In Uganda, as in much of East Africa, climate change is leading to increasingly severe and erratic annual floods. In the past few months alone, the country has experienced such intense and unpredictable rainfall that it has at times brought life to a standstill, washing away roads, closing schools, and even destroying a public hospital near the shores of Lake Victoria.
Perhaps no one is impacted more by these changes than the rural women of Uganda. Women, who often take the lead on farming, face challenges growing crops in times of floods as well as drought. They must endure watching seeds washed away by rains and plants withering on the vines during dry spells. This past year, they also suffered through a plague of locusts that descended upon the region and decimated crops.
The voices of these rural women galvanized a global group of activists hailing from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States, who came together in 2019 to found Women’s Climate Centers International (WCCI). Guided by the slogan “Because the Earth needs powerful women,” this North-South collaboration is working with communities in these African nations to create climate hubs to help them adapt to climate chaos. Community members lead the decision-making process. This approach supports locally appropriate solutions and knowledge-sharing for greater climate resilience, while also removing major obstacles to rural women’s leadership.
In 2020, WCCI broke ground on its first climate center, in partnership with four women’s groups in the district of Tororo, Uganda. The groups are made up of women subsistence farmers who sell their produce during harvest season.
The Tororo community, which has experienced the detrimental effects of climate change for many years now — including longer periods of drought, increasingly unpredictable rains, and extreme rainfall — was eager to work with WCCI. One woman offered up 300 trees to be planted at the inaugural center. Other women and men volunteered to clear the land for the center’s farm and ready it for planting.
The initial work in Tororo is focused on bio-intensive farming — an organic agricultural system that focuses on achieving maximum yields from a minimum area of land, while increasing biodiversity and sustaining and restoring soil health — as a key solution to address issues of food and economic security. This farming method allows smallholder farmers to produce more food on their land, ensuring they can feed their families and have surplus products to sell. And since the method uses less water, fosters healthy soil, and relies on growing a diversity of plants, such farms are more likely to withstand increasingly unpredictable weather in the region.
At the Tororo center, we’re using onsite composting from our eco san toilets, as well as from crop byproducts and animal manure, to fertilize crops. We’re practicing deep soil preparation to ensure strong root systems. And we’re modeling inter-planting, which allows plants to mutually benefit from each other.
Learn more about Earth Island’s Women’s Climate Centers International at: www.climatecenters.org
“Given the nurturing nature of women, by training them, we are indirectly training an entire country, as women will pass on their knowledge to their children,” says Hajra Mukasa, one of WCCI’s founding members.
As a result of this WCCI initiative, Tororo farmers are already increasing their crop yields without harmful chemicals, increasing profits, and improving their climate resiliency.
In the coming years, WCCI will build upon this work, using the Tororo climate hub as a model for others in Uganda and Kenya, and adding projects on environmental conservation and restoration, climate-smart water sanitation and hygiene, as well as advocacy and entrepreneurship training.