By Gazelle Buchholtz
From engaging people in nature conservation and creating crafts from plastic waste to inviting visitors to take part in the daily lives of private homes, Eco Hub Africa in Western Uganda strives to empower people and places. With increasing flooding impacting daily life and health of humans and nature, local understanding and knowledge sharing on a global scale are required to create a sustainable life.
Ripple effects of climate change
At Surefoot we talk with people from organisations around the world, to get firsthand insight into climate change and environmentally friendly actions. An online conversation with Goodman Bwambale and William Bwambale, who are Environmental Management leaders at the organisation Eco Hub Africa in Kasese, Western Uganda, illustrates the ripple effects of climate change.
The Kasese district is surrounded by several national parks, among these are Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. The snowcapped Rwenzori mountains, known as mountains of the moon, includes the Margherita Peak which with more than 5100 meter is the highest summit of the Ruwenzori Range in East Africa.
Environmental impacts in Kasese carve deep traces in both natural and residential areas. Citizens, residences, hospital and national parks are affected by increased flooding. The river Nyamwamba in the Kilembe subcounty Kasese district floods every year, but the amount of water is increasing, and flooding is now happening outside the typical season. In 2016 there were 25,445 people effected by flooding, in 2020 the number was 120,000 people.[i] The Kilembe Mines hospital, which since 1951 has been a ‘health sanctuary’ for most communities in western Uganda, was destroyed by flooding in May 2020. It’s still not recovered from the effects of the catastrophe.
The same day of our conversation, William followed up by email to say that the river Nyamwamba had just burst its banks causing devastating flood in the lowland of Kilembe Valley and parts of Kasese municipality. The Rwenzori mountains is a catchment area of major rivers as Nyamwamba, Mubuku, Lhubiriha and Thako. These rivers have been flooding since 2013 causing loss of life, loss of property and displacement of people in the Kasese district and impacts on the natural environment and ecosystem.
“When flooding causes the riverbanks to burst, waste is being transported from the residential areas in the valley into natural habitats, where for example toxic substances pollute Lake George and Lake Edward in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. This includes killing the fish,” Goodman explains.
Nurturing the sprouts
Goodman points out that whereas burning fossil fuel is the primary source of carbon emissions many places on the earth, a great part of the emissions in Africa is caused due to households’ dependency on woodburning as an energy source. Another environmental problem is plastic waste which is to be found everywhere.
The core work of the Eco Hub Africa is activities providing skills to especially children and to mothers with no formal education. Nature conservation, creating crafts of plastic waste, and taking part in training for the tourism industry are central areas. William and Goodman, both with a background in the tourism industry, organise free hosting of travelers and volunteers to provide an opportunity to exchange experience with the local people in private homes.
At the Eco Hub Africa, birthdays are celebrated by inviting people to join tree planting and to make crafts of plastic waste. When working with children, Goodman and William witness the development of care and engagement in the natural world which nurtures the future conservationists. However, the persistent, ongoing engagement by many is a crucial factor when you try to make positive ripple effects with sustainable outcome.
To grow long-term solutions in web of communities
“One thing is to plant seedlings, another is to nurture the growth of the trees,” states Goodman.
During our conversation, it’s pointed out that environmentally friendly projects should be founded in holistic perspectives, long-term planning and knowledge of the local area. More people are needed aboard as natural conservationists, to have supportive hands to take responsibility for plants as well for sharing knowledge. It’s not enough to initiate projects, they also need to be adjusted to local areas and supported in the implementation phase until they are up running.
As much as global cooperation is important in a worldwide climate crisis, it is essential to know the ground you stand on, no matter where you are in the world. Goodman and William aim to reach out to the broader community, to obtain knowledge sharing across borders and global coordination. “We need joined efforts,” they say when they remind me of the recent flood in New York. As basement apartments were filled with water in no time, at least 14 people were killed in the flooding in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.[ii] As William ends in his updating email, “Climate change does not affect only Africa, it affects the whole World.”
Contact William Bwambale if you would like to know more about Eco Hub Africa: email@example.com, WhatsApp +256789434763.
[i] Source: https://www.infonile.org/en/2021/05/kasese-battles-the-aftermath-of-destructive-floods/
[ii] Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/sep/02/new-york-flooding-state-of-emergency-ny-city-flash-flood-nyc-hurricane-ida-remnants
The Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland’s (ERCS) vision is of a Scotland where every person’s right to live in a healthy environment is fully realised. Individuals and communities can get support to use their rights to protect the environment, tackle climate change, improve local biodiversity and make greenspaces healthier and wilder. The aim is to provide help to challenge environmental injustices and advance our human right to a healthy environment. Shivali Fifield, associate of The Surefoot Effect and Chief Officer for the ERCS, explains: “We offer free advice on environmental law, which includes law relating to land-use planning, climate change, pollution control, environmental health, conservation, and any other field, for example transport and energy, to the extent that it impacts on the natural environment in Scotland.”
If you need advice, get in contact by the online form www.ercs.scot/get-advice. This could be on a specific issue, for example a worrying planning application or loss of greenspace in your neighbourhood, or a more general question such as your rights to environmental information. To find out more about ERCS’s work on policy and law reform, check out www.ercs.scot and @ERCScot on twitter.
As we go into the summer months, the three Erasmus+ projects Surefoot participate in have continued to progress smoothly.
In Breakthrough for Resilience, the four partners completed an 'individual resilience' workshop led by the Greek partner, the Society of Social Psychiatry. Partners explored 6 resilience methodologies that included 'let's draw', 'name your feelings', and 'the sunbeam of resilience' resilience' and plan to share these widely. Shortly after, and with an initial target of 8 participants, our Italian partner VolTo held two sessions of the individual resilience workshop in Italy for a total of 46 people. VolTo and Sweden-based Mobilizing Expertise are jointly preparing the next phase of activities, the ‘place and nature conservancy resilience’ workshops which will begin taking place in the partner countries in the autumn.
Partners of the project Sustainability, Heritage, and Health have now designed the main structure of the three walking routes that each of the four organisations will offer to participants. Recently, the National Agency praised the project team for catching up with scheduled project activities despite a 7-month initial delay due to Covid19 and other issues outside the control of the partnership. Those participating will learn about heritage sites in the four participating countries and sustainability issues at a time when international travel is limited and there is a need to spend time outdoors close to home. There is an emphasis on health by encouraging exercise and mindfulness. The routes will take participants through the streets of Edinburgh, Athens, Vilnius and Bilbao and coastal and rural enclaves in the UK, Greece, Lithuania and Spain such as the coasts of Fife in Scotland, Greek islands, the Baltic coast or the lush forests of Cantabria in the north of Spain.
The team of ‘Once Upon Your Time: storytelling for preventing early school leaving’ have completed the research of methodologies that use storytelling for personal development and to increase mental health in children and teenagers. The Surefoot Effect has covered methodologies that include the use of books in a library, writing in nature, superheroes and a card game with "dark themes" that have led children to write stories ranging from personal experience to topics such as dark holes and the slave trade that would have usually not grabbed their attention. The next phase of the project will see the creation of an advocate document for teachers in the participating countries to use these methodologies in the classroom with children and teenagers.
The three projects are co funded by the Erasmus+ programme.
The charity Climate Ed runs workshops with school children to further student engagement by building on the basic climate science message through role play, creative tasks, games and news features. In small groups, the children also have opportunities to express themselves with reflective writing.
Since Easter, Climate Ed volunteer Suzanne O’Donnell has been engaged in delivering five one-hour sessions to about 60 of Year 6 children at the Furzedown Primary School in Wandsworth, London. Suzanne, who is a former teacher and has a lot of energy for networking, enjoys being involved in the creative side of climate action together with the children. She’s convinced that the work will go towards raising a generation of carbon literate children, and through it they will support the foundations for a more sustainable future.
Ben Cuddon, founder of Climate Ed, a Carbon Conversations facilitator, and one of the directors of The Surefoot Effect, aims to teach children about climate change and empowers them to take action through the charity’s activities. To do so, Suzanne and other volunteers draw on their own background. For Suzanne it meant that she was able to use relevant examples of recent activism, for example student protest of fossil fuel companies funding at the Science Museum. It was also possible to include a slide showing an environmental art project attended by young children funded by their local council. She’s also keen to use her teaching skills to facilitate questions and let the children to voice concerns which they did with great enthusiasm.
To balance the science videos, the activities provided a way to make carbon counting fun by making up a catchy short rhyme or a comic sketch. Unsurprisingly this created quite a lot of laughter among the 9-10 year-olds. This added a playful aspect while focus was the major carbon reductions they and their families can achieve. Questionnaires and presentations pointed to carbon tracker apps for their families to carry the work into weekly accounting beyond the classroom and challenged them on how much emissions participants are able to save.
Suzanne thinks the students after the workshop have a good handle on the main causes and impacts. They are aware that flying or owning an SUV both being carbon intensive is a problematic issue; furthermore, some of the kids saw a conflict that those activities are presented as aspirational. However, they are aware that choices are available and can be made about the future that tackle the travel problem. They also pointed out benefits of vegan diets to their friends and parents and making reductions there too.
Suzanne taught art and design at secondary level some years ago. Working at primary level is a huge difference she says, because this age group wants to know what’s happening in the world, what's changing and why. It was a great reward for her to get back to her local community. Even with Covid restrictions they’ve proved this approach to be successful from a clarification and practical action point of view.
So far Climate Ed has run their programme in schools around south London, with bookings for the coming academic year there’s a huge desire to spread awareness among the school community and build relations with other groups.
If you would like to set up Climate Ed affiliate groups in the UK or in other countries the charity would love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
A few updates on the three Erasmus+ projects.
Breakthrough for Resilience
The project Breakthrough for Resilience has passed its half-way milestone recently. Partners have collected resilience tools in three aspects: people, places and communities, held a pilot workshop in November 2020, and the Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health based in Greece has run three further pilot workshops. Our partners will deliver 3 workshops during 2021, each dedicated to one of the three main aspects of the project. Please join us for our Creativity Builds Resilience workshop in June.
Sustainability, Heritage, Health
In the project Sustainability, Heritage, Health we have together with partners from Greece, Spain and Lithuania started planning the first routes which will explore heritage in the four participating countries and make connections to environmental issues. On one of the routes, in Athens, you can stroll along marble streets that are thousands of years old to learn about Poseidon, god of the seas, and the current state of the world’s oceans, pollution, how millions of people depend on the oceans for livelihoods, and the ways we have to protect them. On one of the routes in Scotland, you can learn about the visionary thinkers and how the country has become a leader in the transition to a more sustainable future.
Once Upon Your Time
In the project Once Upon Your Time for schools, we and partners in Iceland, Spain and Slovenia are researching storytelling methodologies. The goal is to adapt these methodologies and work with children aged 11-16 in schools in the four participating countries.
More info to follow as the projects progress.
The three projects are co funded by the Erasmus+ programme.
We benefit from varied landscapes with space for myriads of species - each living with a role to play. Being engrossed in such a rich environment can be both soothing and stimulating. Likewise, the International Conference on Ecolinguistics in April was a life-giving boost. The three days were packed with knowledge sharing on tackling real-world issues equipped with Ecolinguistics which is a term describing the connection between environment and language in a broad sense - Eco-language. The wide range of experiences based on activism, art, campaigning, education, research and studies on ways of expression, underlined that through these activities we can strengthen the life-sustaining interactions for all the beings on the planet and the planet itself. Ecolinguistics can support humans to connect with other-than-human nature.
Pam and Gazelle from Surefoot both delivered workshops. 'Using the tools of Nature to Breakthrough for Resilience' was one of the workshops, and is rooted in one of our European projects - a new element in the Eco-language tool box.
Interested in knowing more?
1) Free online course Stories we Live by about Ecolinguistics. The course is funded by the University of Gloucestershire for public benefit.
2) Check out what Surefoot offers to equip people, communities and organisations with skills for sustainability and resilience.
Liz from Surefoot is working in Midlothian on the Penicuik Carbon Challenge
project. She facilitated a Carbon Conversations Lent group for a local church community, where the participants aimed to focus on carbon reduction and climate change for Lent this year after their church pledged to a net zero emissions target by 2030.
A lot of the participants started the course thinking that big changes to their lifestyle were unlikely. However, the group has really come round to the idea of leaving a legacy of low carbon changes for future generations and have some big changes planned such as installing solar panels and switching to electric vehicles. They also plan to run a monthly low carbon topic for the church congregation with helpful info and advice.
The project is funded by the Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund.
By Euri Bartlome Vidal, Associate at The Surefoot Effect
As a host of the COP26 and a leading nation in the transition to a low carbon society and a net zero nation by 2045, the Scottish government asks the following questions:
To make recommendations to Ministers on how Scotland’s net-zero transition should be achieved, a Citizens’ Assembly on climate change was convened. Grounded in Scotland's Climate Change Act (2019), Scotland's Climate Assembly brought over 100 people together from all walks of life to learn about, deliberate and make recommendations to answer: "How should Scotland change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way?"
Each Assembly member identified the top 10 statements which were most important to them. These were consolidated and ordered based on the statements which were prioritised most by members. The two most important recommendations regarding fairness to tackle the climate emergency, prioritised by over 70% of Assembly members were:
1) Take into account the needs of different communities across Scotland, recognising that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
2) Target the highest emitters so that organisations and individuals with the highest carbon footprint have to make the biggest changes.
You can access the full document here: www.climateassembly.scot/interim-report
With the project 'Once Upon YOUR Time' we will provide opportunities for teachers to support their students’ mental health. Through storytelling-based methods the project focuses especially on students with fewer opportunities or at risk of social exclusion. We aim to use personal storytelling to understand the processes that make our life meaningful, whatever the circumstance lived.
Follow the project on Facebook @OnceUponYourTimeErasmusPlus
The 'Once Upon YOUR Time' is an international project funded by Erasmus+ involving four organisations: Youth Reach Centers of Reykjavik (Iceland), Institute for Research and Training in Education (Slovenia), YOMN network (Spain) and The Surefoot Effect (Scotland).
‘What are your hopes and fears for yourself and your community for the next 10, 20, 30 years?’
This is how we start Future Conversations, a series of workshops tailored for your community to provide time, space and impetus for a group to work collectively to begin making transformative changes toward a more resilient society.
Pam recently held the space for a set of Future Conversations for a group of Danish women looking to build their capacity to help their community continue its transition to a resilient sustainable and caring society.
Over the group’s time together they explored hopes and fears for the future and worked on communication and resilience skills. Future Conversations uses the principles of Natural Happiness, as outlined by Alan Heeks: using the lessons of other-than-human nature to help build our own resilience. Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects process was used to face the climate crisis and imagine and move toward a positive future, and examined ways of responding, and how the group might go forth with ideas and plans.
By the last session the group had already begun moving into action, but ensuring all along that individual resilience levels stayed high.
Get in touch if you are interested in Future Conversations with your community.
Here’s a collection of some of our articles which has been in our newsletters or published elsewhere.