Posts tagged ‘Fredrick Mugira’

February 7, 2017

Nile Basin Water Journalists, Researchers Excited By a UNESCO-IHE Project Targeting Bringing Them Together

Fredrick Mugira
February 07, 2017

Dr. Emanuele Fantini, the Project Manager, Open Water Diplomacy Lab in the middle with officials from project partner organisations

Dr. Emanuele Fantini, the Project Manager, Open Water Diplomacy Lab in the middle with officials from project partner organisations

For over 20 years Ishraga Abbas has practiced professional journalism in Sudan – one of the most water-stressed countries on the earth – she has had an ambiguous relationship with water researchers.

She actually does not remember teaming up with any water researcher to work on a water story based on the researcher’s findings. In the answer to the obvious question – why hasn’t she been collaborating with water researchers? She says: “Some researchers shy away from journalists. They prefer communicating their findings to their fellow researchers only.”

This ambiguous relationship can perhaps even trace its roots back to journalists. Some journalists misrepresent the researchers’ facts; lack exposure to water issues or simply are not interested in covering the multifaceted water issues.

This subsequently manifests itself, as neglected coverage of water stories. But, a new project –Open Water Diplomacy Lab – has kicked off targeting bringing journalists, water scientists and researchers together.

Among others, Open Water Diplomacy Lab addresses the needs and demands of water journalists in terms of facilitated access to potential sources of information – getting scientific research on water communicated in an accessible and ready to use, meeting and working with water researchers and water diplomats – and opportunities to support and promote media coverage on water issues. The project focuses on the Nile basin and it is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Global Partnership for water and development”.

“First, we are going to study how Nile issues are communicated in both mainstream and social media in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Building on the research findings we will develop join training activities for journalists and scientists coming from the Nile countries. Finally, they will be pulled together to work at original projects to promoted shared narratives about the Nile, overcoming the mainstream national interest perspective” explains Emanuele Fantini, Senior Researcher at UNESCO-IHE and project coordinator.

He was speaking at the kick-off workshop “Mapping Nile controversies: media, science and water diplomacy” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2017.

Now, journalists like Ishgara – who actually attended this workshop – say this project will boost the quality of water journalism in the Nile basin.

Likewise, Dagim Terefe, an Ethiopian journalist and documentary maker states that Open Water Diplomacy Lab project will help to give birth to a generation of journalists that specifically concentrate on investigating River Nile issues.

Such journalists, as Dagim notes: “Will no longer write the story of the sharing of Nile waters with a nationalistic thinking as it is now but an informed broader context that caters for other countries where the Nile meanders.”

True. This is a responsibility journalists in the Nile basin cannot simply walk away from. It makes sense to believe that journalists have a crucial role to play in ending the Nile wars between countries that share this longest river on the planet.

Actually, Wondwosen Seide, a doctoral student at Lund University in Sweden, who has been researching on the River Nile issues for the last 10 years, believes that Nile wars are: “Mainly in the media landscape than on ground.”
According to Wondwosen, this project is: “Very crucial in bridging controversies and contradicting reporting among the riparian states.”

It is no surprise that this project, will lead to a more responsive relationship between journalists and water researchers. And as Prof. Dr. Yacob Arsano of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia argues, this project will bring journalists and researchers together to identify the real issues in the Nile discourse.

Against such a background, Open Water Diplomacy Lab will truly breed journalists that can help researchers and agencies working on the Nile to disseminate the story of the Nile.

Having story of the Nile in the media, as Dr. Wubalem Fekade, the head of the Social Development and Communication Unit at the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) based in Addis Ababa contends, would: “Help decision and policy makers in the Nile basin to make very enlightened and bold decisions that contribute to sustainable management of the river.”

It is easy to understand that water is a strategic resource for livelihoods. This is the reason why Atta el-Battahani, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Khartoum contends that: “It is important that we know about it so that we can manage it very well for the benefit of the people.”

June 8, 2016

Uganda: A Regional Training on International Water Law Gets Underway

Water Journalists Africa
June 7, 2016

A Regional Training on International Water Law for Improved Trans-boundary Water Management in Africa is underway in Uganda.

The week-long training at Hotel Africana in Kampala is organized Global Water Partnership (GWP) together with the International Authority on Development (IGAD), the Africa Network on Basin Organizations (ANBO), Makerere University and Dundee University. It has attracted over 50 water practitioners and professionals.

Water is the most important resource to sustain life. (Photo by Fredrick Mugira)

Water is the most important resource to sustain life. (Photo by Fredrick Mugira)

These include practitioners and professionals from River Basin Organizations and governments (Foreign affairs ministries, ministries in charge of water affairs, legislators and water management agencies among others) who have a role in negotiating, drafting or reforming treaties and legislations (regulation, control), planning and decision-making on trans-boundary waters in Africa.

It lasts up to 12 June 2016.

Officials at the Global Water Partnership (GWP) say the training seeks to raise awareness and promote the value of international legal frameworks in fostering national, regional and international cooperation and facilitate good water governance through the strengthening of technical and institutional capacities of agencies and individuals that have the potential to influence and advise decision-makers on negotiation, adoption and implementation of legal frameworks for water management.

It is expected that at the end of the training participants will have an increased awareness of the importance of incorporating Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), ecosystem-based approaches, climate change and variability and gender perspectives into water-related treaty arrangements as a strategic approach to enhance water governance at the international level in order to ensure water security and peace in Africa.

April 11, 2016

U.S Artists, Engineers and Activists Develop Atmospheric Water Generator

Fredrick Mugira
Appril 11, 2016

The openAWG project based in Oakland, California, USA has successfully completed a prototype atmospheric water generator (AWG), called BlueIce.

A team of Bay Area artists, engineers, scientists, and activists developed the BlueIce prototype as the first step towards developing a machine capable of generating drinking water from water vapor in ultra­low humidity conditions (<30% relative humidity).

The openAWG project is working to improve and open up low­humidity AWG technology to everyone, which currently has limited access and is prohibitively expensive.
For the openAWG team, atmospheric water generation is the first module of a larger concept.

openAWG project logo

openAWG Project Logo

openAWG is an open source project that focuses on atmospheric water generation (AWG). Water is essential to life and economy, yet 663 million people on this planet don’t readily have access to clean water.

“We want to help solve that problem by building an open source AWG system that is designed to pull water from the air in dry environments so it can provide drinking water for communities all over the world,” notes openAWG.

The vision is “civilization­in­a­box”, an open source collection of machines that not only pulls water from thin air, but has modules that can also distill and filter drinking water from urine and contaminated water, process human waste for algaculture fertilizer, provide industrial gases, generate power, and provide Internet connectivity.

The BlueIce prototype uses dehumidifiers and reverse osmosis to convert water vapor and generate 12 liters of pre­filtered water every 24 hours with an efficiency of 1.4 kilowatt hours per liter.

Initial testing at an EPA­certified laboratory confirmed the generated water is within safe thresholds for tested contaminants, but further testing is needed to fully comply with California and US federal regulations for potable water sources and bottled water plants. Aluminium, iron, mineral content, and bacteria are within safe drinking range.

The water was slightly alkaline at a pH of 9.10, which is outside of optimal guidelines but remains safe. The team is currently evaluating the re­mineralization filter due to higher than expected levels of turbidity.

The openAWG project is funded by contributions through Indiegogo and will next focus on testing prototypes in desert conditions to maximize performance in ultra­low humidity.

Progress and updates can be found at: https://openawg.github.io/
The designs and data for the openAWG models will continue to be open source as the project evolves and can be found at: https://github.com/openawg/openawg

March 11, 2016

Water Man of India Urges Disciplined Use of Water in Africa

Fredrick Mugira
March 11, 2016

South Africa’s extreme drought has dried up water supplies for millions of people living in rural parts of the country. Some of the affected people live in Mpumalanga, a rural province in the eastern part of the country. In Mpumalanga, the drought has led to vanishing of water in Crocodile River, forcing water officials in Mbombela municipality – the main city of Mpumalanga – to start implementing water restriction to consumers targeting swimming pools and vehicle washing bays according to Linda Carol Zulu, the municipality’s general manager for water and sanitation.

Water suppliers in Mbombela municipality rely on the Crocodile River for water, but due to the drought – the worst in 30 years – river flows have plummeted this season.

Drying up of rivers, wells, springs and lakes in Africa is not new. Several lakes including Lake Chad, the formerly world’s 6th largest lake have had a rapid decline leading to water shortfall. In fact in Africa, one in three people endure water scarcity and this is being worsened by climate change.

Similarly, in Uganda, over 100 shallow wells, streams, rivers and lakes have dried up in the south western region in the last five years according to the region’s focal person for the national environment watchdog – NEMA, Jeconeous Musingwire. Eastern Africa countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania are suffering even worse problems.

But in some parts of India, things are a bit different. And this difference is a result of Dr. Rajendra Singh efforts.

The water conservationist and the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner, Dr Rajendra, has been recognized for his innovative water restoration efforts and steady attempts to improve water security in villages of India.

He shared his thoughts with Fredrick Mugira about replicating the same innovative water restoration efforts in Africa to improve water security in the continent’s villages. This was during the week-long knowledge exchange organised by the 2030 Water Resource Group (2030 WRG), a global public-private-civil society partnership based in Washington USA in collaboration with Stockholm International Water Institute and the Water and Sanitation Department of South Africa.

Dr. Rajendra Singh (L) chats with Fredrick Mugira (R) in Pretoria, South Africa

Dr. Rajendra Singh (L) chats with Fredrick Mugira (R) in Pretoria, South Africa

Dr. Rajendra was one of the water activists, professionals and authorities from India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Tanzania and South Africa that took part in this knowledge exchange in Pretoria, South Africa last week.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

Question: Why should people care about Rivers in their communities?

Answer: The people should understand that if their river is not healthy, they also can’t live healthy. So the health of a river and the health of people are interlinked. So the people should try the rejuvenation of the river and they make it a clean river and they should safeguard the river land and the clean flow. This way they get clean water.

Question: Several rivers, lakes and wells in Africa are drying up as a result of climate change. What should be done to stop this?

Answer: You know what is very important is water conservation and harvesting and also making a decent use of water. If they can make a disciplined use of water so they can conserve and make a sustainable way of water management and a sustainable way of water resource management.
So if we can get success in Rajasthan, so that model can be replicated in Africa. The same model we can replicate. On one hand we start with realization of the community and on other hand, we get social corporate responsibility and also government intervention. So change is possible.

Question: Who should bear this responsibility?

Answer: The people and the government, and the private sector should all realize the responsibility of cleaning the river. You know the most important are the local people. The local community should realize the site selection of the work for the water harvesting, reduce corruption, and reduce the pollution, and reduce the wastage of the money and the wastage of resource. So it is very much necessary that the community takes the lead of that work.

Question: Will water-stressed communities in developing countries ever have enough water?

Answer: You know the rain water is enough for the world but we are not really managing it properly. If we can manage this water in a good way, we can create prosperity and peace. You know now, the scarcity of water and the flashfloods create tension within communities and that tension creates conflict and that conflict makes the situation of war. So now the third world war is coming if we are not doing the water conservation and water harvesting and disciplined use of water. So if we are really to have a prosperous and peaceful common future, we should start the community driven decentralized water management now. You know the one water, one planet slogan? The community should start this. The community role is very important. If the community starts that work, the government follows and the private sector also comes in.

Question: I understand you are organizing a river walk in Mumbai, India that is likely to attract over 10,000 people to walk for 5km alongside the four rivers of Mumbai. How will these rivers benefit from the walk?

Answer: The river walk is a practical involvement of all stakeholders of the river. So after this walk, we make GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) and the rejuvenation starts. (GPR is geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. It can be used in the detection of voids and incoherence in hydraulic defense structures such as river embankments and levee systems.)

Question: When will you walk for rivers in Africa?

Answer: I am very much interested in holding water walk in Africa but African communities should initiate this. I am coming. I can join and help in mobilization and organization and we can make a system for river rejuvenation. I can come.

February 29, 2016

Water Experts Call For Partnership in Solving Water Problems

Fredrick Mugira

February 29, 2016

Water experts from different countries across the globe are rooting for the partnership approach in solving water resource problems.

The call comes as the water professionals and authorities from Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Tanzania and South Africa meet in Pretoria, South Africa for a week-long knowledge exchange organised by the 2030 Water Resource Group (2030 WRG), a global public-private-civil society partnership based in Washington USA in collaboration with Stockholm International Water Institute and the Water and Sanitation Department of South Africa.

Addressing the close to 100 participants at Sheraton Pretoria hotel, Anders Berntell, the 2030 WRG Executive Director stressed that partnerships based on collaboration and teamwork would provide more consistent, co-ordinated and comprehensive solution to the water resource problems.

Anders Berntell, the 2030 WRG Executive Director

Anders Berntell, the 2030 WRG Executive Director

Such partnerships could be between individuals; private sector; agencies; organisations and governments. And according to water experts attending this meeting, this would help to solve problems like: water scarcity; aquifer depletion; corruption in the water sector; water overuse; pollution and changes in water availability among others.

One of the countries that have benefited from this approach is Kenya, a country facing a 30 per cent deficit between the water resources and demand, according to water experts.

In an exclusive chat with WaterSan Perspective at the meeting, Kimanthi Kyengo, the Kenya’s Deputy Director in charge of Water Services said such an approach is a practical solution to Kenya’s water problems.

“It is one of the solutions that is potentially beneficial to Kenya. It brings ideas, expertise and resources in the water sector.”

To make this approach work, Kimanthi says Kenya has, “Developed concepts on how it would benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens; sensitised all the stakeholders about the process and is now in the process of recruiting stakeholders to come together to look for solutions.”

Similarly, this approach has worked in Tanzania. Engineer Christopher Sayi, the chairperson of National Water Board for Tanzania says it is helping to make sure all stakeholders especially the private sector know their roles in conserving the water resource.

“That is why we are encouraging these partnerships so that they (private sector) can also contribute in terms of technology and also contribute towards financing the management of water resources in the country.”

Tanzanian delegation. Engineer Christopher Sayi, the chairperson of National Water Board for Tanzania standing

Tanzanian delegation. Engineer Christopher Sayi, the chairperson of National Water Board for Tanzania standing

Earlier, while speaking during the opening session, Anton Earle, the Director of Africa regional centre for the Swedish International Water Institute gave an example of partnership between governments citing the South African government which is partnering with that of Lesotho to import water to Pretoria, some 400 kilometres away, following high rains in Lesotho.

December 11, 2015

Water, Sanitation Groundbreaking Initiatives Win Top UN Climate Change Prize

Fredrick Mugira
Paris. Dec. 11, 2015. At least four out of the 16 innovative initiatives honored as winners of the prestigious United Nations climate change award at this year’s climate talks in Paris focus on water and sanitation.

They are part of the 16 game-changing initiatives from around the world that were honored at a special ceremony in Le Bourget, Paris last evening, where climate change talks have been taking place for the last two weeks.

International Jamaican artist Sean Paul (in the middle) performed during the gala event in La bouget, Paris.

International Jamaican artist Sean Paul (in the middle) performed during the gala event in Le bouget, Paris.

The winning initiative that focus on water and sanitation include the Lifelink Water Solutions which is using ICT tools to provide safe, sustainable and affordable water in Kenya and Uganda; Solvatten Solar Safe Water Heater that is working to reduce carbon emissions while securing access to safe drinking water in Kenya.

Others are the Harvesting Geothermal Energy of El Salvador which is generating income with geothermal waste-heat and E-waste From Toxic to Green based in India which is creating jobs to keep e-waste out of landfills.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was the guest of honour at the gala event where the attendees were treated to powerful photos, inspirational videos and a lively musical performance by Sean Paul.

Ban said such initiatives could inspire leaders worldwide to take positive steps to reduce carbon emissions in their countries.

“These ‘Lighthouse Activities’ shine a light on the groundswell of climate action around the world,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “As the world moves toward a future built on low-emissions sustainable development, these bold ideas can inspire leaders to be more ambitious in their own policies and actions.”

The Momentum for Change initiative is spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat to shine a light on some of the most innovative, scalable and replicable examples of what people are doing to address climate change. This year’s winning activities range from a seriously cool smartphone that puts social values first to an initiative that is enabling 40 Latin American cities to take concrete climate action.

“I am honoured to celebrate the leadership shown by the people, organizations , companies and governments recognized as winners of the 2015 Momentum for Change Awards tonight,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said.

“By showcasing these remarkable solutions and the people behind them we can strengthen efforts that must not only start with an agreement here in Paris but must continue to build, as we accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon, highly resilient development path,” she said.

Each of the 16 winning activities touches on one of Momentum for Change’s four focus areas: Urban Poor, Women for Results, Financing for Climate Friendly Investment and ICT Solutions. All 16 were showcased at a series of special events during the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, France.

The 2015 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is implemented with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative.

December 7, 2015

COP 21 / CMP 11: Meeting of Ministers Calls for Effective Climate Change Agreement

Fredrick Mugira
Paris, Dec. 7, 2015. The High-Level, ministerial segment of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris kicked off today with calls to action to conclude an effective climate change agreement at the end of the week and a sense of confidence that this can be done.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded Ministers of the direction that more than 150 world leaders had provided on the first day of the meeting, and that they had pledged their full support for a robust agreement. “Never before have so many Heads of State and Government gathered in one place at one time with one common purpose. Leaders have assured me they will work to remove any roadblocks,” he said.

One of the placards at the conference creating awareness about the need for everybody to get ton board and fight climate change

One of the placards at the conference creating awareness about the need for everybody to get ton board and fight climate change

Ban Ki-moon said that hundreds of mayors from around the world had also come to Paris to lend their support and make their city climate action announcements, along with hundreds of business leaders and investors representing trillions of dollars in assets.

In her address, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres spoke of the unprecedented number of over 180 national climate action plans submitted ahead of the Paris meeting and which constitute a clear signal to the world. She said: “The challenge we face now is to crystalize that call into a cohesive legal framework that brings the world together in action and implementation.”
Figueres also spoke of the groundswell of climate action being highlighted in a plethora of activities during the first week of the COP under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda.

“Commitments have given way to real action on the part of investors, corporations, provincial and city governments, and from civil society as a whole,” she said

Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly, said that whilst the year 2015 was all about reaching agreements, the year 2016 would be about their swift implementation. He said he would be organizing an event in New York in April to help realize the Sustainable Development Goals agreed this year. The meeting, including government and civil society, would spark many new initiatives.

This follows last week’s announcement by the UN Secretary General of an event in Washington, in May, to accelerate cooperative climate initiatives.

Lykketoft, however, cautioned that a robust universal climate agreement in Paris was an essential foundation for the world to avoid crossing the threshold of a maximum two degrees Celsius global average temperature rise, agreed by governments to be the defense line against unmanageable climate change. “Without your leadership, no amount of collaborative initiatives will suffice,” he said.

November 13, 2015

Over 40000 People to Attend the 2015 Paris Climate Conference

Fredrick Mugira
November 13, 2015

Over 40,000 persons are expected to attend the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) in December this year. This is according to François Richier, Ambassador of France to India.

Richier says the French government would offer free visas to journalists. He was speaking during the final day of the Annual Media Briefing on Climate Change organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an environment think tank based in India.

(L-R) French Ambassador Francois Richier, CSE Director General Sunita Narain and Zambian Deputy Ambassador to India Sikapale Chinzewe at the final day of the conference.

(L-R) French Ambassador Francois Richier, CSE Director General Sunita Narain and Zambian Deputy Ambassador to India Sikapale Chinzewe at the final day of the conference.

Over 100 journalists from the continents of Asia and Africa attended this two-day event held at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi at the beginning of this month.

In her remarks, the CSE Director General Sunita Narain petitioned the developing country to negotiate powerfully during this conference.

It is important for developing countries to negotiate strongly in Paris. It is critical that countries from South Asia and Africa send their best people and negotiate hard on climate change,” said Sunita.

Most speakers during this event blamed the developed countries for the present state of global warming.

The world is already looking at the prospect of not containing climate change within 2 degrees Celsius. And to achieve this, the Zambian deputy high commissioner Sikapale Chinzewe who also spke during this occasion, insisted that climate change resolutions must be legally binding.

Speaking in a session to discuss American consumption trends, CSE Director General Sunita Narain said that if the US did not make serious changes to its “conspicuous consumption”, climate change mitigation efforts would not be as successful as US needed to lead the way, having been the highest emitter in the world.

Earlier, CSE Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan said that the per capita annual emission of the United States would be 12 tonnes while that of the European Union would be five tonnes in 2030.

People live well in the EU. Americans need to scale down their lifestyles,” he said.

Some of the journalists from Africa who attended this two-day event in India.

Some of the journalists from Africa who attended this two-day event in India.

One of the journalists, Kaah Aaron Yancho, from Cameroon, who is also a member of Water Journalists Africa and writer for WaterSan Perspective lamented that the western media was shaping the agenda in developing countries instead of the indigenous media in these countries.

We need to ensure that our policies are not affected by the powerful but biased foreign media,” he said.

September 14, 2015

Cultural Responses to Weather Related Disasters

Fredrick Mugira
September 14, 2015

Usually when someone dies in some parts of Uganda during the rainy season, mourners think of several things: the cause of death; burial place; mourners’ food and also rainmakers. Yes, rainmakers because their services are needed to make sure rain does not disrupt burial services.

And their services seem to work. They artificially induce rain. Rainmakers are common in several developing countries. But what is confusing is how they exactly induce rain.

One of such rainmakers is Betungura of Katookye, Kagango in Sheema district. He says he is hired to stop rain from disrupting burial services; parties; musical concerts and several other functions.

To stop rain from disrupting burial services, Betungura, who is usually paid for his services inform of meat, money or local brew, says he usually wraps a piece of cloth from one of the decease’s clothes around a mirror. He positions such a mirror on the roof of the house facing up.

This way, I control the heavens from releasing rain. I mention the name of the deceased and say see sunshine like you have been.”

But Betungura is worried. He says such traditions are slowly dying out because the young generation is not interested in them.

“Who will pass on these traditions and memories to future generations?”

Betungura, who has trained more than 10 people to induce rain, believes that abandonment of such cultural practices related to inducing rain is leading to the current weather related disasters.

“Our grandfathers used to control hailstorms, floods, thunderstorms. But who does it now? We are few. Sometimes we are overstretched.”

Climate-related natural disasters including floods, storms and heat waves have steadily increased across the globe over the past 40 years. Photo by Muchunguzi Emmy

Climate-related natural disasters including floods, storms and heat waves have steadily increased across the globe over the past 40 years. Photo by Muchunguzi Emmy

But Mujuni Kyamadidi, the Member of Parliament Rwampara County in Mbarara district says this is not true and misleading.

“I do not believe in rainmakers. Increased droughts hailstorms, floods and thunderstorms are effects of climate change as a result of global warming but not superstition.”

Likewise, Uganda’s water and environment minister, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu warns against attributing effects of climate change to superstition.

There are areas which you need scientific explanations instead of depending on these wizards.”

Most climate scientists agree that the current changes in climate across the globe are due to increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and hotter temperatures on Earth.

This story was produced under the aegis of the CSE Media Fellowships Programme.

September 12, 2015

The Culture That Averted Degradation of Water Resources

Fredrick Mugira
September 12, 2015

In Banyakole tradition, members of the Abitira sub clan believe that they descended from a common ancestor with frogs. The age-old tradition, however, does not mean that members of this clan are frogs. Rather frogs are their totem.

The Banyankole are one of the several major ethnic groups in Uganda. They live in south-western Uganda. Each of the Banyankole’s dozens of clans and sub clans regard a living thing such as an animal, amphibian, a bird or plant with special awe.

Victor Tibihika, of Rwakaringura in Kizinda, Bushenyi district is one of the many members of the Abitira sub clan. She believes she is of the same blood with frogs and can never do anything to harm them.

Through their beliefs and cultural practices, Tibihika and several other members of her sub clan protect and conserve frogs and their habitats such as swamps and ponds.

Buryahika Edgar, a cultural researcher engaged in writing a book on Ankole clans and their origins credits Banyankole forefathers for this.

Despite their illiteracy, our forefathers conserved the environment they depended on through traditional African beliefs and practices. But the current generation which is literate is doing the opposite.”

There are several other cultural practices in Ankole that were deliberately meant to protect and conserve water resources.

Perhaps some of the outstanding cultural practices included: the communal excavation of water wells and springs locally known as Okutimba Eiziba; communal desilting of wells known as Ofukura Eiziba and collective erection of a hedge of protection around the wells known as Orugo.

Most Ugandans get their water directly from swamps, streams, gravity flow schemes and springs and wells. Such water may contain worms, protozoa, bacteria and viruses that, if consumed, can cause hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and diarrhea.

Most Ugandans get their water directly from swamps, streams, gravity flow schemes and springs and wells. Such water may contain worms, protozoa, bacteria and viruses that, if consumed, can cause hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and diarrhea.

Orugo would prevent wild animals from drinking directly from these water bodies. Trenches were constructed around wells and springs to prevent water runoff that would deposit sediments and all kinds of dirt into these water bodies.

Everyone regarded it as a taboo not to participate in these communal cultural practices. But for the people that refused to take part in this work, they would be asked to pay fines set by communal courts. Such fines included buying or brewing local beer that would be drunk communally.

Geoffrey Mahooku Kaparaga, an advocate of Banyankole culture, says that such cultural practices, some of which are still practiced now in Banyankole communities, highlighted the importance of water and its cleanliness to the people of Ankole.

Our culture defined how we would relate with water, preserving it for the future generation.”

Perhaps if such cultural practices were still widely practiced now, pollution of wells and springs in this region of Uganda would not be a problem.

Disturbingly, environmentalists say up to 99 percent of surface water sources such as wells, springs, streams, lakes and rivers in this region are contaminated with several pollutants including faecal matter and agricultural wastes. Such water may contain worms, protozoa, bacteria and viruses that, if consumed, can cause hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and diarrhea.

According to UN Water, every year, more people die from unsafe and contaminated water than from all forms of violence, including war. Most victims are in developing countries like Uganda.

Ian Atamba, an environment and agriculture specialist working with the agency that oversees forests in Uganda — NFA notes that there is an urgent need for a cultural turn to Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) saying that this would conserve water for the future generations.

“Environmental conservation that devalues indigenous knowledge, traditions and norms of the benefiting communities is not sustainable.”

This story was produced under the aegis of the CSE Media Fellowships Programme for the Global South.

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