Africa is now feeling the full force of the extractive industries, as world attention shifts to this continent that until now has been relatively untouched in this regard. As technology becomes more sophisticated it brings within reach previously unreachable minerals.
Oil is being found everywhere it seems, with the oil companies suspiciously undaunted by climate change discussions. And these discussions seem to be going nowhere, while the impact of climate change is being increasingly felt across the continent. Though more attention is being paid to renewables it remains a mystery why this attention is not far greater, given the potential of renewables to mitigate climate change. One can only assume that this relates to the economic and political power of the extractive industries.
Many African governments have tied their ‘new growth’ strategies to these extractive industries. This, in turn, is leading to a fast increase in demand for energy across the continent. Resistance to the onslaught of the extractive industries is still minimal in Africa, especially compared to what is happening elsewhere in the world.
The multinational corporations’ drive to move fully into Africa continues in the field of Agriculture too. ‘Investment’ in large plantations, also referred to as land grabbing, seems to be continuing apace. Furthermore, the MNCs are very much behind the push for green revolution farming for small-scale farmers in Africa, willingly offering funds to Obama’s G8 food and nutrition initiative, which in turn is twisting African Governments’ arms in various ways. One example of this is the push for laws and protocols related to seed via the regional economic blocks such as ECOWAS, SADC and COMESA. These laws and protocols put plant breeders’ rights at the forefront and largely ignore community-based seed systems.
Land grabbing continues to intensify. Governments, and traditional authorities shirking their responsibilities as custodians of customary and ancestral rights to land, thereby dispossessing communities’ access to land and other natural resources required for productive activities. Women are being particularly hard hit by this.
The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at least give more recognition to the importance of biodiversity and moving towards a healthier planet (SDGs 2, 3, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 and 15) and are an improvement on the old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, as long as the same economic development framework and the mindset that goes with it remain, they are unlikely to be effective. It is this economic model of non-stop economic growth that gives license and support to the activities outlined in the paragraphs above.
Along with all this, and very relevant to the work of NAPE, is the ongoing disconnection of young people from their roots and culture as they adopt a western mindset.
Another worrying trend is the growing intolerance of some religions towards traditions and culture. At the same time, while there is more recognition of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) in Uganda, the slow-to-change mainstream education set-ups still demean and belittle IKS and the traditions and culture that go with it. There is also the danger that academic interest in IKS will distort and highjack this source of knowledge.
NOTE:Thomas Berry’quotation on sustainability of cultural distortion
Turning to donor funding, most bilateral support seems to be continuing or shifting to support of industrial land-use practices. At the same time the greater emphasis on accountability, while apparently a good thing at face value, means that it is becoming more difficult to get funding for process-oriented work as opposed to ‘project’ funding. This is also affecting independent funders such as Church organizations who now get more of their funding from Governments. While there is greater recognition for sustainable land-use approaches such as Agro ecology, there is little funding allocated to this sector. The above background forms the rationale for NAPE’s program called the Community Ecological Governance (CEG)
Definition of Community Ecological Governance
Community Ecological Governance is a term used to describe customary governance systems rooted in the laws of Earth. Elders play a vital role in upholding the ecological knowledge and customs, practiced over generations, which sustain the wellbeing of sacred natural sites, ecosystems, territories and communities. CEG contributes to the emerging philosophy and practice known as Earth Jurisprudence or Earth Law underpinning customary governance systems in Africa.
NAPE’s unique approach and methods bring the depth of connection that leads to the strong sense of caring for, and connection to, the land that is necessary if whole communities are going to galvanize effectively towards management of their ecosystems. Without this depth of concern and connection, the tendency will be to continue treating symptoms in isolation
1 OBJECTIVES OF THE PROGRAM
To promote revival of African indigenous cultural knowledge and thinking to address the increasing loss of Biodiversity and African food Sovereignty and reduce climate change in Uganda.
AREAS OF FORCUS
2. PROMOTING AFRICAN INDIGENOUS FOOD AND FOOD SOVEREIGNITY (COMMUNITY SEED AND KNOWLEDGE –CSK)
As the push for plant breeders’ rights intensifies, so does the recognition of community-based seed systems. This is especially so given the high levels of malnutrition in many places. Community-based seed systems emphasize diversity, which in turn strengthens nutrition. This area is focused on researching, identifying, reviving, improving and popularizing African indigenous seeds.
The broader meaning of the SEED in this context is the entire production, storage, and distribution systems of indigenous crops and animals with associated African norms, customs and practices.
Communities are encouraged to understand and priorities the indigenous SEED against the so-much-marketed modern seeds promoted by foreign companies. NAPE and its partners build each others’ capacity around their seed work in communities.
NAPE will facilitate communities involved in seed-related work to organize and hold seed and food fairs, as platforms for sharing indigenous seed and associated knowledge. The experience of these will be continually documented and shared between partners. A bigger emphasis is put on women’s role as the main custodians of indigenous seed.
There is growing recognition of the need to transition our governance systems e.g. laws and policies from being human-centred to Earth-centred, which comply with the laws of our planet Earth to maintain the health and integrity of the whole. Inspired by the wisdom of indigenous peoples and Earth, cultural historian Thomas Berry referred to this philosophy and way of living as Earth Jurisprudence. Earth Jurisprudence principles include respecting:
- Earth’s laws and limits
- Rights of Nature
- Customary governance systems of indigenous/local peoples including protection of Sacred
- Natural Sites and Territories,
- Duty of care to protect the Earth Community and future generations.
SACRED NATURAL SITES
Sacred natural sites are respected as sources of life, water, cultural and spiritual values and tradition, identity, wisdom, community cohesion and livelihoods. They include forests, trees, water bodies such as rivers, caves, rocks, hills, burial places or any other natural ecosystems defined and respected as such by the community. They are critical places where the custodian community gathers and conducts ritual and seasonal ceremonies for the health and wellbeing of the ecosystem and communities, as well as to address social problems such as disputes and illness in the community. Surrounding areas are often the source of livelihood for the communities, including traditional beekeeping, spice production and ecologically sustainable agriculture.
Communities in Hoima and Bullisa districts of Bunyoro region, Uganda, are reviving their traditional practices and customary governance systems for the protection of sacred natural sites around Lake Albert.
Accompanied by NAPE, these communities are defending their ancestral lands from mining, commercial fishing, a game reserve and other activities which directly impact on and restrict access to the sacred sites, undermining their cultural and spiritual practices.
A published report, by NAPE, on opportunities within Uganda’s legal framework for the recognition of sacred natural sites also calls for their declaration as no-go areas for mining and other commercial projects.
Work is underway to develop a legal precedent that will secure recognition of the rights of local custodian communities to govern and protect Lake Albert as a sacred lake. This would be another first in Africa, affording legal protection to an ecosystem based upon recognition of the customary governance systems of local communities.
Below is a quotation from a statement by an African net work of custodians to The African Commission on the rights of indigenous Peoples.
“The whole Earth is sacred. Within the body of our Earth there are places which are especially sensitive, because of the special role they play in our ancestral lands. We call these places sacred natural sites. Each sacred natural site plays a different but important role, like the organs in our body. All of life is infused with spirit.
Sacred natural sites are embedded in territories, which relate to the horizontal, vertical and energetic domains. A territory includes plants, animals, the ancestors’ spirits, all life in the land, including humans, and reaches deep into the Earth including and beyond the subsoil, rocks and minerals, and up into the celestial constellations in the sky.
Sacred natural sites and territories exist everywhere, including in Africa. They are spiritual places created by God at the time of the Creation of our Earth, where our custodian communities have been praying and giving offerings since time immemorial. Our responsibility is to protect God’s Creation, and to ensure that these especially sacred places are not disturbed in any way. Their role and significance cannot be replaced.
Sacred natural sites and territories are sources of law. They are centers of knowledge and inter-generational learning. Our customary governance systems are established through our relationship with and responsibility for sacred natural sites and territories. Our customary laws are derived from the laws of the Earth, as interpreted from and applied at our sacred natural sites and territories. As custodians, we have a responsibility to ensure that our governance systems comply with the laws of the Earth, the laws that govern life.”
YOUTH CULTURE AND BIODIVERSITY
This theme is about engaging both School & out of school Youth and elders to engage in dialogues. The dialogues involve deliberate intergenerational learning, especially traditional and functional education. The elders explain the traditional culture and values to the youth. They try to instill discipline, morals and acceptable behavior for girls and boys.
The biodiversity bit of knowledge /education looks at nature appreciation and conservation.
- The Youth are encouraged to participate in the “Going back to the Roots” discussions where important cultural issues that relate to their health, skills, behavior and general way of living for now and the future are dealt with. It appears as if young people are seeking for more connection to their roots and culture to give them a sense of identity. The African Biodiversity Network (ABN) where NAPE is a strong partner, has facilitated YCB practices such as SEGNI, in Ethiopia, Wilderness experiential learning, Intergenerational learning and Graine Future in Bennin-West Africa. These are practices that NAPE is planning and encouraging its community based partners to take up such experiences that give young people that sense of identity and purpose in life.
The objective of the YCB theme is to have men and women well brought up in the traditional cultures that inculcate good morals and values for a better society that respects nature.
ACTIVITIES OF CEG
3.1 Conducting community based research on indigenous seeds and associated knowledge.
3.2 Popularizing Earth Jurisprudence as a complementally form of law based on Customary law to protection of nature and society values
3.3 Facilitating dialogues for Custodians of Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) to revive traditional practices for conservation of Nature.
3.4 Engaging Government and other stakeholders to influence policy on nature conservation using traditional community practices.
3.5 Empowering communities to revive their traditional food production systems and regain their food sovereignty.
NAPE employs unique approaches and methodologies that present traditional environment and bring back the African memory of social cohesion. The approaches include;
Community dialogues are meetings that are held amongst community members of same or different age groups. They are of the following characteristics;
- They are organic and allow for free flow of ideas brought up in an informal manner.
- The participants are free to present what they feel; being aware of what is palatable and acceptable in a social gathering.
- Participants are given enough time, but not too much, to express a point.
- The facilitator is a good listener and sieves the critical ideas while writing or not.
- The discussion is characteristic of personal or and community stories. If a dialogue is of custodians of Sacred Natural Sites; the story of origin is told which is a story that brings the traditional, cultural and spiritual background of the community.
- The dialogue progresses from the story of origin, the situational analysis, meditation and reflections to consensus building.
- The facilitator ,in a none directional manner, presents or calls one of the participants to present an issue/topic for discussion which is discussed by all .The discussion is in form of observations, supplementary, clarifications, questions etc.
- The participants are encouraged not to try and write everything that is mentioned in the dialogue.
Eco-mapping and seasonal calendars.
The communities, especially clan leaders and Custodians of Sacred Natural Sites live in specific areas and the SNS are also located in specific areas known as Territories. There are natural land forms ,rivers, forests, lakes ,animals, birds and other forms of life which are nonhuman (ecosystems and biodiversity) in these territories.
In order for communities to revive the traditional customs and practices, after a series of dialogues where they discuss and analyze their past, present and future ecological and socio-economical situation, they draw the ecological maps of their territories, which show what was done where, when and by whom. The ecological maps are a mental picture translated in physical drawings on the ground by the communities.
The maps are followed by seasonal calendars, usually the months, the associated seasons and activities carried out in those seasons are written in their language. This exercise is done in a participatory manner, ensuring that the knowledgeable elders are present to provide particular information on what used to be done so many years ago.
The maps visually help the communities to see what the situation used to be, what it is and what is desirable. What is desirable is what the community is advocating for and is a quest for revival and restoration of the ecology and community governance systems that can sustain the situation.
Community Ecological Governance asserts that the earth is a dynamic living whole whose complex processes have maintained the conditions for all life over millions of years. It requires us, as humans, to understand our place with the complex web of life as interconnected and interdependent with millions of species and to develop our personal and collective Earth –centered thinking and practice.
During the community dialogue, participants take time to appreciate nature by sitting, meditating and reflecting. By this they connect with nature and their souls
CURRENT WORK ON CEG, 2016
NAPE are completing the project on” strengthening African Civil society Net works to address the rapid growth of extractive industry “
The project is a 3-YR project Funded by the European Commission (EC) which started in 2013 and is ending in 2016 Feb. It is jointly implemented by 5 Partners of ABN in Africa.
We have started a 2-yr Project funded by OSIEA through our UK Partner Gaia “Promoting People and Women centered approaches to protecting Lake Albert Ecosystems and Peoples Livelihoods. The project is jointly implemented by Gaia, ANERD and NAPE in the Districts of Hoima and Buliisa.
We are popularizing the Earth Jurisprudence as a wider aspect of African Customary law and a complementary law in conservation of Nature.
We will be mobilizing communities and doing studies on indigenous food production systems.
See below some of the work done in previous period.
- A report of accomplished activities on CEG
- A MEETING REPORT FOR THE COALITION OF SACRED NATURAL SITES CUSTODIANS FOR PETITIONING THE KING OF BUNYORO AGAINST GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOS).
- Report of the legal Training
- Press release on custodian petition
- Report of the paralegal training