From Bugoma Forest to Bugoma Forest; a closed circuit along the shores of the Itaka Lya Mwitanzige (Lake Albert), crossing the Bugungu ancestral lands occupied by the Murchinson Fall National Park up to Pakwach and down towards the Mahagi territories, finally cruising the lake on a boat back to Hoima district. 550 km to walk along with the Women Environmental and Human Rights Defenders, the custodians of a land that the extractive industry is clearing.
Environmental Defenders have activated and implemented monitoring and reporting from the ground. In its strategy it uses the study of land dynamics through the collection and analysis of geographic-environmental-social data to frame and implement projects addressing ecological justice, starting from a rights-based approach.
In particular, participatory mapping with communities is aimed in this context as a process for knowledge building, networking and cooperation, supporting community-based biodiversity conservation as the basis for ensuring food security and sustainable livelihoods.
Participatory mapping of cultural heritage is understood as a process aimed at the identification and recognition of tangible and intangible elements with cultural and social significance, in order to write the memory of this territory.
In the Mahagi territories a collective activity of recognition of the cultural heritage as unprecedented is necessary. The censorship and cancellation of cultural heritage, together with the transformations that began during colonial occupation, have in fact determined a cultural loss that has had disastrous effects in the protection of land rights, triggering conflicts over the use and management of resources.
Identification of ecologically fragile areas prioritized for forest conservation and restoration in Mambasa and Mongbwalu sectors, Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo
The landscape of the Mambasa and Mongbwalu sectors are facing an undergoing a gradual decline in dense and secondary forests, triggered by (legal, illegal and unregulated) resource exploitation and their unsustainable use, some detrimental forms of agriculture, rapid urban growth in absence of long-term strategic planning, all linked by instability arising from land conflicts that chronically plague the region.
The restoration of degraded ecosystems is an essential activity to achieve environmental and ecological justice. Environmental and ecological justice focus on the intersections between the systemic exploitation of humans and the natural world; this includes inequities in the access and use of natural resources and in the distribution of environmental harms (by race, class, gender, among many). Furthermore, land rights for women in East Africa go beyond property rights and touch on often sensitive issues around different tenure systems (statutory, customary and religious), landbased wealth, power and social relations that give or take away their right to access and control resources.
This study focuses on the process of identifying ecologically fragile areas in which to implement forest conservation and restoration projects from a local, not purely biological and participatory perspective.
Beatrice has in-depth knowledge of the ecological system of the land in which she lives, understanding its most recent threats and sharing her indigenous knowledge. Through her voice we will discover her actions for climate justice, from campaigning in defense of the Bugoma forest to the use of traditional and indigenous techniques of conservation agriculture.
“I would like to see reduced carbon emission. Where communities are using alternative sources of energy, they are not destroying the environment and they are also promoting agriculture practices that conserve the environment. ”
Beatrice is a leader at Kwataniza Women Farmers Group, a Community Based Organizations based in Hoima district. She is a committed climate justice activist energizing women’s dialogue at the community level.
The overall goal of Environmental Defenders’ program Defend Defenders is to contribute to the enhancement of the respect of human rights in Uganda by strengthening the physical and digital security of Women Environmental and Human Rights Defenders (W-EHRDs). The 2020 is a challenging year; W-EHRDs working in the Albertine Region agree:
“Human rights activism amidst Covid-19 pandemic have been compromised. Our organization activities have been affected given the increasing police brutality and the hostile environment yet human rights defenders are required to work from home to avoid infections. This has exposed many of us to new risks as we have to adapt to the changing world. So, we have to change the way we protect both our information and more especially our life from danger that arrive as a result of our works. We will ensure maximum security protocols will be implemented, especially during this time that election is taking place with more abuses.”
These words come from the women we met in the workshops we organized in the latter half of the year in a few districts. Many of the training participants was involved in environmental monitoring and crime reporting activities related to illegal logging, and have been subjected to several threaths including the threat of arrest, office eviction and illegal forced eviction from residential, sexual assault, defamation and hate speech on social media network from local political leaders against their work to tarnish their names. They have also seen their online communications intercepted or being questioned for what they have stated on social media and what they said on radio. Some of them work with people evicted from their land by oil companies:
“We onetime organized meetings with Project Affected Person (PAP), where people lands are taken by the oil company without fair compensation. We wanted to meet the PAPs and hear from them their grievances, but we were told to stop the meeting within 15 minutes with allegation that we are inciting violence, so this has given us fear and threat in carrying out our work as Civil Society Organization”
We believe it is urgent to focus on digital and physical security, risk assessments, as well as psychosocial wellbeing to meet W-EHRDs challenges and make organizations more resilient to continue their human rights advocacy. We realized how important it is to take this holistic approach to safety in backing up every action we take.
“I got chances to attend such training and I know how crucial it is. Some
of us now have the password which can take decades to be hacked, so I made sure that this training should be brought up here to help us gain more knowledge. I encourage you may fellow participants especially journalists to be serious and understand a lot of things I know it will help us a lot”
Dinah will take us into her approach on Sexual Reproductive Health and rights of Adolescent Girls and Young Women. She will give us a feedback on her experience in amplifying the voice and enhancing visibility of most-at-risk.
“I campaign for ‘Women voice counts’, that bring up women on board to talk on all the issues that affecting them as far as sexual reproductive health is concerned.”
Dinah is a Program Assistant at Vijana Corps, and she advocate for Reproductive Health Rights, raising voices of young women and adolescent girls in the communities of Pakwach district (Uganda).
The Lake Albert region is a unique ecological zone with a rich array of biodiversity, from fungi to mountain gorillas, and over 42 bird species. Unfortunately, oil and gas exploration, large-scale agribusiness, and illegal logging have destroyed wildlife habitat and reduced indigenous tree cover.
Environmental Defenders has a track record of successful restoration to reverse habitat and species loss. Over the last three years, it has sustainably restored 75 acres, and supplied community partners with seedlings to plant an additional 100 acres of dry forest. The new restoration projects will focus on helping to regreen 450 acre additional acres by 2023.
Today, we’re thrilled to announce that Terraformation will partner with Environmental Defenders in restoring 450 acres of native savannah and dry grassland ecosystems. Terraformation will provide Environmental Defenders with an off-grid solar-powered seed bank and nursery, as well as botanical training to help scale up the organization’s restoration work and support a regional native seed hub.
This is part of the Environmental Defenders strategy on food sovereignty and expanding agroforestry. ED uses the nurseries to supply nearby farms with tropical fruit trees, like avocado, grapefruit, guava, and jackfruit, to support agroforestry businesses. But the existing nursery capacity can’t keep up with growing seedling demand. Though the region has no electrical grid, it receives 8 to 11 hours of sunlight most days, making it an ideal spot for Terraformation’s unique solar-powered seed bank and nursery equipment. The new seed bank and nursery will help ED meet even more seedling requests, and fulfill the goals of dry forest restoration. We intend to also provide seed banking services and serve as a hub for the community’s agricultural and reforestation efforts.
Communities throughout the Lake Albert region hold specialized medical knowledge based on native herbs and employ regionally adapted building techniques utilizing indigenous grasses. But recent large-scale commercial agriculture has reduced native species cover, making it difficult for communities to use their traditional knowledge. In addition to tree seedlings, ED will also propagate understory herbs and grasses critical to these local practices, helping to preserve cultural knowledge.
To celebrate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we at Environmental Defenders share with you the experiences of the long round of Women Environmental and Human Rights defenders (WEHRDs) in the Albertine region. To do so, we published their stories within our new podcast, Ikolojia, in a series entitled Voices of Defenders.
Voices of Defenders raise voices from women and WEHRDs in the Albertine region about ecological justice, through a narration made starting from everyday life experiences.Together we will explore many topics, including conservation and reforestation, traditional and indigenous nature-based solutions, gender inequalities in land rights, sexual reproductive health, women’s participation in decision-making, climate refugees, physical and digital security. What has been collected is a unique legacy of collective knowledge, that is valuable to the region and to the world outside that can access it for the first time.
Presenting the relationships between women and nature, between indigenous people and land, which are often not known or recognized, we introduce traditional and new approach to sustainability, from the use of resources to community life. Connected with the demand for ecological justice, the Environmental Defenders podcast IKOLOJIA (Ecology) presents a narration made starting from everyday life experiences of women and Indigenous people in the Albertine Region (Uganda).
Edna has long investigated the processes of limitation of women’s rights in property and land ownership. From her voice we will discover how Afrikan traditional society produces serious gender inequalities (specifically her report is on Alur people) and the difficulty for women to access the judicial system, unfair and expensive.
“I would like to live in a world where women are given freedom to inherit the land from their husbands, and even in their families, this will promote coexistence especially with their children”
Edna is a journalist at The New Vision and reporter for Arua One FM. She has practiced journalism for the last seven years and her stories clearly reflect her interest in justice for women and children. She love elections reporting too, “because a society without good leadership is a doomed one”.
Jolly is a committed activist, gifted to practice actions with great impact. Her words bring us to the essence of ecofeminism, conceived in the traditional cultural relations with Earth and in the healing power of nature. We will move from the #saveBugoma campaign, her efforts for reforestation, to the actions to promote and implement the use of clean energy for cooking that have a limited impact on the use of biomass, to the challenges of fact-finding in the processes of monitoring and reporting of illegal actions in forest reserves.
“Protect forests, means protect attached cultural values.”
Since 2005 Jolly has been taking environmental protection actions as a volunteer and bringing competences acquired with her degree in Forest Science and Environmental Management.