Matova Paul, central regional co-ordinator of the I.D.E.A.S for Uganda initiative, discusses its work at Makerere University in Kampala.
Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions (I.D.E.A.S) for Uganda is among the fastest growing youth-led voluntary environmental organizations in East Africa. With chapters in primary, secondary schools and universities, the movement is progressively creating environmental awareness among the youth with its strongholds at Makerere University. Right from its inception in 2012, the I.D.E.A.S For Uganda Makerere university chapter embarked on not only creating awareness on environmental management and conservation, but also took an active role in demonstrating and volunteering in a number of clean up campaigns on campus, the neighborhoods and a number of other areas in our environment that attracted attention. Waste segregation and tree planting are the main activities carried out wherever the chapter goes. In October 2013, the chapter leaders proposed a project aimed at creating awareness and education on matters concerning the environment in mainly primary and secondary schools.
Lecturers from the College of Agriculture, Environmental and Geographical Sciences and students in the Makerere University chapter volunteered to serve as a platform to avail and disseminate environmental and climate change awareness and engagement on real-world issues through peer group approach and consultation with the university professors. The intent was to build the “passion for change” among school-going children with consultation services, professional training programs, capacity building, leadership development, youth empowerment, peer-to-peer mentorship and incubation. The earliest beneficiaries of this project were St.Kizito School Bugoloobi, St. Joseph Kyamasansa Primary School, Bright Star Primary School, Homisdalen Schools, and Caltec Academy, among others; where students were taught about the concept of environmental change and other components of Environmental Education.
Today, I.D.E.A.S for Makerere’s most prolific expedition is the Bududa-Landslide Awareness Campaign that followed the August 2013 landslides on this part of the Elgon mountain. It’s on record that from 2007 to date, the District that lies at the slopes of the mountain has been hit by a series of hailstorms, mud and landslides with the most catastrophic having been experienced in 2010 in Nametsi village. It cleared a whole trading centre and left over 362 people dead. Reports showed that the main causes of the landslides were: land fragmentation which had the land overused, poor methods of cultivation on the steep slopes, severe deforestation and heavy rains. I.D.E.A.S for Makerere leaders Matovu Paul and Ngolobe Michael made a trip to the area to educate the locals, including children, on the best approaches of controlling mass wasting.
With support and guidance from the Sarah’s Ohmnigate Orphanage and local leadership, the team clustered the participants into two groups: the children below 16 years converged and were lectured from Ohmnigate while the older members of the community were lectured from Shibanga and Shilakano trading centres. The pioneer trainees were the children of Sarah’s Ohmnigate orphanage home which shelters over 30 children who lost their parents in the landslides. They were trained in efficient and environmentally-friendly farming methods like contour ploughing, agroforestry and cultivation of cover crops as a way of reducing water runoff and hence reducing the chances of landslide occurrence. Older members of the community from 20 villages were also educated about tree planting, water harvesting, planting of cover crops, consequences of land fragmentation, cultivation and settlement on the hill slopes. The locals were also taught about the importance of possessing land titles as another approach of tackling land grabbing and land fragmentation.
Areas of concern
While the people of Bududa would like to put an end to the nightmare of mass wasting (landslides, mudslides etc.) their ability to do so is hampered by widespread poverty, low quality and limited exposure to education, poor infrastructure, inadequate health services, famine and minimal support from the government. It is quite unfortunate that the hilly nature of this district scares away many potential CSOs and government officers because the lack of a well-constructed road network makes the area inaccessible! This could probably explain why many children do not go to school.
The next visit of the I.D.E.A.S team will aim to follow up and evaluate the project. Our major consideration will be the children in schools and at Sarah’s Ohmnigate home. We are currently collecting scholastic materials to be given to the children during the next visit.
This article was first published in NAEE’s journal, Environmental Education (Vol. 107). To read more articles like this, you can join the Association and receive three journals a year.