Women frontline indigenous knowledge for climate action, conservation

Innocent Kiiza

The Kasese, residents in Uganda’s Rwenzori mountains, are facing serious trouble. Climate change is causing big problems like floods, mudslides, and droughts that keep happening over and over. These are hurting the way people live and even their traditions and culture.   

To mitigate the effects of climate change or adapt to these changes, women as actors have frontline the implementation of several interventions including tree planting of indigenous trees on intended cultural sites and river banks in Kasese district.

The intervention of planting indigenous trees along River Nyamwamba,Mubuku, Kabiri have been noted as part of efforts to mitigate climate change and conservation of cultural sites which are habitants for wild life.

Jannet Nyakairu Abwol

Jannet Nyakairu Abwoli from Banyabindi community who is one of women and a leader says climate change mitigation has educated other women to plant herb trees for medication and trees for shelter and firewood so that they don’t tresspass to National protected areas.

“I was told that its deadly to go to national park for firewood and if you go there UWA authorities are aggressive and kill whoever trespass to protected areas and that is why we encourage even women to plant trees for firewood,” Nyakairu said.

She said women have been encouraged to plant indigenous trees like Ficus natalensis (Omutoma) which acts as family foundation where if a person has problems, he or she  is advised to go back to their family foundation as their (Omutoma) to practice some rituals and person finds a solution.

Nyakairu says that women clear gardens and plant these trees not only for medication, demarcation on land or for firewood, but also to attract birds or butterfly for pollination and early warnings of drought, bad season among others.

Nyakairu is like other women who have helped to frontline indigenous knowledge to mitigate climate change and conservation of the natural habitats.

Mary Kyakinwa

Mary Kyakimwa, another woman residing in Kyondo in Bukonzo East consistency in Kasese district said that women are important in planting and indentifying medicine tress for plantation as men don’t known trees that are medicinal. She added that women participate in picking the right tress for rituals and takes them to men for performance.

She added the plantation of indigenous trees women are knowledgeable and knows which tree is right for a particular function either for herbs, spiritual or food.

According to her,  Draceanas (Omuramura) are known for  performing rituals at the river when they is floods and when someone has been drown in river.

The deputy gender minister of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu Naume Biira said women have done great work in mitigating climate change through planting of indigenous trees but there are those trees which women don’t touch and plant according to culture norms for those who are pregnant and those who are about to deliver.

“In modern world, women have greened their home surrounding them with trees,”she noted, citing the COVID-19 pandemic incidents where she helped neighbors with herbs medicine and some people started calling her herbalist because her home is green with different types of trees.

Biira is excited that the role she played in planting indigenous trees around her home helped neighbors and saving them to remain alive and urged people to avoid planting exotic trees that have no spur, adding that most of these trees attract lighting and some bad sprits.

The Kasese district natural resource officer Dr Joseph Katswera  commended women participation in greening kasese and protecting of the river kabiri banks and kororo cultural site.

He noted that indigenous knowledge is key in combating effects of climate change in a way that cultural institution have Don’ts and Dos and these were put in place to conserve and safe guard the natural resources.

He cited an example where people were warned against urinating and defeating in public water source which was to promote sanitation but nowdays nobody is bothered.

Katswera commended local indigenous knowledge especially on the growing of indigenous trees which are key to conservation of the biodiversity such as bees , birds where these trees provide wellbeing and habitant.

“Use indigenous knowledge to make decision, to manage natural resources and educate young people how important indigenous trees are compared to exotic in mitigating and adaptation to climate change,”  Katswera pleaded.

CROSS CULTURAL FOUNDATION OF UGANDA COMMENDED FOR SUPPORTING INDIGENOUS KNOWELEDGE

The work of using indigenous knowledge was conceived by the cross-cultural foundation of Uganda within the frame work of net zero: Heritage for Climate change action.

The cross- cultural foundation of Uganda , a civic society organization has been implementing a project called Using Traditional Knownledge to mitigate the effects of Climate Change on “Ekyisalhalha kya Kororo sacred cultural sit on river Kabiri in Kasese, in Rwenzori region as part of the Net Zero: Heritage for Climate Action project

The Deputy executive Director CCFU Fredrick Nsibambi said the project aims at contributing to efforts to mitigate the risk of climate change on waterfalls of Kororo, a sacred cultural site on River Kabiri along the boundary of mountain Rwenzori national park using the selected indigenous people like women.

He added that women are identified as people with more indigenous information on existing oral traditional knowledge, cultural practices, beliefs and norms that can contribute to the mitigating the effects of climate on cultural heritage; strengthening the capacity of the caretakers of the site to apply oral traditions, Knowledge of cultural practices to reduce the effect of climate change and trial testing the inclusion of indigenous cultural practices in the management principle for the sacred cultural heritage site.

“It is expected that the use of indigenous knowledge of indigenous people will result in collaborative and sustainable management strategies for the cultural heritage site in question and what the capacity of the caretakers (wardens) of the site will appreciate and apply the traditional knowledge, norms and practices in mititgating the effects of climate will be increased,” Nsibambi said

ADAPTATIONS BY OBUSINGA BWA RWENZURURU AND DISTRICT

The Cultural and Tourism Minister for Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu Ericana Baluku said they are to plant 10 million trees on mountain Rwenzori and they have already signed MOU with the Minister of Water and Environment on what tress are to be planted as way to combat the effects of climate change that are rapidly causing the disappearing of its glaciers.

Naume Biira, Minister r of Gender in Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu

He added that OBR proposed the indigenous tress as to be planted but they are still waiting for the technical advise from the ministry. however he added that as OBR they are targeting trees that are medicinal, fruits and spiritual tress that have root network to prevent erosion on Mt Rwenzori.

Baluku added that on river banks to protect the biodiversity and banks , over 120 bamboo has been planted along river Nyamwamba and river Mubuku , however the campaign is still ongoing.

According to Kasese Municipal senior Environment Officer, Evelyne Mugume in terms of  inter- relations and actions to mitigate climate change effects , Municipality and district partnered with world wide fund (WWF) on restoration of prone river banks with 2,570 hectares of forest landscape which is climate mitigation and adaptation measure through tree planting and this was done with help of national forest authority and local cultural leaders in Rwenzori region   

CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS

According to the World Bank statistics of August 2023, in Uganda, average temperatures have been observed to be increasing at the rate of 0.28c per decade and daily temperature observations show a significant increase in temperatures every year.

Kasese district has been hit several climatic changes catastrophes, repetitive hydrological floods( along river Nymwamba, Mubuku, Rwimi and Kabiri), mudlisdes and long period of drought among others leading to lose of lives and property.

Kasese district natural resource  said Climate crisis presents one of the greatest threats to that heritage in the world with depleting natural resources , growing inequality and social injustice.

He mentioned that different diseases have merged in the world and scientist have also failed to discover the causes of such disease where even some are due to climate change effects which has changed people diet and well being.

According to the climate change committee of the United Kingdom, climate change risks are effects/ challenges with high possibility frequent and intense droughts, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels melting glaciers and warming oceans which can directly harm animals destroy the places they live in and wreak havoc on people livelihoods , communities and their cultural assets.

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