38 people from six nature loving countries have acquired skills in environment collaboration and conflict resolution (ECCR) during a one week training course conducted in Bigodi village, Fort Portal City.
The six countries include Finland, USA, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and the hosts, Uganda.
According to its innovators, the course focuses on inculcating skills and knowledge of environmental citizenship. This follows an established relationship between man and the environment and the resultant struggle between livelihoods and conservations which has always been fraught with conflicts and contestations.
“The population upsurge and the resultant poverty prevalence have meant that issues concerning harmonious and sustainable use of the environment have remained contentious.” Ms. Irmeli Mustalahti, one of the Principal Innovators said.
The training which was run from 21-25th August, was opened by Fort Portal Resident City Commissioner Ms Catherine Hellen Kamwine, accompanied by the District Police Commander, Mr Savior Achidir who also acknowledged challenges of the environment.
Ass Prof Tiina Kontinen, an Innovator from the University of Jyväskylä noted that environmental protection has become entangled in bitter contestations between and among different players from investors to state institutions to civil society and ordinary citizenry.
The course run under the Department of Community and Adult Education was organized under the theme: “Collaboration and Conflict Resolution: Community-based Natural Resource Governance in Rural Uganda.”
Fort Portal being previously known for human-environmental conflicts, the innovators chose Bigodi Community wetland sanctuary, where citizen-led and community initiated efforts are critical to minimising conflict over natural resource governance and to promote its sustainable use of natural resources.
The rising cases of investors filling wetlands with heaps of soil to erect industries and residential areas have caused incredible damage to livelihoods, resulting in flooding and washing away of road infrastructure in urban areas. Therefore, Bigodi was used as a testimonial example to teach communities through dialogue on how people can live with gazetted wetlands harmoniously.
The participating higher institutions of learning included the University of Eastern Finland, University of Jyväskylä, (Finland), Oregon University (USA), College of Business Education (Tanzania), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Makerere University and Kyambogo University (Uganda).
Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the Makerere University Vice Chancellor emphasized the need to rethink natural resource usage and lauded the invited guest for sparing some time and tour Uganda.
The training was well graced by participants from government agencies including National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), District Forestry Office, Police, Local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that are promoting eco-tourism in Pigoti Town Council, and community members whose crops had been destroyed by wild animals.
The ECCR course series has been running since 2016 under the auspices of the EDUCase platform which focuses on higher education, sustainable development and innovation.
Previous ECCR courses have been organized in Mexico, Mozambique, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Tanzania and now, Uganda.