On an early October morning, the GRP team set out from the bustling city of Kampala, leaving behind the chaotic traffic to plunge into the serene landscapes of Uganda’s Hoima District. Our destination? Chigaga Village, a five-hour drive away and the second site visit for our Resilient Agriculture Innovations for Nature (RAIN) Challenge in East Africa. This journey showed us a glimpse into initiatives fostering agricultural resilience in unique ways.
Sustainable agriculture and biodiversity: CEGGI’s multi-faceted approach
We visited the Centre for Ecological Governance and Gender Initiatives (CEGGI) in Hoima District where CEGGI works with several community groups. Their work spans across various entry points, including sustainable agriculture, resilience-building, and biodiversity preservation. Their overarching objective is to improve livelihoods and pave the way for a sustainable future.
“Our project is about more than just agriculture; it’s about creating a sustainable, interconnected ecosystem for our community.” — Robert Katemburura, CEGGI Board Chair
Upon reaching the village, the landscape shifted dramatically, we were definitely no longer in the big city. We climbed a steep hill nature decorated with stunning purple stones, and at its top, the warm and friendly people of Hoima welcomed us with singing and drumming. Showcasing their deep-rooted traditions and the warmth that defines their community.
As they sang, they guided us to a thoughtfully prepared seating area, where we were treated to a series of lively performances. Following a welcoming song and dance, the highlight of the day unfolded in the form of a captivating drama skit. The skit depicted the consequences of egocentric activities on the environment, and emphasised the crucial need for a harmonious relationship between communities and nature. The play showcased the disconnection between communities and their natural surroundings, painting a vivid picture of a time when food was abundant, and families coexisted harmoniously with nature. However, as time passed, egocentric actions, including deforestation and chemical fertilisation, led to the depletion of vital resources, resulting in acute hunger and famines.
In the play, the main character’s first wife witnessed his destructive actions and intervened. She issued a warning to both the man and his new wife about the dire consequences of indiscriminate tree-cutting. Together, they recognized the urgent need for change. Guided by CEGGI’s expertise, they embarked on a transformative journey, actively planting trees and discarding harmful practices such as those used for deforestation and chemical fertilisation.
Voices of change: From environmental despair to sustainable futures
Following the captivating performances, representatives from different communities shared their transformative experiences. Samuel Muhwezi, who migrated to Chigaga in 1972, shared a sad tale of the environmental devastation that unfolded in his village. He recounted the transformation of a once-thriving forest into cleared land, explaining that his community resorted to cutting down trees to make way for crops. Over time, he observed changes in rain patterns and a decline in crop abundance. Heartbreakingly, he attributed these adverse changes to their past actions of indiscriminate tree-cutting.
Annah Twikiriize, another representative, painted a narrative of hope and revival. She fondly reminisced about the traditional foods her family once stored for extended periods, contrasting them with the disappointing performance of hybrid seeds the West introduced. Engaging in community dialogues reignited her appreciation for indigenous foods such as groundnuts, cassava, millet, and ginger. Through this reconnection, her community embraced organic farming practices, propelling them towards a more systematic and sustainable food system.
Capacity building and indigenous seeds
As the day unfolded, it became evident that CEGGI’s impact extended far and wide. The more time we spent with the community, the more we learned about their multifaceted efforts towards positive transformation. The community groups actively participated in a variety of initiatives to protect their land, including capacity building, community dialogues, beekeeping to preserve natural pollinators, and efforts to collect and preserve indigenous seeds. The site visit concluded with community members presenting a table laden with diverse produce, ranging from turmeric to jars filled with honey, showcasing the fruitful outcomes of these initiatives.
Our visit to the communities that CEGGI works with in Uganda was more than just a journey; it was a powerful testament to the positive change that can occur when communities unite to address environmental challenges. Their inspiring stories, commitment to sustainable practices, and the vibrant tapestry of their cultural performances left me with a profound sense of hope for the future. Chigaga Village stands as a resilient haven, reminding us that, in the face of climate change, a united community can be a formidable force for positive transformation.