What will Uganda do if the River Nile runs dry?

By Dr. Richard Kagolobya

The recent apocalyptic environmental news headlines around the world about the drying up of the world famous Victoria Falls (shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia) in Southern Africa left me wondering what Uganda would do if the River Nile were to run dry. One such headline that caught my eyes was by Farai Shawn Matiashe, writing from Harare, Zimbabwe: ‘Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, is running dry due to climate change.’ He reported that the long drought in Zimbabwe and Zambia has also led to relentless power cuts in the two countries because of their 50% dependence on hydroelectric power generated at Kariba Dam, which is fed by the River Zambezi. The unprecedented drought has left over five million people in need of food aid in Zimbabwe, coupled with a reduction in tourists who usually visit to have a view of the remarkable Victoria Falls.

Even though there may be a number of climate change doubters around the world, the recent dwindling water levels of the River Zambezi and the subsequent water droplets at Victoria Falls should be a glaring wake-up call to all of us to realize the dangers of climate change to all creation on planet earth.

However, as the above was happening in Southern Africa, here in Uganda, some development enthusiasts in recent days have been thinking about generating more hydro-electricity power so that the country is not caught off guard due to the increasing electricity demand in the face of population growth and foreseeable industrialization. These people have been romanticizing the idea of tinkering and destroying the magnificent Murchison Falls on the River Nile, even at the cabinet level! But these hydro-power based industrialization zealots rarely scrutinize the dangers of over reliance on hydro power in the face of climate change, which they also ironically contribute to. For example, in the case of Zimbabwe, due to the unprecedented dry spell, Matiashe reported that the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority introduced an 18-hour load shedding because Kariba Dam has fallen to its lowest water level since 1996, leading to a reduction in its electricity generation. It has also been reported that these issues have been caused by the changing rain-patterns around River Zambezi’s catchment area, which stretches to north-western Zambia, Angola and DRC, thus showing the international nature of eco-systems and exemplifying the far-reaching consequences of climate change and environmental degradation.

Comparatively, what are Kenyans, Tanzanians and Ugandans doing to Lake Victoria? This is important because Lake Victoria receives 80% percent of its water from direct rainfall and 20% from rivers and streams, and the only outflow from Lake Victoria is the Nile, which exits the lake near Jinja in Uganda. This makes Lake Victoria the principal source of the longest branch of the River Nile.

In the case of Uganda, quick places that come to my mind as far as catchment depletion is concerned are the Ssese and Kalangala Islands and the destruction of natural forests and their replacement with palm oil plantations, coupled with wanton timber harvesting and charcoal burning, which may affect the rainfall patterns around Lake Victoria. Another place that vividly comes to mind is the Rwera Swamp, which has been wantonly tampered with by sand mining and rice growing enterprises, yet it hosts several streams that eventually drain into Lake Victoria, and then later nourishes the Nile!

As we interfere with these resources, do we seriously think about the international environmental responsibility that countries that share Lake Victoria have for preserving the source of the River Nile’s water? Mind you, there are other nations like Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt that depend on River Nile for their survival.

Even though from September to December 2019, Uganda was grappling with heavy rainfall which led to multi-location floods, as well as landslides which killed a number of people, destroyed houses, farmland and road infrastructure in Bundibugyo and Bududa districts, the opposite can also be true in the foreseeable future as it was in Zimbabwe and Zambia during that period. Uganda (Tanzania and Kenya) can be bombarded by a lengthy dry spell leading to Lake Victoria releasing  painful tear-drops of water into the River Nile and the later turning into it a mere trickle due to climate change! And yet, Uganda, as it is today, is not at all prepared for such a climate change induced prolonged drought because of its heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture and oversubscription to hydro-electric power. And as I write, four of the five major power stations that light Uganda’s homes and industries are on River Nile! These are Kiira Power Station (200MW), Nalubaale Power Station (180MW), Karuma Hydro Power Station (600MW) Isimba Hydro Power Station (183MW), apart from the Muzizi Hydro Power Station (44.7MW), which is along the Muzizi River in Kibaale district.

As we wonder about how Victoria Falls was running dry due to climate change, let nations like Uganda also think and plan for the worst case scenarios if nothing is done to mitigate climate change and its consequences. Nations should invest in climate change resilience programmes, one of which is to invest in other renewable energy sources rather than oversubscribing to hydroelectricity, which is at the moment susceptible to climate change. At least Kenya has made strides in that direction by unveiling the Lake Turkana Wind Power farm which consists of 365 turbines with a capacity to allot 310 megawatts of energy to Kenya’s national power grid.

Over the past decades, the mantra among nations relying on hydro-electricity power was that it is the most reliable and sustainable renewable source of energy. This is somewhat exemplified by Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited’s mission statement: ‘Sustainably generate reliable, quality and affordable electricity for socio-economic development.’ Yet such companies rarely think about hydropower’s dependence on environmental and climatic factors and scarcely invest in environmental sustainability projects in the face of climate change. However, going by the Zimbabwe-Zambia scenario, one would suggest that governments and private companies that have heavily invested in hydropower generation should be the chief advocates of environmental protection, preservation and renewal in the water catchment areas that feed the rivers on which the power stations are constructed. Otherwise, the escalating drought-spells leading to rivers and falls running to a trickle due to climate change may put to waste multi-billion hydro-power installations around the world.  And for the case of Uganda in particular, one would recommend that instead of gambling with the destruction of the much beloved Murchison Falls, the time is now to think about energy source diversification rather than over relying on hydroelectricity power on the River Nile. Otherwise, what will Uganda do if the Nile runs dry this time tomorrow?

Dr. Kagolobya works with Makerere University and is a Member of Sustainable Futures in Africa; an international consortium of multidisciplinary environmental sustainability researchers and enthusiasts.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Skills Development for Community Youth

ECOaction has partnered with a local girls school, Nabisunsa Girls School, to motivate youth in the community to reduce, reuse and recycle! Reagan has described how their school grounds have been transformed into a colorful urban garden with greenhouses for growing crops.  It is hoped that the skills that these pupils will gain through this experience will help the youth tackle unemployment.

Dr Grace Lubaale of Kyambogo University spoke to The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper praising Reagan's community work, outlining that:

“Instead of many educators clinging to old and increasingly ineffective methods of teaching, it is better to use innovative teaching methods. This will help to produce a type of students that think outside the box, who can use what is available to bring about something new,”

“The amount of rubbish we create is constantly increasing because we have no proper disposal policy and if all our students are trained on how to manage this waste, they can extend the knowledge to the bigger communities,” says Reagan Kandole of ECOaction village, Banda.

Read More at: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/Education/Students-recycling-plastic-for-innovation-/688336-4729956-gpvfb8z/index.html

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Read more


A 'short and sweet' visit to the SFA Hub, Kampala

By Molly Gilmour, SFA Administrator, Glasgow

From the 14th to 17th May, Sustainable Futures in Africa Principal Investigator Dr Mia Perry and Sustainable Futures in Africa  (SFA) Glasgow Hub Administrator Molly Gilmour traveled to Kampala, Uganda for what can only be described as the definition of a ‘short and sweet´ meeting.

Tuesday 15th May 2018: Makerere University

On May 14th Mia and I arrived to the University Guest house where we stayed during our visit. Arriving at almost midnight, we could still see the buzz of the city – people sharing meals by the road, small traders bustling around the city’s streets, a city that felt inviting, warm and friendly.

We spent the morning having coffee with Alex and Anthony, SFA Hub Coordinator and Administrator respectfully, when we then walked to the College of Education and External Studies. It was fantastic to see where my counterpart, whom I work so closely with, spends his 9-5. After having the privilege to meet many of the respective Makerere University Deans and Heads of School, we embarked on a SFA Uganda hub meeting. At this meeting  we caught up with network plans which have developed, especially those that were made during the recent meeting at the University of Glasgow – which our Ugandan partners were unfortunately unable to attend due to (what I would describe as draconian) UK Immigration authorities. We looked back at recent events in order to look forward; how can the SFA network develop - concerning research as we ask ‘how can we develop methodologies through arts based practices’, and ‘how can we ensure the core coordination of this network continues’, as it was evident through our short visit how imperative SFA Administrator Anthony is to our Ugandan colleagues.

That afternoon SFA spoke at the weekly lunchtime seminar. It was attended by both students and academic staff from across the college. PI Dr Mia Perry spoke about the SFA Network and shared a presentation about the methodologies created and used by SFA. This had a fantastic impact on the attendees, as PhD students enquired as to how they could undertake a PhD placement with the network, and the Dean of Education outlining that he will introduce the SFA ‘Reporting Back Method’ to the Board of Directors  for the Makerere University Graduate School.

Wednesday 16th May: ECOaction

One of the highlights for me - So many serendipitous moments, uncomfortable moments, moments of realisation … dancing and laughing moments...

Walking through the slum-like-squatted area of Kampala, the smell of burning plastics and the dust being kicked up by school aged kids reminded me of my former missions with Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières; Something I wasn’t expecting which brought both a sense of familiarity and discomfort. Yet, arriving to the bright, warm and safe space which is ECOaction, and hearing the music, seeing the dancing, I felt right at home! Reagan welcomed us wholeheartedly as we arrived; Mia, Anthony, Alex, Vincent, Richard and I.  Reagan, as accurately reflected in his projects, is an energetic, warm and a colourful character.

Sitting in a room, one constructed by the community of recycled bottles, Reagan facilitated an introduction to SFA, SFA’s partners and introductions were conducted around this room. We met with Nilotika Cultral Ensemble, who performed for SFA partners alongside the community’s youth. Nilotika Cultural Ensemble shared their experiences of working with Western Organisations, and one member shared the challenges he endured during his previous partnerships with a quote ‘I am asked to sign at the expense of my culture’, that the financial stipulations by Western funding bodies allow for little/no autonomy for African partners. Being in this space as a University of Glasgow representative, an institution who have historically wholeheartedly embodied these extractive partnerships, I was faced with discomfort, but also the realisation that these partnerships must change: That there is a lot of work to do in building both trust and real relationships. There were countless examples of these damaged power relations throughout the three day visit which I experienced, and will continue to reflect and learn from.

The evening was spent conducting ‘strategic planning’ with key stakeholders at ECOaction. More will be shared come on this in the coming months!

Thursday 17th May: 32 Degrees East

Another cool, colourful and creative space in Kampala, SFA Partner 32 Degrees East is a multi-purpose resource centre including hosting artist in residence, meeting centres and art studios. Mia and Is final day, Thursday, was spent on future planning. What future research projects is SFA going to undertake next? What funding is best suited? What partners will be involved? Anthony and I, the SFA Glasgow and Uganda research administrators, created communications strategies and Impact toolkits for the research hubs.

Mia and I finished the day sitting by Victoria Lake with Richard, Alex, Twine, Reagan and Arnold conducting ‘Knowledge Exchange’ on ‘how to take the perfect selfie’


ECOaction

SFA partner Reagan Kandole founded a Waste Management Education Project “ECOaction” where he engages the youth and the community in handling waste

We’re a registered environmental, non-profit organization, currently located and operating within in Banda, one of Kampala’s slum areas.  Since 2011 we support disadvantaged youths and women from this area, through multiple activities, aiming to build sustainable livelihoods as well as new and additional income opportunities.

Over the last seven years, our main beneficiaries and partners have been a group of garbage collectors, who lived in the Banda area. This community consists of 106 individuals, mainly single mothers and children, who collect and sort garbage, like plastic bottles or scrap metal, for saleable items. For specific activities, the group was always joined by several other, unemployed youths from the area. Some of the activities carried out have been: engaging in urban farming (kitchen gardens and poultry); briquette making from biodegradable waste; composting; greenhouse construction; construction of children’s playgrounds; building bathroom shelters out of plastic bottles; public art installations; school libraries or conduction of waste management workshops.

The outcomes, especially given the very few available resources, have been impressive and have led to a significant improvement of the livelihoods of the involved people and their environments. Unfortunately our community was then suddenly displaced in 2017, as the landlord decided to develop the land and evicted everybody within a week of notice. Since then the community members are dispersed and live under extremely vulnerable situations.

But this unforeseen event also gave us, as a very young organization, the chance to evaluate and review our structures and processes. To learn from the experiences we’ve made and to identify the necessary steps to sustainably implement the concept of Zero Waste and make it available to everybody. Because our vision includes, but yet goes far beyond, the improvement of individual livelihoods. Our goal is to create an environmental movement in Uganda which promotes the benefits of an eco-friendly society beyond trash, and where empowered and responsible citizens live in harmony with their environment.

Vision Statement:

An empowered and responsible society where citizens live in harmony with their environment, while sustainably creating new job opportunities for the most marginalized urban youth and women through innovation in waste management

Mission Statement:

Creating an environmental movement in Uganda which promotes the benefits of an eco-friendly society beyond trash through capacity development, community empowerment, innovation and partnerships across sectors.

For more information and for more colourful and creative photos check out the ECOaction

https://www.facebook.com/524175797672978/videos/1711759998914546/

 

 


This January, SFA ran a Community Awareness event in Kampala, Uganda, to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of plastic waste on the environment and community life.
UG1
In the recent years, Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, has witnessed an alarming growth of waste that equals to 730,000 tons a day, of which only 1% is currently recycled. SFA researchers from Makerere University and representatives of the Ugandan Art Trusts met the local community in Banda, Kampala city, to find possible solutions to plastic waste disposal through the art and culture practical tools. This event was hosted by EcoAction, a non-government organisation led by Reagan Kandole, an eco-artist and lecturer at Kyambogo University.
The participants gathered in the community space, designed out of plastic bottles, to find the answer to the question on how cultural practices can help to address the problem of waste disposal. The community members came out with some sketches on waste management, followed by the group discussion facilitated by the SFA researchers from the Makerere University.
At the end of the workshop, the community came up with various solutions on waste utilisation that we would be happy to share shortly.

ecoAction

EcoAction works in the field of waste management and environmental problems that threaten the health and quality of li
fe of the communities in the region for many years.  One example of a recent project delivered by EcoAction involved the local community in the creation of a mural aimed at educating community members about different recycling practices.  For more information, please visit the EcoAction website.

32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust

32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust is an independent non-profit organisation, focused on the creation and exploration of contemporary art in Uganda.

Our multi-purpose resource centre is based in the capital city Kampala and includes studios, accommodation for artists in residence, a contemporary art library, computers & editing suites, meeting areas and outdoor workshop space. Our programme offers artists in residence and members one on one drop in sessions for critique and professional development, workshops for practical skills and our regular discussion series, Artachat, for social engagement.

For more information

  • https://www.facebook.com/ugandanartstrust/
  • http://ugandanartstrust.org/

[vimeo 127914137 w=640 h=360]

KLA ART 014 Trailer from 32º East | Ugandan Arts Trust on Vimeo.


A 'No Method' Approach to Empowering Local Communities

Team Uganda carried out field trials in two distinctive communities namely; Kibanjwa Community in Hoima district, Western Uganda and Apala Community in Apala sub-Country, Alebtong district in Northern Uganda. The choice for Kibanjwa community was influenced by the recent discovery of oil in the area and the impacts that this has had on the communities surrounding the oil wells. The whole experience although challenging, was worthwhile and insightful as it delved into how the local people in Uganda view and interact with their environment. It was also a learning experience for the multi-disciplinary research team, as they worked together on an issue of common concern. People came in large numbers for community forums, especially in Alebtong due to the fact that it is served by Widows and Orphanage Centre (AWOC), a partner of the SFA network.

People of Kibanjwa putting their heads together to identify their challenges, and how they can tackle them

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apala community was chosen because of its native identity as a “healing community” recovering from a 20-year old insurgency that claimed so many lives, and left families in distress and brokenness. The field trial for each study site lasted four days. In Kibanjwa, the field trial was from the 10th June to the 13th June 2017, while in Alebtong it was from the 17th June to the 20th June 2017.

The team employed a “no method” approach in the two study sites, which was very much influenced by the desire to empower the local people to talk freely about their world. Data collection approaches used included observations, quasi-transects walks, community forums and home visits. The level of knowledgeability, open-mindedness and degree of freedom of expression portrayed by the community participants, made the process enjoyable, fruitful and offered a desirable degree of flexibility not restrictive to any specific method. The whole process was a mixture of compromises, surprises, breaking new ground and contestation, but eventually the team reached a common understanding.

Joseph & Kevin from the Ugandan Research Team with notebooks listening and recording experiences of Apala community members during a quasi – transect walk

Scoping Trial, Uganda

Scoping Trials

Sustainable Futures in Africa is an interdisciplinary collective aiming to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. In order for relationships to be built, methodologies to be explored, and to achieve the shared understanding that is aspired for, the SFA network is running trial research projects. These are being run with an emphasis on the trial and error aspect, for researchers to explore the unfamiliar, social scientists exploring hard science and vice versa. Furthermore colleagues in Glasgow will take every opportunity to work with the projects in Nigeria, Uganda, and Botswana as they develop.

The Ugandan research trial will take place from the first of June, running until the 22nd June when Daniel Koehn, University of Glasgow, departs from Kampala. The locations will be in the community of Kibanjwa village, Kibanjwa Parish, Kitoba Sub-County, Hoima district (Albertine region) and the Alebtong district.

Dr. Hannington Twine outlines the research methods and design below:

Field Approvals

In both study sites, our contact persons will use their ongoing research approvals and contacts to introduce the rest of the team to the communities.' Dr. Alex Okot who is a board member of Apala Widows and Orphanage Centre will take an advance visit ahead of the Ugandan research team. He will inform the Local Council Officials in writing of the visit to the organisation. Likewise, Ms. Kellen Aganyira has ongoing research engagement in the Albertine region and she will use her current approvals to introduce the team to Local Council officials of Kibanjwa in Hoima district.

Methodology

This field trial visits will approach the communities without a pre-conceived research design. The interest of team Uganda will be to understand the communities’ perception of the environmental issues and ecosystems. We shall enter the communities as learners or listening posts. We shall provide direction of the discussions by a problem posing approach, that is, probing and prompting them to talk about issues related the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems.

Data collection

The data collection will be by the researchers themselves in partnership with the community members in the respective regions. a collaborative process. We will be assisted with local council officials especially on the planed transect walks. Due to language differences, we shall require services of one interpreter in northern Uganda. This is because we shall be divided into two transect walk groups and yet we only have one person among us who communicates properly in the local dialect. In the Albertine region, there will be no need of an interpreter since two members in the group understand the local dialect and we shall only have one group for the transect walk.

Data collection will be by way of observations, transect walks, Community forums and journaling. We intend to capture images of humans and their environment. Areas of special interest in this pilot study will include:

  1. Land tenure system
  2. Water sources and their management
  3. Landscape and geology
  4. Trees/forests and their importance to them
  5. Wetlands (relationship and importance)
  6. Agricultural practices (Animal husbandry and cultivation)
  7. Wild life (relationship and importance)

Team Members

Albertine Region

On the 9th June Daniel Koen will arrive in Kampala, Uganda, to join the rest of the Ugandan scoping trial team. Their interaction with the Kibanjwa Community, Kitoba Sub-County, Hoima district in the Albertine region will begin on the 11th June. The research will draw upon the existing issues surrounding oil and gas and the impact of this on the environmental area. The team will return to Kampala and Daniel will travel to the Rwenzori Mountains on the 14th June to further his personal research in the region.

See map below for the location of the research trial in Uganda.

Alebtong Region

On the 18th June the research team will then travel to the Alebtong Region where they will partner with Apala Widows and Orphanage Center to analyse issues that impact the locality such as the large refugee influx and the subsequent strain on resources alongside the local water sources to form a socioecological analysis. The research will draw to a close on the 22nd June when Daniel returns to Glasgow, Scotland.

See map below for the location of the research trial in Uganda.

In partnership with:


Rwenzori Mountains, Albertine Rift System, Uganda

Understanding the structure, permeability and activity of faults in and around the Rwenzori mountains, Albertine rift system, Uganda.

1Daniel Koehn, 2Kevin Aanyu, 1Allan Hollinsworth, 1Roderick Brown, 2Andreas Schuman

1School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK

2Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies   

Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

The East African Rift System (EARS) has intrigued scientists for decades as it is the archetype of a continental rift and is believed to be the cradle of humankind. However, our current understanding of this geological feature is still clouded with mystery. In this project we focus on rift faults in the western branch of the EARS in and around the Rwenzori mountains, and aim at an understanding of why and how a basement block was uplifted during extension of the crust. The EARS represents one of the most variable environments on Earth being an area of active tectonics, dynamic topography with deep lakes, high mountains and active volcanoes. The variability of this changing landscape, its local climate and its richness in natural resources poses opportunities as well as challenges for local communities and consequently regional and global interests. We are working together with researchers from Makerere University, Uganda Wildlife Authority and local community guides to develop an understanding of the geology, faulting and rock uplift as well as science communication and local community development.

This research is funded by the NERC Oil and Gas CDT and supported by the Ugandan Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). We thank NERC, UNCST and UWA for their support.

Partners

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