Sawa Pius | July 5, 2010
An ordinary one-roomed house sits near Lukwanga market in Wakiso District, in central Uganda. Inside, volunteers are busy preparing a campaign to help farmers understand climate change and its consequences. The office is called Lukwanga Community Knowledge Center.
Farmers in Wakiso District have faced droughts, strong winds and floods in recent years. However, Lukwanga, a community of 200 households, is tackling the problem. Environment Alert is a Ugandan NGO. Together with the community, they are running a six month awareness campaign, based in the community knowledge centre.
As few people read and write, the climate change messages are passed on through music, dance and drama. Women, men and children have formed different groups to raise awareness about the dangers of cutting down trees.
Six schools in the community are involved in the campaign. School teachers compose songs and dramas for primary pupils to perform. Older people are taught by an adult volunteer who has visited Kenya to see similar projects.
The groups hire a performance space behind the market. The locals gather to listen to the presentations.
A group of children sing a song in which they ask the adults, “You have destroyed our future by cutting down all trees, leaving us with bare land. Where shall we go tomorrow?”
A group of adults act out a drama. In the drama, a rich man hires a group of labourers to cut down the forest to make charcoal. They eventually clear all the forest. Then a storm destroys all the crops, leading to food shortages. The drama demonstrates that earning a living making charcoal has serious consequences in a changing climate.
After the performances, volunteers ask the audience what they think is the key message. Volunteers explain that problems like drought and heavy winds are related to climate change, but also to farming practices.
Staff from Environmental Alert discuss safe farming practices with farmers. They ask the farmers what can be done. The farmers suggest a range of options, such as planting crops that were grown by their ancestors.
As a result, farmers have begun new activities in earnest. Evaristo Ndugga has constructed water collecting points on his farm. He will use them to irrigate his vegetables when the rains are scarce.
Leonard Kyambadde has a poultry project. He mixes chicken droppings with coffee husks to make manure for growing his vegetables. He says this has helped him earn good money. He has prepared five acres for planting fruit trees.
Another farmer, Lawrence Nsereko, grows cocoyams in trenches. The trenches stop soil erosion. He digs a trench two feet deep and three feet wide. He puts manure mixed with soil in the trench and plants cocoyams. Then he piles the trench high with soil, making a ridge across his farm. “I harvest enough yams to feed us for six months when there is no other food,” he says. He has also planted trees around his farm for fuelwood.
With support from a Kenyan organization, the Arid Lands Information Network, some of the farmers have made exchange visits to other parts of East Africa. They have also visited the Ugandan National Agricultural Research Organization not only to learn, but to share their problems with scientists.
District leaders and politicians from neighbouring areas have been invited to Lukwanga Community Knowledge Center to see the success. The volunteers hope the campaign will spread to other areas.