The first ever feminist school in Uganda was held this year in Hoima. During the school, members of the Rural Women’s Movement underlined that land is central to people’s identity, livelihoods and food security. They emphasized that land is central to sustainability – be it cultural, economic or social because it forms the physical basis of sustainability. Therefore, there must be a democratic access to land and land-based resources to ensure sustainability.
The changing patterns of land-use is perhaps the major problem affecting grassroot women across the country. While land has for a long time been a source of conflict and disagreements between small-holder farmers, communities and clans, the recent wave of dispute is caused by land-rush: foreign investors purchasing or leasing land for mining or monoculture for profit. Communities have been disposed, families disconnected and local farming systems destroyed as government and investors prioritize profits over nature and people.
This scenario is a reminiscent of the slavery our great-grand fathers experienced centuries ago. But this is a type of slavery of another kind. While in orthodox slavery people were sacrificed to foreigners, in this new slavery, land is sacrificed and local ownership is lost along with local sovereignty. People have become refugees in their own county. Many communities whose land has been taken over by investors are now living in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) without basic human needs (food, safe water, education, health facility among others, and women and children are bearing the brunt.
Government and political elite within and without who are facilitating the land-rush want everyone to believe it is development. The development that will transform Uganda into a middle-class nation. Recently government even took a notch higher and announced intent to take over people’s land on behalf of business, using the doctrine of Eminent Domain, or Compulsory Purchase legally by changing the land law (Land Act 2010) to allow community land to be sold-out at a give-away priceor nothing at all without their consent. However, under the United Nations human rights system, governments are expected to seek the free prior informed consent of local populations.
Now grassroot women who have been affected, and those whose land has been earmarked for these development models that inflict misery and pain to them and their families are saying “NO” to this development model. Through their Rural Women’s Movement in Uganda, they are building collective power to challenge the status quo and demand for environmental and climate justice. Their experiences are shifting awareness climate change from an abstract phenomenon of global warming and future impacts to a more tangible, multi-layered issue that are bringing together social, environmental and economic struggles at community level.
The rural women are demanding for climate justice. They are demanding that strategies to address the systemic crises of these extractive developments models recognize the disproportionate burden on grass-root women, and the historical responsibility of investors in the level of ecosystems degradation that have contributed to the current problem of climate change which they are experiencing. The rural women are waging a climate justice fight in all dimension of their lives— on food, on energy, on health and livelihoods. The women are defending their rights, their communities and their natural resources. They are asserting people-driven solutions and eco-feminist development alternatives. Eco-feminist alternatives women propose will recognize that if human beings must live well with justice and dignity and in harmony with nature, there will be a fair redistribution of power and wealth, a shift to sustainable systems of resource extraction and production, and a limit to the consumption of resources.
Women are mobilizing because the theory of climate justice builds greater awareness amongst political leaders and the broader public about the interconnectedness of climate change with issues of development and social justice. It ensures that those who are most affected by environmental changes are genuine partners in all efforts and that the gender dimensions are fully recognized, taking into account the particular ways in which women, especially rural women are affected by the phenomenon.
Climate change therefore, is a rights issue and the Rural Women’s Movement affirmes this. Members of the Women’s Movement say that changes in climatic conditions they are experiencing today in their communities is affecting their livelihoods, their health, their bodies, their children and their natural resources. This is why they are building collective women’s power to fight the environmental injustices caused by extractive developments. They believe their victory lies in numbers. They have vowed to stand-up tall and speak-out loudly! They want to be part of decisions regarding development processes in the country.
The women’s feminist school focused on women’s collective power to fight for food sovereignty, for peoples’ rights to sufficient healthy and appropriate food and sustainable food systems – eco-feminist development alternatives that ensures sustainability of natural resources; sustainable climate democratic access to land and land-based resources; the recognition of women’s role and rights in agriculture, fishing systems; farmers’ control of indigenous seed diversity. The feminist school also focused on collective fight to end policies, decisions and measures by governments, elites, institutions and corporations (domestic, regional and global) that increase the vulnerabilities of women and the planet.
At the ended the feminist popular education, Donna Andrew, the facilitator at the school ended with a powerful and inspiring quote here below:
Report compiled by Beety Obbo
Communications & Publications officer - NAPE
On 8th March 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.
Buliisa district celebrated the women’s Day on 16th March, 2018 at Kihungya Primary School playground in Kihungya Sub-county, Buliisa. Hon Monica Amoding, the Woman Member of Parliament (MP) for Kumi district presided over the celebrations that was organized by Buliisa District. A number of MPs attended the celebrations including: Hon. Norah Bigirwa. the Buliisa District Woman MP and host, Hon. Mukitale Birahwam MP for Buliisa, Hon Akello Silvia for Otuke district, Hon. Kisembo Basemera Noeline, MP Kibaale district, Hon. Kahunde Hellen Kiryandogo district, Hon. Barnabas and Tinkasimire, MP for Buyaga county. The Local Council 1V Chair Person, Mr. Simon Kinene and the Buliisa Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Peter Bisoborwa also attended the function.
Buliisa Small-Scale Farmers, under their Umbrella Group, “Tulime Hamwe Mbibo Zikadde Buliisa” Women’s Group in partnership with National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), carried out exhibition of indigenous seed varieties and traditional methods of traditional seed storage. During the celebrations, the women demonstrated traditional means of seeds preservation, which involves wrapping of seeds in dry grass and hanged the wrapped seeds on a pole to protect it from pest’s attack and diseases and increase its shelf-life.
They also exhibited indigenous seed varieties that were almost getting extinct, such as sorghum, beans, cassava, pumpkins, Bambaranuts (also known as in local Kinyoro Endemesa dialect), local green vegetables among others, and their import values. The women demonstrated and explained the importance of these various seeds varieties, and their important role of enhancing better nutrition and working as medicine. These traditional foods are also used during traditional cultural ceremonies, and most importantly they ensure food security in times of food shortage for example drying sweet potatoes.
The women also told their guests that these indigenous seeds varieties when planted in appropriate seasons, they produce better yields and can withstand harsh weather conditions and are not easily affected by pests like conventional and hybrid seeds which is common on the markets today.
“Women are the custodians of seeds”, and since time immemorial women have played the central role of the conservation of traditional food systems and ensuring food security in their families”, Kagole Margret, a member of the women’s group explained to the guests and MPs while visiting their stalls.
While addressing the show-gowers, members of Parliament from Buliisa hailed NAPE for supporting women in promoting indigenous seeds varieties and pledged to continue supporting NAPE’s activities in the area.
“You should always keep seeds for the next season. Do not wait for government to provide you with seeds. I therefore want to thank NAPE for promoting indigenous seeds varieties, medicine etc..,” said Hon. Steven Birahwa Mukitale, Bulisa County MP.
The Bulisa Woman MP, Hon. Norah Bigirwa appreciated the contribution of civil society organizations, especially NAPE, in empowering women and said these efforts contribute to her dream of empowering Bulisa women to benefit from the oil sector.
“In Bulisa, we want to appreciate local content concept including traditional seeds, and we say NO to GMOs! That’s why I appreciate the efforts of NAPE for this initiative of promoting indigenous seeds. I pledge my commitment to support these women,” she said.
With support from European Union (EU) and the Open Initiative for Eastern Africa(OSIEA), NAPE has been implementing a project aimed at Strengthening Community Cultural Governance Systems to defend and Protect their food, land and Natural Heritage in Hoima and Bulisa districts of western Uganda. The project, supports community efforts of small-holder farmers, especially women to enhance their indigenous knowledge of seed and associated culture to be food secure and safeguard biodiversity for future generation.
Dennis 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 clan elders when performing traditional practices in their clan traditional ceremonies.
NAPE uses traditional community dialogue as an approach, which involves the identification and involvement of elders who have knowledge of 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 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, Uganda Green Community Radio
On International Women’s Day, NAPE stood with its partners, Womankind, the National Association for Women’s Action in Development and a growing movement of rural women in Uganda who are coming together to document and resist the land grabs that are making way for mining and large scale agriculture.
Our new joint report, Digging Deep: the impact of Uganda’s land rush on women’s rights is launched today, please find it here:
Using feminist participatory research, NAWAD and NAPE trained 35 rural women in research methods, who in turn interviewed over 350 women in five areas affected by oil plants and industrial activity in Uganda. The results are shocking:
The report brings the voices of Ugandan women affected by corporate land grabs to the fore. Their demands are clear:
Please read and share the report and join the movement.
In solidarity on International Women's Day,
Ethiopian president Mulatu Teshome has warned countries sharing the River Nile of the tough times ahead as urbanisation and populations rapidly grow, hence putting enormous pressure on the waters amid climate change.
Nile Basin cooperation is not an option and managing a common pooled resource is not an easy undertaking,” Dr Teshome said.
He added: “We should be having a basin-wide planning perspective to synergise and make good use of water when it is getting scarcer per-capita.”
Projections indicate that demand for energy, food and freshwater will increase significantly over the next decades under the pressure of, among others, population growth, economic development and other factors. Currently, agriculture uses 80 per cent of the Nile waters.
About 5,000 residents in the Island district of Buvuma have rejected a government proposal to compensate them for their land to pave way for oil palm growing, claiming their property was undervalued.
This comes after government unveiled a programme for the relocation and resettlement of the affected people late last year.
Residents led by Mr Mohammed Ssengooba said they will not hand over their pieces of land to Buvuma palm oil project managers until they are given fair compensation.The oil project is a component of the Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP) under the Ministry of Agriculture. Read more here.