Artisanal gold miners in Kasanda, formally Mubende district are calling for more awareness and sensitization on other methods in gold extraction to completely phase out mercury use which is hazardous to environment and harmful to human health.
According to artisanal gold miners, most of them still use mercury in extraction of gold despite its visible dangers on their health and environment.
Ivan Kauma, a member of Kitumbi-Kayonzo Miners’Association (KKMA) in Kasanda says though borax method has been introduced, the miners are still stuck on old technology of mercury use which calls for intensive trainings.
Mr.Kauma explains that many artisanal miners are used to mixing mercury with gold ore before exposing the mixture to the heat to separate the gold from the rock. He explains that the miners are poisoned by mercury vapor released in the process of heating.
Bernard Mutesasira, another gold miner notes that most miners use mercury without protective gears and that the washed water polluted with mercury is just poured on the ground; contaminating the soil and underground water.
“Those who have been in the business have complained of absorption of mercury into the skin causing corrosive skin, headache, back pain and constant shaking which is highly attributed to the use of mercury,” Mutesasira says.
Joyce Katusiime, a woman miner dealing in buying and crushing the ore in Lubali mining site in Kasanda says though the demonstration on how Borax works has not yet been done, the theory trainings they have had so far show that use of borax is better if adopted by all the miners.
She explains that much sensitization is needed to ensure that gold miners work in a mercury free environment in addition to further awareness rising on the effects of mercury.
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) with support from the Global Environmental Facility(GEF)-Uganda, a small grants program under United Nations Development Program(UNDP) has been working with other partners and government to reduce mercury use and promote use of borax as an alternative technology in Kasanda and other mining districts in Uganda.
Peruth Atukwatse, the officer in charge of chemicals management and climate change at NAPE is delighted that the artisanal gold miners now know and appreciate the dangers associated with use of mercury and are willing to uptake other safer alternative technologies.
She says the introduction of Borax is in line with Minamata Convention on mercury which was adopted in 2013. The convention, which Uganda is a signatory, set clear time-bound targets to phase out the manufacture, export and import of mercury and mercury added products.
Ms. Atuwatse explains that as NAPE, they aim at reducing the health and environmental risks of mercury and they will continue to sensitize miners on borax use until mercury use is completely phased out. She says borax is advantageous over mercury since the former increases productivity and high gold recovery that results in better overall economics of miners, borax is readily available on the market, cheap and its use in mining legal in Uganda.
The survey carried out by NAPE and other partners between July and August 2018 established that the levels of mercury pollution in the blood of miners, soil, and water and food crop contamination were very high in the mining districts of Busia, Buhweju, Mubende, Namayingo and Karamoja.
Following the rise in water levels that have left many displaced in Uganda, Mr. Frank Muramuzi, the Executive Director National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE is appealing to people residing and working close to environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas to vacate voluntarily.
While speaking to Community Green radio early this month, Mr. Muramuzi said continued human activity along ecologically sensitive areas does not only pose danger to the environment but to human life as well.
“I appeal to the community to promote, protect the environment and leave the wetlands willingly before the presidential directive in regard to these areas is forcefully implemented,’’ cautioned Mr. Muramuzi.
Mr. Muramuzi also took a swipe at big business people, locally referred as investors for continuously reclaiming swamps and wetlands for development. He explained that these business people get approval from government agencies like the National Environmental Management Authority, NEMA to operate in wetlands and swamps.
“NEMA has issued licences to investors who are carrying out developments in wetlands and swamps. We call on government to desist from sanctioning such developments in environmentally sensitive area,’’ he said.
Mr. Muramuzi also noted that the construction of dams on major water bodies have become a threat to the flow of water; a reason NAPE strongly opposes the construction of dams.
Mr. Muramuzi believes the rising water levels currently experienced are as a result of degradation and encroachment of wetlands and forests for cultivation.
This year, Ugandan minister of state for Energy and Mineral Development Mary Gorreti Kitutu warned that the residents around Lake Kyoga would be affected since Karuma dam was releasing 950 cubic meters per second and the entire water was going to the lake.
Water levels for major water bodies across Uganda have gone up in recent months from 12.00 meters in 2019 to above 13.4 meters, in the case of Lake Victoria, a mark last recorded in 1964, while Lake Kyoga is projected to exceed the highest historical water level of 13.2 meters.
This has led to submerging shorelines, swamps and flood plains, displacing thousands of people and flooding infrastructure.
More than 9, 000 people have been displaced by the rising water levels of Lake Kyoga in Nakasongola district,central Uganda. Others have been displaced in Masaka, Buvuma, Mayuge, Jinja and Wakiso districts by the surge of water volume in Lake Victoria. People in Ntoroko District in Western Uganda have also been displaced by increased water volumes in Lake Albert.
Human rights activists have asked the security operatives to respect human rights as measures are being enforced to curb the spread of corona virus.
The Human Rights Officer at Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) Hoima Regional Office, Hope Bagota said the commission has received many complaints of human rights violations during the period of COVID-19. She said the commission is currently investigating cases of torture by security agencies and other human rights violations so that the victims get justice.
Bagota explains that the respect of human rights is enshrined in article 221 of the Constitution of Uganda and security agencies should work in line with that.
“Human rights such as right to fair hearing, freedom from torture and others cannot be taken away by state or any other person at any circumstance,” she explained.
This was during the radio talk show on Human Rights that was held at Community Green Radio Kiboga and organised by National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) with support from Fund for Global Human Rights on May 21.
Others that attended the radio talk show included ASP Francis Magumba, the Community Liaisons Officer for Albetine Region, Surgent Lawrence Byansi, the Community Liasons Officer for Kiboga Central Police station and JescaNanyondo, a community member from Mulagi Sub County in Kyankwanzi.
During the show, many listeners accused securing officers of harassment and use of excessive force during the lockdown.
“LDUs always ask for evidence from pregnant mothers on whether they are pregnant, women in early stages of pregnancy have had rough time explaining this,” said Mildred Atuhaise from Kasanda district.
“Why do you have to wait for the COVID-19 curve to flatten for the human rights perpetrators to be charged before court yet they continue to abuse people’s rights,” Annet Kengonzi from Kaiso Tonya in Hoima district asked.
Jesca Nanyondo also mentioned that in most cases women have been the victims of torture during the lockdown and curfew due to their traditional roles of providing food and care for the families.
“Sometimes women are caught up when they are from looking for food or medicine for the children. However, it has been hard explaining some of these cases to police officers on duty,” she noted.
In defence, ASP magumba said people have misinterpreted the presidential directives and they sometimes provoke security operatives.
However, the Human Rights Officer, Bagota said all these cases, backed by evidence, should be reported to the commission so that they can be followed up.
Nanyondo appreciated the show and called upon NAPE to organize more talk shows so that people can have a better understanding of their rights and have interactions with security operatives and human rights activists.
Joan Akiza, the senior Gender and Legal Officer at NAPE noted that rights of vulnerable persons such as Persons with disabilities, women and children should be protected and it’s sad that mothers are dying as they walk to health facilities due to the ban on public & private transport. She promised to organize more talk shows aimed at sensitizing communities on how they can enjoy their rights during the covid-19 crisis.
In the recent press briefing, the Acting Chairperson UHRC, said the commission had so far received 128 complaints of human rights violations, some of which are the cases of torture by security agencies.
National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE has contributed to Kiboga district COVID 19 Task Force to help fight against the Coronavirus.
NAPE, with support from Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, provided hand washing water tanks, Infrared thermometers, sanitizers and face masks.
The items were handed over to Hajji Umar Mawiya, Kiboga district Resident district Commissioner, who is also the Chairperson of district COVI 19 Task Force. Present at the handover was also the District Chairperson, Israel Yiga and the function was held at Community Green Radio Offices on May 21.
Frank Muramuzi, the NAPE Executive Director explained that the organization thought it wise to support the district that hosts the Community Green Radio as a way of helping communities prevent the spread of the virus.
“We got support from our development partners and secured these items and today we are handing them over to the task force for use by the listeners of the radio”, explained Mr. Muramuzi.
During the handover, Mr. Muramuzi also emphasized the need for promotion of environmental conservation by stopping encroachment on wetlands especially in the current situation where the country is experiencing floods and rising water levels especially at Lake Victoria.
The RDC Kiboga District Mr. Mawiya commended NAPE and Community Green radio for supporting the struggle in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic by donating and giving back to the community.
“This donation is timely. In our district budget, we had budgeted for only 2 infrared thermometers because these days they are very expensive. I want to thank you for giving back to community and having communities at heart,” said Mr. Mawiya.
Mr. Mawiya also applauded the radio for playing a great role in alerting the public about Covid-19 and Environmental conservation.
“We also want to thank you for being pro-community. Once you touch the environment, you have touched people’s lives”, he added.
The Kiboga district chairperson Israel Yiga also appreciated NAPE for the donation and applauded the radio for changing the mindset of the community about Environmental conservation, advocating for the rights of the masses through daily programmes that sensitize the public.
“The number of people and homesteads that have planted trees has greatly increased compared to previous days meaning that the community has greatly adopted the messages about conservation” said Yiga.
It’s disastrous to encroach on rivers, lakes and wetlands as stressed by the Executive Director National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE Mr. Frank Muramuzi
VIDEO: Frank Muramuzi, an environmentalist on the way forward following the rising water levels of Lake Victoria. #NBSMorningBreeze #NBSUpdates #StaySafeUG
Posted by NBS Television on Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Environmentalists from Wakiso district have stormed Gobero Police Post in Kakiri Sub County demanding an explanation why people have continued cultivating in the swamp adjacent to the station despite physical demarcations and numerous warnings from the District Natural Resources department.
Permanent pillars were raised on the boundaries of the 37.6km swamp, which stretches from Kato-Mayanja in Namayumba Sub County via Kakiri to Masuuliita by the Water and Environment Ministry last year under guidance from Wakiso District Natural Resources department to stop residents from cultivating in the swamp.
The section of the swamp at Gobero flooded in May last year sweeping away all crops and destroying people’s property worth millions of shillings, a reason why the pillars had to be raised to restrict encroachment by residents.
The team that was under the Command of Wakiso LC 5 Vice Chairperson Betty Ethal Naluyima and District Natural Resources Officer, Rebecca Sabaganzi was on a fact finding mission to establish the cause of the constant flooding whenever it rains.
The team was shocked to find that the section of the swamp, which faces Gobero Police Post, is under heavy encroachment.
The Wakiso District Natural Resources Officer, Rebecca Sabaganzi, said her department has done all it can to protect the wetland but the law enforcement officers are not bothered to enforce the guidelines to protect it.
She says that while planning for an area, people need to be guided on where to cultivate and construct their residences to protect e essential areas, which can affect nature and lead to disasters.
CREDIT:Uganda Radio Network
Rural farmers and producers are struggling to bridge the production and market gaps in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
According to farmers in Kiboga and Kyankwanzi districts that Community Green Radio interacted with, despite continued normality with their agricultural activities, the lock down has drastically limited the market for farm produce since buyers can’t go to distant markets and sellers can’t look for better markets.
They say, this, in addition to closure of markets, shops and hotels, has reduced revenues and impacted on daily wage workers and petty traders, making it difficult for farmers to buy inputs and sustain their livelihoods.
“Our livelihood is being affected by Covid-19 pandemic making it difficult to access sustainable income for our families. Before the country underwent the routine preventive measures of the curfew that starts from 7pm-6:30am, the lockdown and social distancing, some farmers used to carry out day to day vending and hawking of food stuff to earn a living,” explains Asuman Ssembatya, the Chairperson for Nabidondolo listeners’ club in Kyankwanzi district.
Charles Lubega another farmer from Wattuba Sub County says many farmers are finding it difficult to sell at a profitable price, especially perishable goods.
“By this time I would be selling fresh beans, tomatoes and even matooke sending them to Kampala vendors but most of the vendors that used to buy from me are crying of lack of money in addition to the COVID 19 measures,” explained Mr. Lubega.
However, Sara Kamyuka, a prominent matooke farmer in Kapeke Sub County in Kiboga district says farmers should think of new approaches to find markets and sell their produce like using Community Green Radio to look for customers and engaging in home deliveries.
In the wake of rising COVID-19 cases, Community Green Radio has dedicated time and resources to provide the population with information of the pandemic, increase positivity and reduce anxiety among people.
The radio broadcasts public health messages from health officials on how communities can keep themselves safe. The radio constantly gives updates on government plans and preparations for the virus and how it has impacted on communities.
This is despite the challenges the staff are going through to deliver this noble cause. The ban on public transport has rendered some staff immobile while some of the staff working during curfew time hours have been forced to be accommodated at office.
According to the Station Manager Mr. Julius Kyamanywa, some vital programs like community dialogues and debates were cancelled. They have also changed its programming to focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had to redesign the programming to suit the government guidelines especially on staying home, social distancing and night curfew. We tremendously reduced on the guests we host in studios”, explained Mr. Kyamanywa.
The manager maintains that even when the radio has been forced to make adjustments, this has not stopped their goal of amplifying the voices of local communities.
“We have been able to give the communities a voice particularly on the impact of COVID 19 on their lives and what they expect from public office bearers. We have been using phone recorded audio to collect peoples voices”, the Manager explained.
The NAPE Community Green radio has received the 2020 Liz Hughes award for her Farm Radio at a function held at the radio premises in Kiboga. Green radio won the award after beating other 59 radio stations worldwide. The award was handed over by Mr. Ecaat Stephen the Country Representative Farm Radio International to the NAPE Executive Director Frank Muramuzi and the radio staff on March 8th.
While receiving the award, Mr. Muramuzi thanked Farm Radio International for recognizing the efforts of the radio in promoting women. He promised more empowerment to women.
“We are so delighted that finally our efforts in amplifying the voices of women have been rewarded. We shall continue to give wider space to women to air their views”, Mr. Muramuzi said.
In his remarks, Mr. Ecaat said the radio won the award because they devote enough time to women issues.
“What made you stand out was the huge amount of time you give to women to discuss their issues. You have also allowed women to speak for themselves on radio”, he said.
Israel Yiga, the Kiboga District chairperson praised the radio for giving ample time to programs that address women issues.
“I have been listening to this radio and following the time they accord to women issues, this award is not a surprise to me. I implore them to continue promoting women issues”, the chairperson explained.
The award giving ceremony coincided with the International women’s day. The function was attended by local leaders and the radio listeners predominantly women.
Community Green Radio is one of the major programs of National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE).The radio is an offshoot of the sustainability of the Sustainability School Program which works on empowering communities to identify their rights and entitlements and works towards attaining and defending them.
The radio is aimed at amplifying the voices of local communities in the eco-sensitive Bunyoro and Buganda Regions to effectively participate in natural resource management processes.
The Liz Hughes award was created by Farm Radio International to recognize radio programs that address the issue of gender equality and create opportunities to share the voices of rural women. Liz Hughes was a board member of Farm Radio International who was passionate about broadcasting and a champion of gender equality. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcaster helped Farm Radio International to develop its FAIR journalistic standards, which emphasize Fairness and balance, Accuracy, Integrity, and Respect.
A 50 year old Ruth Kasimba lives in Butimba village in Kikuubedistrict; a few kilometers near where Uganda’s proposed oil refinery will be constructed in Kabale parish in Uganda’s oil-rich Hoima district.
Like any other rural woman, Kasimba collects firewood for cooking- the exercise she describes as physically exhausting but also mentally draining.
However, as a peasant farmer who grows different types of crops for food and sale, Kasimbacould not believe that the daily-throw away garbage like banana and cassava peelings could turn into fortune tosave women from the long distance walks to collect firewood.
In one of the Nyinabwenge radio talk shows at Community Green Radio, Kasimba learnt about how to covert peelings into charcoal briquettes.
“I learn on radio that after collecting the peelings, they are spread under the sun for some hours until they get dry. The dried peelings are then burnt slowly until they become ash,” she said.
“The ash is then mixed with soil and cassava porridge and then poured into a charcoal presser machine to come up with briquettes or one can use hands to make the briquette size of their choice,” she added.
Kasimba, who is a member of Butimba listeners club, sold the idea 15 other group members and now they are currently making briquettes for home use and are trying to expand the business for economic venture.
Kasimba is among many listeners who are trying to put into action what they listen on radio.
Away from making charcoal briquettes, Butimba listeners club is engaged in making indigenous tree nursery beds to conserve the environment.
Butimba listeners club is one of the pioneer clubs that started with Community Green Radio during its inception in 2014.The radio started with 11 listener’s clubs from Hoima, Kikube and Buliisa Oil-rich districts. Currently, more listeners clubs have been created in districts of Kyankwanzi and Buliisa.
The women-dominated listeners’ club members don’tonly listen. They put into action what they have learnt and also train other new listeners clubs about what they are doing.
PeninaRuhindi, a member of Kigaaga Community Radio listeners club in Kabale village in Homa district- which is adjacent to the oil refinery says they are putting into action the lessons from the radio to ensure sustainable agriculture by planting indigenous trees which encourage agro-forestry and also defend their rights as women.
“When we listen, we reflect on our community and identify the challenges talked about. We then try to find the solutions. Like now we are taking it upon ourselves as listeners club members to encourage women to gain confidence and speak up on issues affecting them and defend their rights. We encourage women to go on radio, as women we have started practicing boundary tree planting to defend our land from grabbers,” she said.
Norah Bahongye, a member of Kigaaga listener’s club says she is happy to listen to her favorite women’s program-Nyinabwenge in evening time when she has retired from her day’s duties on Saturday.
“This radio has changed the lives of many women. I did not know that me as Bahongye, a rural peasant farmer can be on the radio. I thank the radio management for aiming at amplifying women. I have indigenous knowledge on farming like best seed selection and pest control which I have shared on radio, and even people come looking for me to learn. I also know that as a woman I have a right to protect my crops from being sold by my husband from the garden. This has been common by the way because men knew we can’t defend ourselves. But listening to my voice on radio itself makes him think am empowered and I can do anything to protect myself,” She said.
Since the discovery of commercially viable oil deposits in Albertine Graben in Uganda in 2006, the high demand for land to pave way for oil exploitation as well as speculative investment has heavily impacted on host communities in theregion. The host communities are faced with evictions and displacements to pave way for oil developments. However, for the vulnerable groups such as women and children who largely depend on land for livelihood, the situation is worse. (The article on this link explains how women are impacted,http://www.nape.or.ug/10-blog/132-there-is-nothing-good-out-of-the-mines)
Despite the challenges faced by women, the voicesremained mute with untold suffering, their stories untold and underreported.
This is why National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), a local Non-Governmental Organisation, introduced Uganda Community Green Radio in 2014 in Bunyoro region to address human rights violations.
Nyinabwenge show- Women’s programwas put to specifically amplify the voices of rural women so that they can be heard, to engage them in policy making and protection of property rights, improve food security and address gender gaps in the environmental arena.
The program runs every Saturday evening for two hours and is done by Precious Naturinda as the main host and field reporter, Sara Kyeyune as a co-host, Julius Kyamanywa as the Program Director and Allan Kalangi as the overall radio manager.
The radio has helped women to gain confidence by recording them and inviting them in their radio show where they feel it’s a safe space for them to talk about issues affecting them without fear and hold their leaders accountable.
Women are engaged in conservation efforts and addressing climate change being leading by examples in their communities and disseminating their expertise using the radio. Butimba listeners club in Kikuube district, Kigaaga listeners club in Hoima district and Ngwedo listeners club in Buliisa among others are all engaged in raising indigenous trees and distributing to community members. They are also engage in food security and seed sovereignty campaigns by constructing granaries at households and having group seed multiplication gardens(of indigenous seeds which are facing extinct) which are then distributed amongst themselves.
The radio started with affiliation through another radio but last year, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) purchased Radio Kiboga FM which is being rebranded to Community Green Radio.
According to Allan Kalangi, the officer in charge of the Radio at NAPE, many women contribute a lot towards development but their contributions and success are underreported. However, giving them a program has become a platform for them to sensitize others and they feel they are recognized in society.