Thursday, September 24, 2009

This Saturday 9/26: Pizza/PBR/PF Love

Join us for Pizza+PBR+a Project FOCUS presentation with a screening of our radio documentary and promotional video. Our presentation will introduce the details of our latest project - a solar-powered, internet cafe in rural Southwestern Uganda. As our close friends and members of the PF community, we value your feedback and your questions. We're asking for your help to brainstorm, create, and execute an innovative, grassroots campaign to make this project a success!

with love,

Project FOCUS

Saturday, September 26, 2009
5:30pm - 8:00pm

Project FOCUS Office
1618 W. 17th St. Apt 2R
Chicago, IL

Monday, September 7, 2009

Drought and Environment by Ahabwe Mugerwa Michael (ICOD)

Between the months of June and September `09, Lyantonde experienced a more severe drought than in the recent years. There was no rainfall received throughout the month of June, July and August, and temperatures increased by 0.3° centigrade leading to drought and loss of crops in over 99% of rural households and death over 50 cows due to lack of water and pastures.

Geographically, Lyantonde district lies in the dry cattle corridor; a dry zone with savannah grass lands, thorny acacia shrubs and many semi arid zones that produces more cattle and cattle products than other areas in Uganda. There is a popular tale in other parts of the country that milk flows in village footpaths of the cattle corridor. However, during the month of June to August, milk prices rose from Uganda shilling 300 per liter to 900 per liter whilst a liter of milk in Kampala rose from Uganda shillings 1000 to 2000. Such price increases have had dire effects on other sectors and livelihoods both in rural and urban areas of Lyantonde.

During this period, water sources dried out. Lyantonde town council whose population is over 15000 people has remained with only two functional bores and with no running water. The price for a 20 liters water can has risen from Uganda shillings 200 to 1000. Reynolds Construction Company; the company contracted to construct the Kampala – Mbarara road intervened by bringing in two water tankers to collect water from Lake Kacheera which is 22 kilometers from Lyantonde town. The area member of parliament also donated 200 bags of maize, 50 bags of beans and a water tanker to help the famine and drought affected people. Boba-boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers changed business from transporting people to fetching water from distant sources because of the high demand and price.

Like famine, water and milk shortages in Lyantonde have their root in environmental degradation. The National Forestry Authority estimates that Uganda loses 80,000 hectares of forest cover annually; 730,000 hectares are lost to rapid tree cutting on private land while 7,000 hectares are lost in protected areas like forest reserves. On private land, trees are cut to meet demand for forestry products and clearing of farming land. In protected areas, encroachment and related activity is eating away forest cover as an estimated 350,000 encroachers open settlements, gardens and forage for survival. In Buyaga forestry reserve in the north east of Lyantonde district, encroachers have cut down all trees and vegetation for charcoal burning, settlement and farming. Such deforestation has led to erratic rains, prolonged drought and receding water levels.

Lyantonde district has always developed environment action plans but little has been done to implement the plans. For example, in 2006, Rakai Community Based Aids project liaised with Lyantonde Town Council to plant trees along streets. Over 300 trees were planted in town but less than 30 are surviving. Local leaders attribute this to ‘inadequate funds’ to monitor the project progress. In most developing countries’ towns like Lyantonde where corruption has eaten through all sectors of public service provision, inadequacy of funds to monitor an important project like the above is always reported but there can never be funds inadequacy to pay staff and politicians travel, feeding and sitting allowances! Perhaps, these heartless corrupt public officials need to learn that when they inhumanly steal public funds, they push the poorest to attack nature for survival; and once natural endowments succumb to the pressure, the consequences are disastrous to both the rich and the poor.

Investment in environment protection is the cheapest project to undertake for either the poor or rich. In a rural area like most of Lyantonde district; one can begin with turning their leaking or worn out water can into a trash bin, deposit all trash in it, recycle or burry if they have to, to maturing a fruit tree and giving the seedlings to the neighbor and in a few years, a greener, fresher and pollution-free environment is built with its benefits of more rain and less effects to the ozone layer. I think every one needs to start working towards restoring the natural beauty of places like Lyantonde. One other way would be intensifying initiatives like tree planting campaigns, environment policing to enact environment bye-laws and establishment of communal tree nurseries. This would check the downward movement of the Sahara. I think Lyantonde will be the next Sahara if nothing is done; local leaders have done more talking, they need to translate their talking to real action.