On March 8th every year, Uganda joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s day. This year’s theme was, ‘Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls: Challenges and Opportunities’. The National celebrations were held in Mityana district but to avoid parallel celebrations, districts celebrated theirs on different schedules.
Buliisa district celebrated the women’s Day on 16th March at Kihungya primary school where the women under their group, Tulime Hamwe Mbibo Zikadde Buliisa Women’s group in partnership with National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) carried out exhibition of the indigenous seed varieties they are promoting and traditional methods of seed storage.
During the celebrations, the women demonstrated how, traditionally, the seeds were wrapped in dry grass and hanged on a pole to protect them from pests and diseases. They also displayed the indigenous seed varieties such as sorghum, beans, cassava, pumpkins, greens and their importance. They demonstrated how they are promoting for better nutrition and how they ensure food security even in the times of calamities by for example drying sweet potatoes.
“Women are mainly at the Centre of seed conservation efforts to keep their families endowed with food throughout the year. That’s why for example we have these dried sweet potatoes such that in case of drought, the families remain with food,” Kagole Margret, the member of the group explained to the guests and MPs while visiting their stalls.
While addressing the participants, members of parliament from Buliisa hailed NAPE for supporting women in promoting indigenous seeds and pledged to continue supporting NAPE activities in the area.
“You people, you should keep seeds for the next season. Don’t keep waiting for anything from government. I therefore want to thank NAPE for promoting indigenous seeds, indigenous medicine etc..,” said Steven Birahwa Mukitale, the Buliisa County MP.
The Buliisa Woman MP, Norah Bigirwa appreciated the contribution of civil society organizations, especially NAPE, in empowering women which she said will contribute to her dream of leaving Buliisa women in a better position to benefit from the oil sector.
“In Buliisa, we want to appreciate local content including local seeds and we say NO to GMOs! That’s why I appreciate the efforts of NAPE in coming up with this initiative of promoting indigenous seeds. I pledge my commitment to support these women,” she said.
NAPE with support from Gaia Foundation and the European Union is implementing Community Ecological Governance project in Hoima and Buliisa district of western Uganda to support community efforts to protect the sacred natural sites and territories. NAPE also supports small holder farmers, especially women, to enhance their indigenous knowledge and seed varieties, to be food secure and safeguard the diversity for future generation.
Denis Tabaro Natukunda, the Senior Programs Officer at NAPE who also heads the project says the traditional seed varieties are intertwined in cultural heritage because they are used by the custodians when performing rituals in their respective sacred natural sites.
NAPE uses community dialogue approach which involves the identification and involvement of elders who have knowledge to sustainable solutions to the current conflicts on land, food and ecosystems.
During these dialogues, the elders (custodians) of knowledge meet with the young generations and small holder farmers to synergize on the weaving the basket of knowledge especially on the role of seeds in performing rituals and ceremonies in cultural sites and their attachment to the protection of ecosystems.
Story compiled by Precious Naturinda