By Gerald Tenywa
Nalimawa village in Kamuli is waking up from sleep and is dreaming big: It wants to become a sustainable village where incomes increase without depleting the environment.
Betty Tigawalana, a resident of Nalimawa has taken a step into the future. She earns three times her previous income. She also turns cow dung into biogas, which she uses for lighting and cooking. Others include processing surplus milk into yoghurt. This has come as a result of ensuring that waste is not thrown away.
In addition, she increases productivity where more yields are harvested without increasing the size of land, which is part of the solution to sustain the growing global human population.
As Tigawalana produces biogas for cooking that has spared millions of trees, by-products of bio-gas provide good manure for the land. After harvesting, the residues from the crops such as maize, stalks are used for mulching to ensure that water is kept in the soil.
This allows nutrient cycling to flourish and sustain life on earth- “I feed you and you feed me.”
“I earn three times more from land,” says Tigawalana.
She says harvesting rain water has helped her keep it for long and make it available for the crops and cattle that produce cow dung, a raw material for biogas. She dug trenches that channel water into the soil and also underground tanks for keeping water from the house.
“Water is the key to production of food and biogas.”
The gains at Nalimawa have not gone unnoticed. At the recent launching of Tigawalana’s farm, which has turned into a training centre, Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of Parliament noted that the simple technologies were transforming people’s lives and that they should be replicated.
Tigawalana is a member of Balimi Network for Developing Enterprises Rural Agriculture to (BANDERA), an NGO supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Ministry of Agriculture.
Addressing desertification and climate change
Nalimawa sits on the cattle corridor that runs from north eastern Uganda across central Uganda to south western Uganda. This is one of the water-thirsty parts of Uganda, but the local residents have improved the value of the land and they are turning it into a vanguard of food security.
They plant food crops together with fruit trees such as oranges and ginger. The local people are reversing the harsh conditions of the land that is becoming barren.
“If you have a diversity of enterprises it helps to overcome negative impacts of climate change,” says Stephen Muwaya, the coordinator for sustainable land management in the ministry of agriculture.
“It is difficult for climate change to hit all the crops and fruit trees at the same time.”
As a result of destructive activities such as charcoal burning and farming without replenishing the soil, desertification is creeping into the cattle corridor, which covers about half of Uganda.
“Organic agriculture replenishes the soil and it is helping to reverse desertification,” says Muwaya.
Kadaga waters vegetables at one of the improved farms in Kamuli. PHOTO/Gerald Tenywa
Women benefit most
Also, organic agriculture reduces labour drastically helping women most of whom are engaged in agriculture. “The women have had their livelihoods improved,” says Muwaya.
He explains that it has lifted the burden of tilling the land off the backs of the women. “Mulching does not allow weeds to grow.”
Previously, women used to spend a lot of time fetching water, but this is no longer the case since water harvesting has brought it closer to their doorsteps. The water is also used to grow vegetables around their homesteads, something that has also improved nutrition for women and the children.
At the same time, processing of surplus milk into yoghurt has helped to put money into the hands of women.
“We do not have to depend on the men to provide everything in the home,” says Ruth Magoba, a resident of Nalimawa who is engaged in making yoghurt.
“It has reduced over dependence on men and conflicts.”
Integrated initiatives improves economic base
According to Muwaya, Nalimawa has proved that by managing natural resources you can improve your economic base at the same time.
“Organic agriculture has helped communities earn more yet it has also created resilience against climate change and also environmental benefits,” says Muwaya.
He says it has also improved the esteem of the farmers and local politicians have started giving it support.
Lessons from Nalimawa for social development goals (SDGs)
As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) come to an end in 2015, global debate on SDGs that will replace MDGs is heating up in developed and less developed countries like Uganda.
Muwaya looks at how land has been managed at Nalimawa and how it has transformed lives, pointing out that it is a critical asset that should be given attention.
He also says policies that could add value to land should be implemented without any delay. Others say sustainable energy sources such as biogas should be promoted as an alternative to biomass (charcoal and firewood) energy.
In addition, the biomass should be made more sustainable since the current methods of charcoal production recover only 10% of the wood. Also improved technologies should be used for cooking.
Currently 8.7% of Ugandans used improved cooking stoves with the potential to reduce energy wastage by 60%, according to Robert Ddamulira, the regional coordinator for energy at World Wide Fund for nature (WWF).
Tigawalana also points out that the local people do not have a way of making the politicians more accountable.
“How come that organic agriculture is not being supported and other sectors get the bulk of Government funding?” she asks.
Nalimawa’s integrated initiatives offer Ugandans a number of solutions concerning poverty reduction, minimising desertification and increasing resilience to climate change, according to Muwaya.
As I left Nalimawa, I kept on thinking about the global challenges and how to respond to them. By teaming up with Tigawalana’s group, Muwaya seems to have the answers in the saying, “think globally and act locally.”