Care of the Environment in Northern Uganda

At an RC workshop in Gulu, Northern Uganda (Uganda), in December 2012, about eight of us gathered for a topic group on care of the environment. Interest was high. Here is a compilation of what we said:

Deforestation: Cutting trees creates heat and leads to decreased rainfall. People are cutting trees for firewood, timber, and cultivation. They are cutting them to make charcoal or selling them to make other things. Political instability and war destroy trees. Trees are important as windbreaks and in the oxygen-carbon dioxide balance. In our culture, people use particular trees to make certain things: mortars, mingling sticks, stools, tables, statues, musical instruments. People used to value the forest and believe that the spirits of ancestors lived in the big trees. Those trees were always isolated and kept, but now they are not valued so much. Energy-efficient stoves could reduce the number of trees being cut.

The pressure of population growth: Increased population has put pressure on the land. People used to have enough land, so the trees were not in danger. Our ancestors practiced a more shifting cultivation that helped with fertility. Natural resources were not over-exploited. The government protects wetlands, but people cultivate and destroy them because they need land. The uncontrolled burning of bushes also burns valuable grasses and trees. Part of the solution is population control.

Privatization and waste: The privatization of government-run industries brings lack of control. Industries are bringing chemicals from outside, and industrial waste is damaging lakes and destroying wildlife. When plastic is thrown anywhere, it affects the environment.

Corruption and lack of enforcement: Foreign aid is coming to help conservation, but corrupt officials are taking money off. Police are failing to enforce reforestation laws. There is a law that specifies the acceptable size for fishing nets, but people aren’t following it. If someone were arrested for breaking these laws, it would help.

Solutions in nature: I’m a lover of the environment. People where I grew up had a lot to do with the environment. My grandmother was a traditional healer, and remedies for our sicknesses were in the forest. She could go and look for herbs to cure a sick person. Most of our drugs came from the forest and the mountains. The environment has solutions for our physical needs. Being in the mountains can help with stress. Food from the waters and soil of the forest has more negative ions that help fight bacteria.

Progress: Our culture, which was disappearing, is now reappearing. Our culture respects elephants and rhinos. They were being killed; now they are coming back. The National Environmental Management Authority is advocating for the environment, communicating on radio. The National Forestry Authority promotes conservation. Tourist income helps with wildlife preservation. There is a new law that if you cut a tree, you should plant three new ones.

Reaching out: People have started to realize the consequences of environmental damage. They are becoming sensitized, but not everybody has access to mass media. We need to reach out to people who are deep in the villages. Villagers need to learn the negative implications of damaging the environment. We want everyone to realize the importance of all the living and non-living things that surround us. Everything was created for a purpose. Conserving nature is important. If we conserve nature, all things from the past will start to come back—slowly, slowly—so that future generations will have them. Misusing or destroying the environment is bad. As Co-Counselors, we must let people know this.

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders in the care of the environment

(Present Time 171, April 2013)

Last modified: 2017-05-31 15:38:40-07