Monday, July 13, 2009

The Giagantic Teso Opiyai faces human erosion

In the afternoon I took a stroll to see the great rock that the trainees were talking about and what was going to be our case study. I was warned against revealing my true identity, because the community, which was not oblivious to what they were doing as being wrong, was very hostile to journalists.
They were only friendly to local journalists and Osojo and many others were willing to go with me but I decided to go alone.  Camera on shoulder I took deliberate short steps when I was getting near the gigantic rock. I started taking pictures.
The first family that was breaking stones and heaping them up noticed and they sent a small boy probably to inform the head that there was an intruder. I casually took more pictures until I approached a young man and started chatting him up.
My case was like I work with an NGO that cares for the safety of workers. We were therefore concerned that they were doing this kind of work with no safety gadgets. He fell for it and told his wife about me. They showed me and I felt their palms which had almost lost feeling- the skin was so rough. The feet were cracked and had sores they needed gumboots I suggested.
Whole families including children and grand parents spent days here at the quarry cracking stones to be used in the construction industry. A basin cost as little as 1,500- 75 cents. A lorry came around and they loaded stones with spades, dust was everywhere polluting the air. The noise from the hammers cracking stones was a song; everyone was silent except for the men loading stones who were shouting at each other.
While we chatted a tall woman came over and spoke to me in Ateso I could not reply. She greeted me in English and I explained myself. The guy I was talking to also intervened and explained my mission.
She was happy that this (NGO-started by me) was concerned about safety at their work place. But went away with not much interrogation to me. I suspect she was still suspicious about me. I took some pictures and thanked the guy and strolled back to the hotel.
My analysis was that unless government found another alternative for the local people the giant opiyai rock would go and very soon. It would definitely destabilize the environment how I don’t know, the scientists can tell us.
Three weeks after I left Soroti deaths due to hunger were reported in the press. Although I could not monitor the local stations I imagined the journalists who were in the training reported these stories and gave a better explanation to the listeners.
Most of the journalists who attended (25) were from these districts were people were dying of hunger- Bukedea, Soroti, Katakwi, Amuria and karamoja. (It would be interesting to measure impact after training but the project does not allow for that).  
Food security was a problem but climate change had to be also be explained and put into context so that farmers could come up with adoption ways to guard against hunger and death. 
Action was taken. The president Yoweri Museveni went to Teso region to assess the situation. Relief food was delivered. Different leaders including the queen of Buganda – the Nabagereka, appealed to the government to extend relief food to the feminine victims. Members of parliament warned that climate change has had and is going to have a negative impact on food security.
But the problem is nobody seems to talk about sustainability. What I see is that rice, which is being promoted by the Vice president’s office as a poverty eradication scheme could, actually cause a lot of food insecurity as most homes abandon traditional food crops for rice.
Wetlands and swamps are also being destroyed in the name of growing this cash crop-rice. But households sell everything with nothing for them to feed on. The RDC Rukungiri mentioned it. A study case is Sierra Leone. More needs to be done.       

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