Thursday 13 June 2013

Kumi smallholder farmers acknowledge climate variability and decry over unfulfilled presidential pledge on irrigation scheme

One of the Ongino community members making prayer
Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement Bwaise Facility (EMLI) in partnership with Action Aid International Uganda (AAIU) Kumi Local Rights Programme organized a public hearing in Ongino Sub-County on the 22nd of May 2013 and was hosted by Ongino Star Organization (OSTARO).

The hearing attended by over of 200 people, including the District Environment Officer, Women, Children, Youths, partner organizations, small holder farmers to mention by the few  started at 2.30 pm.

The District Environment Officer, Kumi, Mr. Okalang Emmanuel said that Ongino was more exposed to climate change shocks and hence encouraged the community to open up and share in-depths experiences and/or comments on climate change in the sub county. Amongst the issues he highlighted included the followings:
  • Government has a system that engages people at all levels right from the village, parish, sub-county, district and finally to the central government;
  • Government interventions now-days are demand driven and so communities are supposed to demand for them such that they are prioritized and reflected in the development plans;
  • Communities should effectively utilize the parish chiefs so as to channel all the environment issues affecting them;
He called for both the policy and government interventions while appreciating the contributions of women in climate change copying mechanisms because it adversely affects women and children.

Interestingly, the community members expressed their grievances to both the government and development partners of which some were;
  • Members expressed concern that although they generate their issues of concern and forward them to local government authorities, feedback does not come in time posing a challenge of probably translating into bigger community challenges due to lack of timely response;
  • Poverty was cited by many as the major driver of environmental degradation hence resulting into changing weather patterns;
  •  Inadequate and poor inputs in terms of seeds supplied by the government and some NGOs;
  • Community members urged for the strengthening of bye-laws that safeguard the natural resources especially forests and trees;
  • Inadequate participation and no free prior informed consent by the community  whwn developing district development priorities;
  • Corruption that occurs when emergencies occur thus leaving out the most affected. This calls for a more transparent way of ensuring that relief/emergency response reaches the targeted persons;
  • Unfulfilled promises by high profile government leaders evidenced by the pledge to support an irrigation scheme for Ongino by the president of Uganda;
  • Many strings attached to community programmes that are intended to benefit the vulnerable. An example given was NAADS hence ending up benefiting the well off-instead;

An elder making a point on problem animals
One participant from Tisai said that since their insurgency and being pushed to Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps have awlays had challenges of problem animals BUT there has never been any deliberate government effort to curb this. Another participant expressed skeptism over the Department of Disaster Preparedness for not focusing on critical disaster issues and taking time to respond to disasters in particular areas, hence called on the Department to design mechanisms for fast and effective response to disaster both at local and district levels.

In conclusion, the hearing created a platform for the community to distill information on climate change and the draft policy and also demand for answers from some of their district technocrats.  
Members were urged to utilize the information gotten and use it to demand for better services from government. They were further reminded to always take on any available opportunity received so as to present their concerns to duty bearers and utilize platforms to enhance their participation in planning and budgeting processes.

Lastly, members were urged to follow up with the local leaders and technocrats to ensure that their priorities are always captured and reflected in the local government development plans.

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