Friends of the Earth Norway visits Friends of the Earth Uganda in a knowledge sharing experience targeting extractives

Young Friends of the Earth Norway (YFOEN) visited Friends of the Earth Uganda on a mission to establish how grassroots communities were copying with the challenges associated with extractives.

Martine Solberg represented YFOEN and she was in Uganda from the 23rd June to 2nd July ,2017. She was received by National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) also known as FoE Uganda and conducted to different places where there are extractives. The main aim of the knowledge sharing visit was building the capacity of the youth to engage effectively in the environmental justice struggles across the regions and to strengthen the relationship between these two partners.

In the oil rich district of Hoima, Ms. Solberg attended an experience sharing meeting of Community Educators from different parts of the Albertine region working under the NAPE initiated Sustainability School programme in Uganda. The educators talked about the challenges they were facing ever since oil was discovered in their area in 2006. Some of these challenges included land grabbing, violent evictions and displacements, harassment from government security agencies in the name of protecting oil installations and environmental degradation. 

They talked about how under the Sustainability school approach, they had been sensitized on how to work together to tackle the above challenges. They talked about how working with a common voice had helped them be heard by government officials and how they were now as communities making it hard for speculators to grab their land. They said that the community Green Radio established by NAPE in the area in 2014 had greatly helped in amplifying their voices and bringing them close to their leaders.

Solberg and the other educators were taken on a tour of demonstration gardens for indigenous seed varieties and traditional granaries set up by members of Butimba and Kigaaga Sustainability villages as part of the food sovereignty campaign also being spearheaded by NAPE in the region.

Solberg was able to share with the sustainability school activists the Norwegian experience. She said that much as they don’t have land grabbing in their country, they also have challenges of the government coming up with initiatives for exploiting natural resources which are not environmentally friendly.

“For years, we members of the civil society in Norway have been resisting our government plans to drill oil in sensitive fish breeding grounds that have for ages been the source of livelihoods and survival for indigenous communities. These grounds include the Lofoten Islands,” she said.

Martine said that she was so much inspired by the work of community educators and that she was privileged to learn about NAPE’s work with the communities.
“After listening to all of you sharing the work your doing in the different sustainability villages, am so inspired and happy to say that we are engaged in similar campaigns only that we are operating in different contexts’.  She said that their campaign of “Leave oil in the Ocean” had similar objectives with FoE Uganda’s campaign of, “Leave oil in the Soil”
Solberg said that it was important to involve the youth early in Sustainable development processes and was happy that FoE Uganda had already embarked on that process.
 “The involvement of the youth in the struggles for environmental justice, starts with us acquiring knowledge and experience from within and outside our countries, thank you so much for allowing me to learn from you on the amazing work that you are doing in Uganda”, Martine said.

Rev. Musiimenta of Butimba sustainability village said they were pleased by the realisation that they were not the only ones in the struggle for the rights of grassroots communities. “I am surprised that oil is still a problem to even countries that have been producing it for a long time and have a lot of money like Norway. But the fact that there are other activists like you in other parts of the world fighting for environmental and social justice gives a lot of hope and courage to carry on,” he said

The experience sharing meeting in Hoima was preceded by a field visit to the Gold mining areas of Mubende District in central Uganda. Martine together with Peruth Atukwatse who coordinates the Erasmus project at NAPE visited the gold-mining area for an exploratory study on Artisanal small-scale mining in Uganda under the Mercury free Gold mining project.

Martine visited NAPE under the ERASMUS project. 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 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.

By: Peruth Atukwatse

How oil exploration and other anthropogenic activities have affected 13 wetlands around Lake Albert

About 13 wetlands in Hoima and Buliisa districts are drying up due to human-induced activities threatening the lives of humans and other beings that depend on these eco-systems for survival.

The affected wetlands include Rwencururu, Nyakaralike, Wambabya and Kadiki in Kiziranfumbi Sub County, Hoima district.

Others are Hoimo wetland a confluent of river Waki that is joined by numerous streams among which include Isimba stream that joins River Hoimo in Kitoba Sub County in Hoima district to supplement the water pressure at Kabalega dam at the escarpment in Buseruka Sub County.  

Hoimo wetland has, however, changed its colour to foul black with a strong stench coming out of it. It has reportedly been polluted by Bwendero Dairy Farm; a distilling plant in Bwiragura parish in Kitoba sub county in Hoima district, burning the papyrus and other shrubs grown around.

The plant that uses sugar molasses to distil spirits and gins discharges its effluent into the stream flowing into Lake Albert through Hoimo swamp, something that has affected the biodiversity and the social life along this eco-system.

Endagered: The Flora on this wetland has died up due to high acidity resulting from distilled mollases

Besides contaminating the eco system, massive growing of high water consuming eucalyptus and pine trees within in the swamps has also contributed to serious drainage. Green radio carried an on-spot investigation and found out that Bwendero farm had also planted more than 20 acres of eucalyptus trees within the catchment area of River Hoimo and Wambabya river line to get firewood for distillation. This has led to the recession of the wetland.

Authorities at the distillation factory admit some loopholes but have promised to fix them to save the wetland.  Sam Kwebiha, the chemist and factory advisor says they have a roadmap to ensure that they comply with NEMA regulations within 5 years. He says they put up three waste containment lagoons to control the effluent from flowing into the water.

Plantation of pine and eucalyptus trees by farmers has also been cited in Kanwabarogo, Kijumba and Muruyanja wetlands in Kigaaga, Buseruka Sub County. The trees have been planted close to the swamps leading to the recession of the once water stagnant areas.

Kadri Kirungi,the Hoima district chairman says findings of the district Natural resources committee show all wetlands in Hoima Municipality have direct car washing, accessing the water freely in a range of 0-30 meter from highest water mark.

Rosemary Nyangoma, the Hoima district Natural Resources officer, says they have already started implementing council resolution to cut down all the trees planted within wetlands. She says they are doing this in accordance with the NEMA act adding that all tree plantations in wetlands will be affected.

Wambabya, Kanywabarogo and Muruyanja have already been marked by UNRA and will suffer the construction of the Kiziranfumbi-Kabare tarmac road, one of the 10 oil roads to be constructed in Hoima district. The road connects to the proposed oil refinery and international airport in Kabare parish. Besides, the construction of power line and feeder road developments to the proposed refinery has also had a direct impact on these wetlands as electric polls and feeder roads pass through these ecosystems especially in Kiziranfumbi Sub County.

Lucy Mbuubi, a member of Butimba Sustainability Conservation Association in Kiziranfumbi sub county says the drying of these wetlands will gradually influence climate change, thus affecting their dependences on agriculture.

Nicholas Magara, the Western Uganda coordinator for wetland management at the ministry of water and Environment, told community Green Radio that the ministry has already instructed NEMA to reclaim and demarcate all the wetlands encroached on by the human activities.

In Buliisa the affected wetlands include, Kamonkure and Kigwera. These wetlands are part of the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Wetland System at its confluence with Lake Albert (The Ramsar site).

This delta forms a shallow area that is important for water/lake birds. This wetland stretch also works as breeding ground for Lake Albert fisheries, containing indigenous fish species. It also forms a feeding and watering refuge for wildlife during dry seasons. However, fishermen have settled there causing drainage.

The recession of these wetlands and rivers flowing into Lake Albert, have squarely contributed to the continuous recession of the lake too, according to communities who are direct beneficiaries of this ecosystem.

This Article has been authored by Robert Katemburura with Support from African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME)