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 July to 2nd August ,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