Ugandan women spearhead the fight for climate justice

By Acipa Doreen 

Kampala

Evaline Sarah Okeng is a subsistence farmer. The 28-year-old is a resident of Awac village, Alal parish, Aloi sub-county in the Alebtong District.

Mrs Okeng, who is born in Alebtong and married in Alebtong, knows only one source: the local way of generating the source of energy for cooking, which is using the three stones. All her life, she has been cooking using the three stones “TUKE” (in luo) and a charcoal stove as a result of deforestation. The three stones use firewood to generate energy for cooking.

According to ASP Muhindo Mbarak, the environmental police in charge of enforcement in the Ministry of Water & Environment in the Lango Sub-Region, 40 percent of trees are destroyed in Lango Sub-Region annually.

Most families depend on firewood for cooking. Due to a drastic climate change in the Lango sub-region as a result of cutting down trees, Lango is expected to plant 254,650 tree seedlings in this financial year (2021–2022).

However, in a bid to solve the problem, indigenous women in Alebtong District, Lango Sub-region are saving natural resources by embracing lyte-fire technology.

Mrs Okeng yearns for a new way to get a better cooking source for her home. But after training under a smart up project facilitated by Plan International Uganda, Lira programme area in collaboration with a solar energy company, solar fire contraction limited under Lyte-fire Innovation programs, Okeng’s hope was restored.

Lyte-fire energy uses direct solar energy and transforms the energy into heat, which helps women switch from firewood and charcoal to a sustainable, free energy source.

Built of locally available materials, it is simple and cost-effective to fabricate and maintain.

“I am now equipped with knowledge on how to assemble mirrors to generate heat for the oven for cooking without cutting down trees for firewood and charcoal,” she said.

It’s simple and not costly because it’s homemade, “Mrs Okeng continued. She expressed her happiness that she would never lack money due to the knowledge and skills she acquired.

Mrs Okeng added that they will keep registering women and marginalised youth within the district for this training every four months and enrol them in both compulsory and objective training that includes entrepreneurship, life, and leadership skills to improve their lives in the community.

She stated that this will improve her livelihood and that she will share her knowledge with other women and female youth who have dropped out of school.

She urges the district leaders to see women as environmental activists.

On April 04, 2022, Plan International Uganda passed out 15 graduates who successfully completed a four-month training on Lyte-fire technology.

Plan Uganda is expected to train 215 women and youth in the Alebtong district on the use of the Lytefire solar technology using local materials such as steel and glass mirrors. The training is adapted from the previous knowledge of the participants.

The project leader, Lytefire Callum McRobbie, poses in a picture with the female and male youth during their pass out.

Graduates of Lyte-fire Photo by Acipa Doreen/AWiM.

The project leader, Lyte-fire Callum McRobbie, said the innovation is to empower young people by creating sustainable jobs, supporting local productivity, and promoting a more creative and innovative economy while reducing deforestation and contributing to climate change.

He continued that the solar bakery enhances young people’s economic freedom, reduces harmful smoke inhalation, and increases awareness of climate change.

Due to a drastic climate change in the Lango sub-region as a result of cutting down trees, Lango is expected to plant 254,650 tree seedlings in this financial year (2021–2022).

Out of the 254,650, indigenous women groups in Alebtong and Otuke districts are expected to plant at least 1,600 tree species to mitigate climate change.

Lango women are said to be pro-climate change compared to men. (Photo by Acipa Doreen)

According to the coordinator of indigenous women groups in Alebtong, Mrs Josephine Agoma Apita, a resident of the Omoro sub-county in the Alebtong district, women have been facing so many challenges because of little or no knowledge about environmental conservation.

At Agoma Apita, they use firewood cut from trees through deforestation, not knowing that they are degrading the environment indirectly.

But the Foundation for Integrated Rural Development (FIRD), a non-governmental organization, came in and sensitized them, and they were able to form groups.

They requested the distribution of tree seedlings, which will be given to them in this first rainy season.

They have also desisted from using the three-stone source of generating cooking energy to locally make a cooking stove that can use only one or two pieces of firewood to prepare food.

Further, to protect the environment, women in Otuke and Alebtong districts have embarked on various measures to conserve the environment.

This, according to Daniel Apita, the project manager of FIRD, one of the organizations embarking on climate justice in Northern Uganda, is done to empower the indigenous women because, for a long time, climate change has mostly been caused by tree cutting.

Apita has more to explain here.

David Kennedy Odongo, the chairperson LC5 of Alebtong District, urged the environmental law enforcement team and the local leaders to avoid promoting charcoal production by stopping the use of charcoal.

If they are still buying them, then there is nothing we are changing, but rather complicating the situation, “he said.

He advised every household to plant trees for a better future because the climate has drastically changed as a result of environmental destruction.

“We are moving from one village to another for sensitization and mindset change, and the community is responding positively,” according to Mr Odongo.

The district has raised over 200,000 seedlings to be distributed to the community and every institution in the district.

Mr Odongo called upon Members of Parliament to advocate for an increase in the budget allocation to the district for environmental conservation.

He appealed to different stakeholders to empower women because they are key in every development.

He urged those who are fighting environmental destruction to stop promoting charcoal production because if they are still buying charcoal, then there is nothing that is changing.

Isaac Ochen, the District Forestry Officer of Otuke District, said the forest sector under his stewardship has five local forest reserves and one central forest reserve.

Stella Pamela Akello, 34 years old, resident of Aloi Corner, Aloi Town Council in Alebtong district, encourages women to take the lead in planting tree species to keep the environment green. She said a healthy environment increases our life span.

On the other hand, Ketty Kia, a resident of Te-Iconga ward, Aloi Town Council in Alebtong, said women need a lot of continuous sensitization and training to be change agents in conserving the environment.

In an exclusive interview with the secretary of production and natural resources, Alebtong Mr Sam Munu, the district has introduced a tree census to update the district data.

“We are soon passing out a by-law where no one is allowed to cut down any tree without the approval of the local council one and two in every area,” he revealed.

The district is set to recover the lost trees by distributing tree seedlings to the community to the tune of over 50,000 species before the end of this month, according to Ochen.

The district budget allocation is very small, according to Francis Abola, the chairperson of LC5 of Otuke district. Watch more from the district leader here.

Susan Abeja, the woman Member of Parliament for Otuke District, said she will embark on sensitising the community on poultry rearing as a way to promote the livelihood of her people in order to eradicate poverty, leading to a greater percentage of trees being cut down in the district.

As a Member of Parliament, I first want to make sure that my women are sustainable in life by enrolling them in poultry keeping to eradicate poverty, she said.

Ms Abeja continued that she was given 3000 tree seedlings in 2021, which will be distributed to the people of Otuke this year 2022 to restore the environment.

She appealed to the Government of Uganda to come up with policies that address deforestation by first identifying the challenges her people are facing.

According to the Lango Cultural Foundation, which is led by the paramount chief, His Highness Mzee Yosam Odur Ebii, the institution will distribute over 45,000 tree seedlings to all districts in the region.

He urges women to learn how to use briquettes and those who can access electricity as a source of energy for cooking to adopt the initiative.

Pastor Caroline Olwa, a cleric of New Covenant Church International in Uganda, requested different organisations to train more women to use smart cooking stoves to promote environmental protection.

In the year 2021, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) planted 15,000 shea nut tree seedlings in Otuke district to restore Oliduru Central Forest Reserve (CFR) in Ogwete sub-county, Otuke district on more than 200 hectares of land. Read more here.

In 2006, President Yoweri Museveni issued a presidential decree declaring that no shea nut trees should be cut.

Otuke and Alebtong districts are found in the Lango sub-region of Northern Uganda.

In a nutshell, all the above is linked to a meeting in the build-up to COP26, which was organised by the NDC partnership together with the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Uganda, led by the Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija. Dr Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), Ms Janet Rogan, COP 26 Regional Ambassador for the Middle East and Africa, Dr Jorg Linke, a GIZ climate change expert, and Dr Pablo Vieira, Global Director of the NDC Partnership Support Unit were among the keynote speakers.

The key message echoed in the discussion was that Uganda is vulnerable to climate change as the well-being of its people is bound to the climate. At the event’s conclusion, Uganda was congratulated for incorporating climate into the country’s development plans and recognising the importance of the country’s macroeconomic recovery and inclusive growth strategy hence a call to step up more effort toward green growth.

This article is part of African Women in Media (AWiM)/UNEP Africa Environment Journalism Programme 

Do you want to publish this article? Kindly contact janet@africanwomeninmedia.com

Facebook Comments Box
Sangiza abandi iyi nkuru................ share this story Partager

Maak 'n opvolg-bydrae

Jou e-posadres sal nie gepubliseer word nie.