announcement that these elders have the “interpretation of the Lake” and thus need to be recognized as playing a role in its survival.
They later revealed that their “Kyebembera”( leader) died some years back and they need a person who was made an heir to be consulted in order for them to effectively carry out their practices.
The dialogue which ended on the 4th day in the evening,saw each participant make a commitment that will be the beginning point in the next exchange meeting. The individual commitment included, among others, the following;
Revive the growing of millet which is dissapearig at a drastic rate;
Growing indigenous crops beside the government highbread seeds and compare the cost,taste,durability in the garden.
Organising more dialogues on the seed and related cultural practices and ceremonies.The associated ceremonies and rituals led to sustainability of seeds and ensured food security in homes.
Increased consultation with old women in the communities about knowledge systems on seed identification,selection,soil selection ,planting ,pest control methods and storage .
Custodians visiting the heir to their former leader for further consultation on strengthening their work on ritual performance.
NAPE trains community dialogue animators
NAPE’s approach to strengthen community cultural governance is use of community dialogues. The use of approach is a realisation and appreciation that communities have for long been disconnected from their social and ecological realities, the so called ‘’modernity’’ or ‘’development’’ creates a big divide between the rural agricultural/subsistence folk and the urban ‘’educated’’, terming the later as backward, uneducated and poor. This stereotyping has led these rural communities withdraw their would-be-useful and relevant knowledge from the public domain.
The elderly who have, hither to, provided food, land; conserved ecosystems and brought up the current generation have had their knowledge systems bashed and branded out-dated and backward. Rarely do the modern development workers, agriculturalists, ecologists, and other social workers consult elders in their innovations and researches about food, land and ecosystems.
Dialogues involve identification and involvement of knowledgeable elders in seeking sustainable solutions to the current conflicts on land, food and ecosystems. The elders are the depository of knowledge and young people seek this knowledge by asking relevant and right questions. When elders, gain confidence and faith then they reveal the knowledge used in conservation of ecosystems.
Dialogues are organised in an informal structure and facilitated by a trained animator who ensures an accommodative environment for discussion. The ideas from elders are inform of a story and facilitator ensures he asks the right questions at an appropriate time.
The project works with 3 communities and the selection of animators was carefully done with the help of elders and the entire community group. The animators are part of the community group and have been participating in the dialogues specific roles of these animators will include, among others, the following;
- Mobilising communities and organising community dialogues
- Facilitate dialogues in coordination with the project officer
- Facilitate recording and arrangement of dialogue information, especially drawing community and ecological maps, seasonal calendars, making community constitutions.
In a 5- day training facilitated by NAPE and Gaia staff, the animators were introduced to the theory of earth laws, regarding food, land and ecosystems conservation and organising and facilitating a dialogue. It is planned that as the animators continue participating in the dialogues which are animated by NAPE project officer, they will gain more experience and knowledge from elders. This will enable them start organising and animate the subsequent dialogues in year 2 and 3 of the project.
NAPE is working in partnership with Uganda National Association of Occupational Health (UNACOH) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to promote Mercury-Free Project in artisanal Gold mining (ASGM) in selected districts in Uganda. The project is supported by Dialogs, a Danish NGO and Ban Toxic from the Philippines.
Mercury is being used freely in Uganda regardless of the fact that Uganda is a signatory to the Minamata and ILO conventions that banned the use of mercury globally. The project is a global initiative under the Convention that aims at eliminating the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector globally.
Over the past century in Uganda, ASGM emerged as a relatively important source of livelihood and contributor to local economic development in several regions of the country. The ASGM sector in Uganda is informal, unregulated, and characterized by rudimentary methods, and use mercury to recover gold from the ore.
The project will target seven districts: Mubende, Bushenyi, Buhweju, Namayingo, Bugiri, Busia, Nakapiripirit where artisanal and small-scale gold mining is taking place.
The objectives of the project are to;
To realize the Project objectives, two Training of Trainers (ToT) Workshops for artisanal miners from the selected districts has been organized by the project partners. There will be training for miners from the Western parts of the country (Mubende, Buhweju and Bushenyi) will be conducted in Mubende at Ekyekampala gold mining site. The second training for miners from the Eastern parts of the country (Namayingo, Bugir, Busia and Nakapiripirit) will be conducted in Makana mining site in Busia.
The miners will be trained in a new methodology that uses Borax to recover gold from the ore. The Borax methodology has tremendous benefits to the miners and their families; it is user friendly, less toxic and more productive. About 30 artisanal miners will be trained in the new methodology so that they in turn, train other miners in their communities. The training will be from May 26th to June 5th, 2017. Miners will be trained by experts in the use of Borax from Ban Toxic, an NGO from the Philippines and Diologos from Denmark.
The story was compiled by Betty Obbo
During the last week of March 2017, Young Friends of the earth Africa (FoEA) groups and Young Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) had a cross-regional learning meeting for groups participating in the Erasmus project of the FoEI federation in Durban South Africa. The meeting was hosted by groundwork, FoE South Africa.
The Erasmus project brings together youths from African and European regions that are partners to Friends of the Earth to strengthen the Youth Environmental Justice movement, both internally in FoEI and externally with Youth Social and Environmental Justice allies.
The project is also an opportunity to strengthen relationships and ways of working across the European and African regions, and supporting the active engagement of young people in decision-making.
The Director of groundwork, Bobby peek told the young people that one of the principles of FOEI is inclusiveness. Young people can only be included in most of the FOE work if they acquire deeper knowledge around movement building and FoEI is ready to support them.
Ms Sophie Manson, the coordinator for the Erasmus project in FOEI advised the youth to collectively identify creative strategies to enhance the engagement of diverse youth groups.
She told them the future belongs to young people and therefore young people need to critically reflect on particular role they can play in struggles against injustice. She advised them to have one firm voice through the environmental justice movement and suitable thematic campaigns that will prosper their struggles in their individual organizations
In the meeting, NAPE was represented by Peruth Atukwatse who coordinates the Youth Projects. NAPE, in 2016 started a Youth Movement for Social and Environmental Justice in Uganda. The movement is aimed at among other things:
NAPE believes that once the young people are in the driving seat, they can cause the change the organization and other activists and other Civil Society Organizations globally have been struggling to make. Society sometimes have a negative perception of young and because of this, young people are disengage from social, economic and political processes and feel powerless to bring about a sustainable change in their communities. NAPE stands in solidarity with young people as they demand for social and environmental justice.
The story was compiled by Peruth Atukwatse
The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has hailed NAPE for its work of fighting for environmental justice and human rights of communities affected by the Oil Industry in Bunyoro sub-region of Uganda.
On March 2, 2017, NAPE hosted a team of 24 donors for the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) in its community operational areas in Hoima District. The 24 donors were accompanied by staff of AJWS from their New York and Kampala offices.
The AJWS President and Chief Executive Director, Robert Bank said the effects of oil developments heavily fall on host communities and that it is important for communities to be mobilized to realise their rights and work together to defend them.
He stressed that this can be achieved when the communities have one voice and speak without fear. “Good people speak the truth to power. This is the only thing that can bring change. As AJWS, we stand with you in solidarity” he said while addressing a community gathering at Kaiso-Tonya fishing village on the shores of Lake Albert.
Before Bank made his remarks, the NAPE Executive Director Frank Muramuzi and the Sustainability School Manager, Allan Kalangi had made presentations on NAPE’s vision, mission, core values and objectives and its emphasis on working with grassroots communities who are usually marginalized in development processes.
Through dance and drama, the Kaiso-Tonya communities ably conveyed a message of how oil activities have impacted on their livelihoods and their human rights and how NAPE has played a very big role in sensitizing and empowering them to speak for themselves.
“NAPE has empowered us and we are now able to stand up against human rights violations and conserve the environment as well. With the Community Green Radio initiated by NAPE, our voices have been raised and we have a platform to express our views.” Sylivia Kemigisa, the chairperson of Kaiso Women’s group said.
Judy Stern, a Board member of AJWS applauded NAPE for tremendous work they are doing in organizing the communities to speak as one voice.
“I want to thank NAPE for advocating for the rights of communities. As AJWS, we are happy to support you. That’s why I leave an appreciation message with a great American saying; ‘Never doubt that small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Kaiso-Tonya in Buseruka Sub County Hoima district is one of the areas where some oil wells (Ngasa 1 and Ngasa 2) were discovered and the road was constructed to ease transport. However, the communities say this came with challenges like violation of women’s rights, poor compensation and influx of people in the area leading to lake depletion and frustration of their livelihoods.
From Kaiso-Tonya, the team moved to Kigaga village, Buseruka sub-county which shares the same parish (Kabale) with the yet to be constructed oil refinery. Kigaga forms one of the listeners’ clubs of the Community Green Radio.
Penina Ruhindi, the Chairperson of Kigaga oil refinery affected women’s group welcomed the team. She said that the communities that neighbor the proposed oil refinery area faced challenges of land grabbing, environmental degradation, food insecurity and displacements.
Ruhindi said that the Community Green Radio has helped them in amplifying their voices and sensitizing them on how they can engage in income generating activities that do not degrade the environment.
“I want to thank NAPE for organizing and supporting us. With Community Green Radio, we have been able to raise our challenges and we have also sensitized others on the need to conserve the environment,” Ruhindi noted
NAPE has been supporting communities who are affected by oil activities to provide alternative sources of economic livelihoods like beekeeping, establishment of indigenous tree nursery beds among others and with support from AJWS they have provided them with funds to support community-led income activities through sub-granting.
The Kigaga community mounted a mini exhibition of the organ food crops that they have managed to grow following their being sensitized by the Community Green Radio
Muramuzi pledged that NAPE will continue working with the host communities in the oil region in sensitizing them on oil issues and its impacts on environment and livelihoods and their human rights so that they can position themselves better to benefit from the oil developments.
He also hailed the communities in Bunyoro for intensifying the campaign to revive and promote the indigenous seeds as well as saving the environment. “I am so happy that you are reviving our indigenous seeds to ensure food security. They are part of our culture and are very important for our health and need to be conserved alongside planting indigenous trees to conserve the environment.”
This story was compiled by Precious Natulinda,
Assistant News Editor,
Community Green Radio