Uganda joined East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Burundi to phase out the use of mercury in mining in the region as it is harmful to human health and environment. Artisanal gold minld sector in these countries is poorly regulated and monitored.
Unfortunately none of the six East African countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) has so far ratified the Minamata Convention!
In Uganda, NAPE in collaboration with Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) and Ban Toxics from the Philippines with support from the Danish Government through Diologos, a Denish NGO are promoting a Mercury-Free gold mining worldwide.
The project’s intervention seeks to reduce health and environmental footprints caused by small-scale mining in Uganda. The major aspects of this project are to develop the capacity of ASGM miners and regulatory mechanisms within the local government, to promote mercury-free technology, and monitor mercury in the environment.
Recently NAPE and her partners carried out a Training of Trainers (ToT) for 30 ASGM miners on Mercury-Free techniques with Borax from seven districts of Uganda - (Mubende, Buhweju, Bugir, Namayingo, Busia, Moroto and Nakapiripirit). Fifteen (15) ASGM miners from Central and Southern Uganda were training in Mubende and another 15 ASGM miners from East and Northern Uganda were trained in Namayingo respectively. The miners expressed a high interest in learning the Borax methodology and pledged their total cooperation for the project.
Key benefits of the borax method over the mercury amalgamation process include increased operating efficiencies and higher yields of gold extraction, resulting in better over-all economics even before health and environment issues are considered.
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