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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;

Food;

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.