COMMUNITY GREEN RADIO INSPIRING WOMEN TO DEVELOP THEMSELVES IN UGANDA’S OIL REGION

It’s a hot Saturday afternoon and Betty Bagadira, a resident of Kaiso-Tonya landing site in Buseruka Sub County in Hoima district has just retired from her daily duties. She has been drying her Silver fish commonly known as Mukene but the scorching sun forces her to seek shelter under a Neem tree near her house.

To her, it’s her time to listen to the Radio. She sends for a radio set and a bench from her house and calls her fellow women to join her. When the women assembled, she tunes to their favorite radio program, Nyinabwenge – Women’s program.  The weekly show, featuring discussions and advices from community perspective, is broadcast on Community Green Radio, the district’s first community radio and for many women in Hoima, the only way to get information from outside the village.
“The radio is very important to us, it talks about our problems and solutions and in our native language,” says Bagadira.

Women in Kaiso-Tonya mainly depend on fish business for their livelihood, however, the population influx and poor fishing methods have caused drastic reduction in fish stock. For Bagadira, listening to Nyinabwenge show has helped her get other income alternatives and add value to their business to get more income as well as conserving the environment.

“The radio has helped me to think beyond fish business. I have started packing mukene to add value. I have also started doing other alternative income generating activities like weaving to get income. We also have a problem of wind and lack of sheds at the landing site. I have started giving out tree seedlings from my Neem tree to my fellow women so that they can also plant in their compounds.”

For two and a half hours, four days a week, the radio promotes women’s empowerment at grassroots level in remote villages of Hoima and Buliisa districts.

The districts lie in the oil rich region where oil developments require more land thus displacing many people. Being a patriarchal society with many communities considering access and ownership of land by women is against social norms, the radio has helped in sensitizing women on their land rights.

“We have been sensitized that as women we also have a right to timely, adequate and fair compensation once land it taken by government,” said Doreen Kusemerwa another listener from Kaiso-Tonya.

To reach people in villages, Community Green Radio has worked with communities to build listeners clubs. Ten women dominated listeners clubs have been formed so far.

Seated in groups, the listeners’ club members discuss day-to-day issues like environment, health, education and the economic empowerment with the radio journalists who record their voices and play them on air.

Fred Kabagambe, the chairperson Kaiso-Tonya Listeners’ club says the initiative has built confidence in women and can express their concerns.

“The village women were reluctant to express their opinions after lifetimes of being told by men that they had nothing to say. Community radio has made them aware of their rights so that they can speak up. They now have a platform where they can put forward their grievances and in turn be educated on important issues.”

The radio acts as a medium between locals and various government officials, helping to raise awareness of issues like education, health, justice and the environment.

“It has helped them get actively involved and ask questions. This engagement is empowering them to fight for their rights, raise their voices and educate themselves,” says Kabagambe

Community Green Radio which is owned by communities and managed by National Association of Professional Environmentalists started in 2014 with the main aim of amplifying the voice of marginalized communities.

STORY COMPILED BY PRECIOUS NATURINDA

NAPE JOINS NFA TO PROTECT BUGOMA FOREST RESERVE

With the continuous encroachment and other illegal activities carried out in and around Bugoma central forest reserve in Hoima district, NAPE has teamed up with National Forestry Authority (NFA) to harness sustainable management solutions to conserve the reserve.

NAPE facilitated a stakeholders’ meeting that was attended by the communities through Collaborative Forest Management groups to find out challenges, threats and sustainable solutions to the management of Bugoma forest reserve.

During the meeting between Collaborative Forest Management groups with NFA that was held in Kabwoya Sub County headquarters in Hoima district on Wednesday (31st. May), there were counteraccusations on who is fueling illegal activities in the reserve.

The communities were blaming some forest authorities for allegedly bowing to bribes from timber and charcoal dealers which leaves the role of reporting illegalities by communities irrelevant.

“We believe some NFA officials especially the patrols and forest supervisors have connections with those who carry out illegal activities. When we give information to them, they immediately alert the suspects to hide instead of taking action. This has demoralized us as communities," said Annet Agaba, a resident of Kidoma village in Buseruka Sub County.

Tabu John a resident of Kisaaru village in Kabwoya Sub-County also blamed some of the authorities of exposing whistleblowers which puts their life at risk.

“There is no coordination between communities and NFA. Some of our colleagues have been killed while others live under numerous threats in the name of protecting the forest because those whom we entrust with our information end up letting us down,” he noted

On the other hand, NFA faulted Collaborative Forest Management groups for allocating plots to cultivators in the forest reserve and cutting down trees in disguise of protecting them.

“Some individuals in the forest management groups have turned to be threats to the forest. Some allocate plots,” said Francis Madrama, the Kisindi Sector Manager.

However, the parties agreed to collaborate in managing the forest with the communities playing their role of reporting all the illegal activities and the authorities taking action on suspects.

The Range Manager for Budongo systems, Stuart Maniraguha urged the communities to jealously protect the forests adding that the impact is much felt by them. He also urged them to report NFA officials that are involved in the illegalities.
During the stakeholder meeting that was held at Hoima Resort Hotel on Thursday (1st June), the Hoima Chief Magistrate, Emma Sayekwo promised to prosecute whoever is brought to court on charges of destroying the environment for others to learn.

“Cases to do with environment, I prefer to take them on personally for my own satisfaction to achieve my role as a magistrate. Someone who is in conflict with the law, I have to make sure you are in prison for not less than one year so that by the time you come back; you will have known that depriving other people’s rights is not good. As stakeholders we all need to take action to ensure that the forests are conserved.”

Joan Akiiza, the NAPE legal and Advocacy officer said NAPE will collaborate with stakeholders on environment to find threats and ways of protecting the forest and if possible do petitions to parliament if the threats persist.

“Such interfaces with communities on ground as well as stakeholders help us to identify where the problem is as well as getting solutions. NAPE will work in a collaborative way to see the threats posed to the forest and how we can conserve it. We can even petition relevant authorities if the threats persist,” she said.

The reserve is threatened by high rate of agriculture, timber cutting and political interference according Mr. Madrama.

Early this year, the former Hoima Municipality Mayor, Francis Atugonza was arrested after clearing 239 hectares in Bugoma forest reserve claiming to be of the Ababyasi clan. Bunyoro Kingdom is also in court with NFA claiming to own 5777 hectares of land under Block 2 of the forest reserve in Kyanwali Sub County Hoima district.

Early last year, NFA opened the boundaries of the reserve that sits on 41,142 hectares to reduce on boundary conflicts and encroachers.

STORY COMPILED BY PRECIOUS NATURINDA