Overview of the project
30 women members of the forest dependent community got together to respond to challenges paused by Climate Change.The membership has increased to 300 to-dates and is still growing. Being predominantly a hunter-gatherer community, the forest had been their source of food. The forest was also a source of fiber for crafts, thatch grass and poles for building shelters and fuel-wood and it had provided the community with medicinal herbs . That is not to mention the contribution the 91Sq. Km Forest was making to regulate Climate by absorbing the Ozone damaging emissions. The women, whose socially constructed roles dictated that they gather fuel wood and food as well as fetch water for their household needs, were particularly affected as their workload increased because they had to move long distances in search of these life support items. The community is part of the 23% Ugandans that live below the poverty line. They are 100% dependent on fuel-wood for cooking and kerosene for lighting. In a Country where the doctor to patient ratio is 1:20,000 the women employed their indigenous knowledge to administer herbal medicine to the sick in the community. Suddenly, the community was cut-off from their source of sustenance, when immediately after the first Sustainable Development Conference in Rio De Janeiro in 1992, Uganda Government put in place a Policy to gazette the forest, that was a lifeline for the community, . As such the community would often access the forest illegally. They fought running battles with the National Forest Authority enforcement agents and many of them were thrown into jail. In turn, the community set the forest on fire, destroying biodiversity.
To improve community resilience to the adverse Climate Change effects
1/15/2014 - 1/31/2024
The initiative has planted 2,137 hectares of the Rwoho Natural Forest buffer zone with 1,068,599 trees absorbing 641,100 tons of Carbon per rotation (Twenty Year Period). By promoting household and school use of fuel efficient stoves, the initiative has reduced consumption of Woody biomass from the average/mean 147 Kg per household per month to 100 Kgs per household per month. This has allowed the forest to self regenerate.The initiative has reduced the threat from fire on the natural tropical forest of Rwoho from 76% to 10%.There were reports that the honey bee population was declining rapidly. The initiative has reversed this by replacing traditional bee hives, which were harvested by burning off the bees, with modern bee hives that are harvested by smoking, thus conserving the bees which pollinate crops.
Social Inclusion and Governance
The project area is culturally male dominated. Although Uganda has a gender policy in place that spells out equality and equity in relations between genders and requires gender responsive planning for all development projects, women marginalization is still deeply entrenched. Century old traditional practices have left women without education, skills and productive resources such as land. This project has taken this into account and it is employing the principles of affirmative action. All men, women and people with disabilities have equal access to the benefits of the project. The initiative is promoting honey production, an income generating activity that is not labour or capital intensive and does not require a lot of land, to cater for women and other vulnerable groups who lack productive resources.
The women democratically elect the Governing Board from the general assembly which is comprised by themselves on an annual basis at the Annual General Assembly meeting. The General Assembly is the supreme body of the initiative and makes all the decisions by consensus. The initiative is creating awareness and imparting skills to women in fuel-efficient stove construction. These are marketable skills that women can use to get employment to earn a living.
The initiative has catalyzed positive behavioral changes in the forest dependent community. Whereas before the initiative scientific awareness of Climate Change causes and effects, adaptation and mitigation responses was below 10 percent now it has increased to 70%.
The initiative has also imparted stove and rainwater harvesting tank construction skills as well solar lighting and phone charging installation and maintenance skills. As such 300 households in the community have willingly adopted use of alternative renewable energy. This makes available solar light to 10,500 school pupils to revise at night which has had the benefit of saving trees of the natural forest used for fuel wood, reducing emissions from burning Kerosene, a fossil fuel, for lighting as well as improving performance of the school pupils.
The women are the owners of the initiative and support it with their subscriptions and membership fees, as well as inkind contributions.
SWAGEN is a grassroots organization founded and owned by grassroots women in Uganda. The organization came into existence in 1998 out of felt need. Although the period spanning 1986-1990 saw a proliferation of women NGOs the majority were national level.
The Mission of the organization is, ‘To create strong grassroots community groups capable of actively participating in, meaningfully contributing to and efficiently tapping the benefits of mainstream national and international development’.
SWAGEN is involved in many interventions to alleviate livelihood challenges including :
• Rights-based, Gender responsive Environment and sustainable natural resource use and management
Under this program component the organization works with forest dependent communities, with women spearheading the process, to secure their rights to participate in and share benefits of Natural Resource Conservation in a collaborative management arrangement with National Forest Authority.
• Food Security and food sovereignty
SWAGEN is promoting right of access to, control and ownership of household productive resources such as land, agro-ecological and organic agriculture practices at household level. This involves indigenous seed preservation, soil nutrient recycling and natural methods of pest and disease control.
Support for Women in Agriculture an Environment is officially registered with the NGO Board in Uganda, and holds Special Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN. In addition to addressing immediate needs of Indigenous People and Local Communities, the organization addresses strategic needs by contributing to an enabling natural resources policy and practice environment, with increased and active participation and self-representation of poor and vulnerable natural resources users, men, women and youth. This is through linking evidence based information and micro-advocacy action to intermediary, national, regional and global policy and advocacy processes. SWAGEN is the Eastern Africa Region Representative to the Civil Society Mechanism Coordinating Committee for engagement with UN FAO’s Committee on Food Security (CSM 4 CFS). The organization is also the Observer for Africa on the Climate Investment Fund – Forest Investment Program (CIF – FIP) and is accredited to UN Environment.