Field trip in Uganda

As my Ugandan colleague Andrew already indicated in his previous post, we had a very intense one week in Uganda in early July visiting rehabilitated boreholes and meeting with our in-country partners to assess the on-going works. I feel very lucky that I had a chance to see our projects on the ground and to be able to talk the communities. Some of them shared their joy about the clean water the boreholes have been delivering since the rehabilitation and some other provided invaluable feedback how we can improve the projects to make an even bigger impact locally. Following up the lessons learned during this trip, we are currently working closely with our in-country partners to launch a more participative WASH sensitization program. We are hoping that this sensitization programme will mobilize those communities too that seemed a bit more reluctant to engage actively in the projects and encourage those communities who have been doing an amazing work to keep the boreholes safe and running.

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Alebtong

The most rewarding part of the journey was to see that we are working in an area where these kinds of projects are very much needed.  The decades long civil war has left the Northern districts without viable infrastructure for water supplies. Most of the population have relied on NGOs for years to provide the most basic services needed for their every-day life, however as the situation stabilized and international NGOs left, the government could not yet fill the gap in providing these services. It is great to see that through the carbon component we can commit to at least a 7-year period to maintain boreholes and to provide clean water services in Alebtong, Dokolo, Otuke and Kole. By involving the communities in the every-day running of the boreholes and providing education on WASH issues, we want to ensure  the sustainability of the clean water supplies, not only during the lifespan of the project but hopefully well beyond.

Uganda trip

As Ellie already pointed out in one of the previous blog posts, travelling to the project sites and seeing our projects in action is definitely the most exciting part of our jobs. At the moment I am preparing for my trip to Uganda, where I will have the chance to meet with the communities in Alebtong and Dokolo where two of the CO2balance borehole projects are implemented. In the first half of the week we will go up-country and visit each borehole one by one while in the second half of the week we are heading to Kaliro to meet with our new project partner and to finalise the details of the upcoming stakeholder meeting. It will also give me and Andrew, our in-country coordinator the opportunity to discuss the ways we can improve the sanitation and hygiene component of the projects. As we received plenty of  feedbacks from both local and international stakeholders on our boreholes in the past months, we are looking for the ways to incorporate their suggestions, best practices into our on-going projects, hoping to make the boreholes even more useful for the local communities. Busy and very exciting days to come; stay tuned for the next updates from Uganda!

1000 steps ahead

It’s a new month and in Uganda it has come with a sudden rise in temperature and retreat of the rains. We are asking ourselves where the heavy rains we had last week have gone. But then again, it is too soon to tell what the weatherman will conjure up. 

This month comes with two national holidays, both with a similar theme. First, on the 3rd of June, we celebrated the heroes of faith, who gave their lives for what the God they believed in. Then subsequently on the 9th of June we shall celebrate the heroes of our nation, who gave and are still giving their all to take Uganda to the promised land we believe we can achieve. In a way, they all are heroes of faith. They took a step of faith to stand for what was and is dear to them. 

The Uganda martyrs showed that it is never too soon to stand up for your convictions. Most of them were paiges in the king, Kabaka Mwanga’s court but their youth did not stop them from making a statement that ultimately cost them their lives. In the same breath, one of the liberation war stories that I will never forget is that of a young boy, who went in as a spy and caused mayhem in the enemy’s camp. I can’t really remember his name but the mental image of his face is still imprinted in my mind till this day. He was a hero.

Across the ages, many have stood up and committed their lives to their convictions. To these people, it was not money that motivated them but a cause that was close to their hearts. At every stage they ditched whatever would detract them and pushed on, sometimes sacrificing their lives, not living to see the benefits of their struggle and never seeing that their actions motivated many around them to go a step forward.

On Martyrs day, over one million people took part in the celebrations some coming from as far as South Sudan and Kenya. It showed how an act of sacrifice based on a positive conviction could go far in inspiring others.

Uganda is currently driven by a desire for a better nation. Many are going beyond the work of the government to privately change their small sphere for the better. Co2balance is not left behind in this. We selected 10 more  villages in Kaliro district in Eastern Uganda for inclusion into our safe water program. It will go only a small way further to provide safe water for communities in rural Uganda but “1000 households more” cannot be taken for granted. This month we shall visit Alebtong and Kaliro districts and I am pretty keen on the interaction both with the “wanainchi” within the villages and their leaders. These interactions always add value to our projects and will definitely improve on the way we deliver services to the people.

 

 

Why invest in borehole projects in Uganda?

In our previous blog entries we have already discussed how borehole rehabilitation projects can reduce co2 emissions originated from burning biomass for water purification. Today’s blog entry wants to shed a light on the current situation of the water sector in Northern Uganda to show that beside climate change mitigation, investing in borehole projects makes a big difference in people’s life on the ground.

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Across the globe, around 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies; which is approximately one in eight people (UNICEF/WHO). Only 22-34% of the population of sub-Saharan countries have access to clean water (UNEP), so it is clear that the problem of safe water supply or water stress is of particular concern in the region. It is in part due to the high variability and climatic extremes present in this area of continent, but the primary reason is a lack of infrastructure. The situation is further complicated in Northern Uganda – the project area of CO2balance – where communities have developed a dependency on development programmes as a result of having lived in IDP camps for over 20 years (UWASNET). The region experienced conflict as a result of armed rebellion by the Lord’s Resistance Army, which led to widespread displacement of almost the entire population of the region (UNICEF). The recovery now is under way, but several challenges slow down the reconstruction of the area. Water stress has been shown to be one of the key barriers in achieving economic development, so achieving the growth necessary to invest in infrastructure remains out of reach in a vicious cycle.

Through effective and accountable external funding and through close cooperation with local communities, co2balance aims to provide a potential model in coping with the lack of investment in Kole, Alebtong, Otuke and Alebtong districts, hoping that this way we contribute our fair share in solving the problem. For more information on our boreholes stay tuned on this blog where our in-country coordinator will post regular updates on the progress of our clean water projects.

Climate Change Unit Finally Approves the Uganda CDM Efficient Cookstove POA

 

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There is a saying in Uganda that the British introduced bureaucracy and Africans perfected it, modified it and re-launched it. The process of getting a Letter of Approval (LOA) from the Uganda Designated National Authority  provided us with a perfect lesson in bureaucracy but at the end it was a big relief for all to finally have it out of the way. This document is evidence that the project has adhered to all the prerequisite conditions for establishing a carbon project in Uganda. Without it, no project under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can proceed to registration.

Our first application for the LOA was made in September 2011. At that time, we were still trying to get National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to provide environmental compliance approval for the project areas and we were in the process of engaging them.  Our intention was to get a clearance pending environmental approval.  Unfortunately at that time, due to the lack if the aforementioned approval, the application was shelved.  Our focus then shifted to NEMA with various staff members who knew the NEMA officials personally meeting them to try and get our EIA to the top of the agenda.  Patrick Emopus who had previously worked with NEMA was very actively involved in this process.. I personally made many trips to Kampala from Jinja for this very purpose.

Eventually in mid January 2012 we received the EIA certificate for environmental approval and applied for the LOA. During this cycle the LOA approval procedure was altered by Climate Change Policy Committee (CCPC) to include a site visit to verify the documentation provided. I was notified of this during March of 2012. This move put a dent into the previously efficient LOA approval system that the Climate Change unit of Uganda was renowned for. At that point the government was short of finance and they were not able to approve funding for either these trips or for the CCPC.  Inspite of various interventions including a letter to the Prime Minister’s office we were not able to speed up the process of releasing finances. When in late 2012, the CCPC announced that it was prepared and had finally been funded, we thought this would be the end of the line but alas it was not to be.   We selected Iganga as the sample Project area after agreeing on the futility of a visit to Kanungu, which would take around 10 hours to reach on a site visit! A month later when the first LOA was issued, the CCU had – among other errors – indicated that Iganga was the first project, instead of Kanungu. When I tried to get this corrected, I was informed that I would need to have a visit conducted in Kanungu in order to approve the changes in the LOA but again the CCU was short of finance.

After months of deliberations, we eventually got the CCU to agree on funding for the trip to Kanungu. This was eventually to be the final tonic for the issuance of the LOA for us. Beyond this the CCPC had one meeting around November and approved the projects. It took a further two months of weekly phone calls and the intervention from the Regional Coodination Centre of the UNFCCC to finally get the LOA signed on the 4th of February 2014, a full 2 years and 4 months after our first asking. It was a full tour of the bureaucratic public service but with many friends made along the way and a working relationship built, we are sure to have it easier next time round.