We've got a lot going on!
There are a lot of things we are working on in our area, including environmental conservation, research, education, job creation, sustainable agricultural management and more!
The Bubugo Riverbank Reading Room
The aim of the Riverbank Reading Room (RRR) is to improve literacy and educational levels of the local community. The objective of the RRR is to establish an accessible, educational place where the young and old of Bubugo village can come to read and learn, free of charge. The RRR serves as a venue for evening revision, gives an opportunity for all to learn and acts as a venue for further learning opportunities.
There is a low level of school attendance of children between the villages of Bubugo and Nawampanda as they have a long distance to walk to schools located in the village centre. In addition, large family sizes mean children’s education stops after a few primary years due to lack of school fees. The RRR opened in March 2015, with a collection of book donations from the International School of Uganda. During 2015 proof of concept was established with two young women from the village employed to run the RRR. Their monthly reports have shown that it is a well-used venue, with requests from the local community for its further development.
So far the RRR has depended on donations- it has a range of children’s and adult reading books, as well as some school books. The RRR has a few pairs of reading glasses which are available for use. The RRR also has a simple solar light system which is used for night-time reading.
Currently we are looking for support to improve the solar lighting so that more students can revise and read in the evenings. We are also looking to collect copies of Uganda school curriculum books to help children with their school revision. Over the next year we hope to develop literacy classes to teach English to illiterate men and women in the village, to improve their livelihood options.
The RRR is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons from 4-10pm.
Bubugo Riverbank Conservancy
Riverbanks in Uganda are protected areas under the management of the National Environmental Management Authority, and it is the responsibility of landowners with land adjacent to the riverbank to prevent and repair degradation. However, degradation of the riverbank in the area around Bubugo is severe and is a result of deforestation for firewood and cultivation. As a result, soil erosion from the riverbank is high, turning the river orange/brown after heavy rains. This is a problem not only observed at Bubugo, but all down the Nile riverbank from Jinja. Additionally, the islands in the river have also been heavily deforested, mainly for firewood.
Jenny and Charlie have worked hard to protect the riverbank area in front of their plot, preventing firewood collection, cultivation and grazing. Natural regeneration of the bank has been fast, and as a result any soil erosion off this part of the riverbank has been considerably reduced. This now serves as a positive example of the condition that the riverbank should be in.
The Bubugo Riverbank Conservancy (BRC) is working to bring together multiple stakeholders linked to the riverbank and islands in the Nile around Bubugo. Current and planned stakeholders include NEMA, the local community, the National Forest Authority, tourist companies and private land owners. The objective of the BRC is to get all these stakeholders working together to achieve the common goal of protecting the riverbank for the future. Sustainability of riverbank restoration is very important, hence the need for a multi-stakeholder approach.
How can we restore and maintain the riverbank?
Restoration activities need to be tailored to address the drivers of degradation. We are currently working to document these drivers and develop interventions which will lead to the long-term preservation of the riverbank and islands. Ideas so far include community-lead planting of indigenous trees on the riverbank, with beehives located amongst them- offering alternative incomes for those who have previously cultivated the riverbank. Sensitisation and support to land owners adjacent to the riverbank will include making them aware of the environmental laws of Uganda, the risks of riverbank degradation, and engage with them to understand their reasons for degradation so that interventions can be developed which are appropriate for their capacity. We hope to receive support from the NFA in our tree planting efforts, in the form of technical guidance and tree seedlings.
Locally there is dependence on firewood for cooking and boiling water. Charcoal is expensive and often in short supply. We have observed firewood collection as a major driver of riverbank degradation. There are no community woodlots, and as population pressures intensify sources of firewood will decrease. As a result, the following research ideas are being explored:
- Understanding community sources and uses of fuel for cooking and boiling water, documenting the dependence on different fuel sources and identifying issues in availability.
- Identifying alternative, sustainable sources of fuel, and exploring the potential for their introduction into the area.
- Introducing alternative sources of fuel and evaluating their success in reducing the unsustainable use of natural resources.
Bubugo Tree Nursery
The Bubugo Tree Nursery is being developed to be able to provide locally available, good quality tree seedlings to the community. The nursery will be run as a business, to ensure its sustainability. Samuel, the nursery manager, is currently undergoing nursery management training and the nursery will then be set up over the course of 2016. The nursery will sell good quality timber seedlings (pine and eucalyptus), fruit trees and indigenous species appropriate for the area. The nursery is expected to sell seedlings to the local community, and also to the Bubugo Riverbank Conservancy.
As well as selling seedlings, the nursery will provide information on the roles and values of different trees (e.g medicinal values, soil improvement), tree planting (e.g. spacing) and tree maintenance (e.g. thinning, pruning, harvesting of products).
Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for the Bubugo community. However, increasing population pressure and land fragmentation is resulting in increased problems with yield and soils- a nationwide problem. Jenny and Charlie are developing a demonstration farm on their land, showcasing sustainable land management ideas which can be taken up easily by local farmers. We hope to further expand this work to include educational lectures in the reading room, and to work with other local NGO’s to support the dissemination of sustainable agricultural land management practices for improved livelihoods and soil quality.
Supporting local schools
We have visited a number of the local schools in the community- they all have huge needs! Some are private and some are Government supported. We have so far supported Bright Angels, a local private school, with the donation of 1,000 bricks towards the construction of a pit latrine. Most schools have very poor sanitation amenities, all lacking hand washing facilities. This has implications for health and a knock-on impact on school attendance. Access to water is also an issue, with students spending time at public boreholes to pump water. We have identified that the donation of hand washing facilities and rainwater collection tanks and guttering would be long-term benefits for all the schools in the area. We donate surplus books from the RRR to our local schools.
Supporting the albino community
There are a number of albino children and adults in Bubugo and surrounding areas. Once a year we have a donation campaign to collect suncream, hats and long-sleeved shirts from departing expatriates from Kampala. We then distribute these amongst the albino community in our area. It has been identified that the albino children struggle at school because they cannot see the chalkboard. We are working towards getting their eyesight tested (likely by taking them to an optician in Jinja) and buying glasses for them.
Supporting disabled children
There is a group of parents of children with disabilities in Bubugo village. They have approached us asking for support. We have discussed their circumstances with Uganda Society for Disabled Children and are working with the group to develop a strategic plan for channeling resources and meeting the needs of the children.