There is an adage which heightens that “A stitch in time saves nine’. It implies that if one has a torn clothing, it is prudent to stitch it in time to avoid further expansion of the torn part. Unfortunately, if the torn portion is not covered in time, it may end up exposing one’s body. There is yet an obscene adage in “Runyankole-Rukiga” or I could graduate it to a Runyankole proverb since most of the Banyankole have refused to take heed of the escalating environmental situations, which is in respect to the only River Rwizi that has been pertinent to the sustainability of generations and later attribute it to other issues like witchcraft rather than combating the situation before it goes overboard. Look at the occupational permits of many developments a few meters from the River Rwizi banks? Where do you think the effluents are discharged or if well managed through detoxification or any modern means of safe disposal?
Besides, suppose there is a simple short time break down as systems are known to break down where do the effluents go? Surely can’t we do something before we lose it all? Can’t we safeguard and take forward in perpetuity good environmental conditions for future generations not to lose the pristine environment habitats. Unfortunately, if we do not take this call, we may start to scamper in a bid to remedy the situations when it’s already too late to salvage the situation. This is quite imminent with what communities are doing on River Rwinzi, as shown in the excellent photographs in sections of the media.
There is an English idiom which states that better late than never. May I be positive on this stance and congratulate the community members who came together to be exemplary and scoop out the water hyacinth.
As a scientist and one who knows what illegal harvesting of the hyacinth can cause, I pray it works in our favor. However, we must address the causes and not the symptoms, which I will spell out at the end of the article as the way forward for all of us right from the community, to investors who fuel degradation, experts who cannot speak the truth for fear of losing their jobs and the opinion leaders who fear to address themselves for fear of a reduced proceed in church tithe, on declaration of new bylaws and many other issues.
Besides, we need to call a spade a spade not a big spoon in this time of climate change and particularly in light of water resources. Did people know that the processed water in Kenya and the United Arab Emirates is more expensive than petrol? A quick explanation on this Dasani, the best water brand in Kenya a liter costs 150 Kshs an equivalent of 5,600 Ug shs whereas a liter of petrol costs 115 Kshs an equivalent of 4,140 Ugshs. Imagine how many Mbarara communities can afford this processed water in their families at this cost rather than educating everybody to keep River Rwizi pristine, and we all gain free and cheap clean water!
The Education sector today per se must critically revisit the curriculum, program and subject development in a historical, indigenous, traditional and sophisticated philosophical stand to bring back this rich and scholarly stand that is not written anywhere rather than borrowing subjects and programs from environments not similar or identical to ours. Thus, it elicits the reason Uganda as the Pearl of Africa has been unique over decades if not centuries.
Unfortunately, when we do not seriously look at issues objectively and from an informed point of view,the Churchill description of Uganda will go away in an overnight sight, thus, leading to regrets.Sprinkled milk is never regained, and that will be the last word much as most chemists have failed to describe the best way to separate blood from milk and get the same volume of contents and physical structure and value. This also applies if we are not careful as inhabitants of this planet, we will have no way to rejuvenate microclimate environments. Or simply to say “Enyanga kugambirwa egubwa yaboona” literally meaning that if you can’t listen to wisdom from the wise men and women, you perish when you meet challenges that would instead have not swallowed you! So fellow Ankole inhabitants and citizens of Uganda, let us guard the environment better even than how we guard our lives. Climate change is real and climate damming will swap all resources overnight in the same way like how credit crunch swapped the global economy overnight during the Christmas of 2008 or conversely the historical days when in Germany communities would push wheelbarrows to buy just a loaf of bread and one lady scolded them that if there is no bread why not serve them cakes. Problems and challenges are real, and solutions are with experts and charity begins at home let us not wait for others to chip in,we can be the movers of the correct decisions and riders to society sustainable development.
To be in the real picture of what River Rwizi in greater Ankole is all about, allow me to share this story with you readers of this article. During one evening, the famous Mbarara District Environment Officer Mr. Jeconius Musingwire was on radio station explaining issues as an expert, and many call-in listeners were opposed to his wisdom! Unfortunately, the same stance was observed in other media platforms when the same expert while educating masses on the effects of environmental degradation and you listen to the call-in questions and contributions you really shudder and conversely cannot believe that these are the same people who have come up with a community initiative to merge efforts and clean their mess. One evening I was driving from Kampala to Bushenyi. As someone who has been living outside Uganda since July 2014 but on intermittent visits I always like to switch to local radio of every wavelength at within the transect ride from Kampala to Bushenyi when in that location to be abreast with the current and civics news while in the country. I start with Capital Radio, through Radio Buddu and then end up with Radio West all the way from Kampala to Bushenyi. One time there was this famous Environmentalist who I know very well and clearly he was pushing for the conservation of River Rwizi and its water shade areas in a well moderated talk show. Alas, I tuned late as I approached Lyantonde having been awashed in yet another good discussion on Radio Buddu on the history of coffee farming in Buganda! Can you imagine all the callers were against his brilliant and well researched ideas! Can you imagine a caller who identified himself as a rich businessman in construction industry felling sand and related resources like bricks from the River Rwizi banks abused the listeners and other callers and the expert I would say with his arrogance and ignorance.
Those are the good God created Banyankole I would say and I am one of them because we take long to listen, understand, comprehend and do the right thing in the right time but now climate change and its effects are catching up with us and we have no where to go but to shape up and own our mistakes wholesomely! Therefore we must replace and plant all tress we have cut with non other then indigenous species like Ficus- “Emitooma”, Misopsis eminii- “Emisiizi”, Emitongore, Ebiiko, Emisha and many others and not Eucalyptus which is for quick fix and quick gain but in the end destroys the environment in an irreversible manner.
There is a time when Hon. Moses Ali was the Minister of Environment and led a tree planting exercise in Kashari near Mbarara town.
Though the timing was wrong because the environment day always falls close to a dry season on 5th of every June,the previous evening there was a talk show on radio and the moderator probed the experts hard on why they had planned planting trees during a dry season and yet people world over tend or copy what experts, leaders, opinion leaders and important people do arguing that people in the region would wait to plant trees and in the end not respect the climate and weather conditions thus the seedlings planted in the dry spell would all be a waste of time as they would never establish themselves due to lack of moisture!
I really saw a lot of sense because Ankole generally is a very dry and mostly the Kashari-Nyabushozi area due to the Ankole-Karagwean rock and soil series that are clay, silt and stony in nature. Above all Ankole is a very interesting area for us who are reading this piece of description and do not know what Ankole is all about, people copy without asking themselves the rationale behind the copying and in the end issues emerge when resources have already been lost. Once exception that saved Ankole was when they roasted the cotton seeds supplied by the colonial government and it saved this region from growing cotton at the time which indeed was not of food value but destined to feed industries abroad.
Imagine this scenario which I witnessed as we were beginning to appreciate the good booming Ugandan economy in the late 1990’s when a person bought a certain model of a car there would be a rush by those who can afford in the competition to buy that same model be it by structure of income or not but also by age bracket thus the reason some banking institutions rushed into greater Ankole for the richness of the business at that time as people had the capacity to repay the loans from milk, coffee, bananas, tea, tin, gold and other sources of income! This literally was based on the same level of income, some even went to the extent of borrowing big loans to sustain a particular life style whether in their means or not and later this ate into the development arena of these people the same way our refusal to hid to Environment experts advice and wisdom has made the River Rwizi get chocked with water weeds which biologically are indicators of siltation, degradation, eutriphication, and decay of protective organisms hence a lot of nutrients to support all forms of growth. In ecological terms colonization of all the five forms of environments, that is salty, fresh, medium moisture content environments, saprophytic, helophytic, thallophytic environments or dry or zerophytic or rock environments and boggy or marsh areas invite different organisms to make the environment better and what they want it to be. In this same manner the River Rwizi bed that has been completely eroded and tampered with right from all the water shade areas of Buhweju, Sheema, Ntungamo, Kajara, Nyabushozi particularly the Rwabarata hills and some parts of Igara counties that give the river tributaries of the streams which feed the River Rwizi right from the confluent point in Ruhorobero if not well protected the River is gone! Imagine the degradation and deforestation and swamp reclamation that has taken place in the hills of Sheema, Nyakibeere, Buhweju, Igara and parts of north Kajara bordering Buraro hills and the rich wet season run off originating from Kashari and Nyabushozi in areas of Kikatsi and Biharwe and Rwentondo hills.
Fellow Mbarara communities’ development is vital but we must be honest to ourselves in conserving the environment or else there is no water soon; fellow sand mining rich society and brick making communities and rich people the local investors of built environment let us be mindful on where we get our building materials from and give back to rejuvenate the environment for sustainability purposes! After all these good hotels and social amenity venues, we have constructed will not be conducive or cheap to run and the source of excellent livelihood when the environment is too harsh to sustain us all as long as the water is scarce as there is a simple analogy that water is life and not buildings.
The way forward is to respect experts opinion, plant more trees in the hills of Rwampara, Kyangyenyi, Buhweju, Kyeihara, Rwentodo, Rwabarata, Nyakashoga, Muhiito, and also try to sustainably cover the brick making areas where we scoop clay from after mining clay and sand so that it rejuvenates slowly back to normal. Mind you the Uganda Government has moved on to gazette sand as a classic mineral and shortly it will be too expensive to find if not already hard to come by today. Finally if any expert goes on any media talk show be it a radio, a television telecast, a short moment in church or mosque or at a party or burial ceremony let us listen carefully rather than lambasting the wisdom that experts own when informing us about critical matters like environment, health, development, economic and many others. It is terrible to find discussions going on where common laypeople criticize experts as if they know and in the end when we fail to tow the line of experts we are the losers like we are likely to lose River Rwizi unlike if we had listened to NEMA, NFA, UWA and NLC experts before we destroyed the environments they hold in trust for all of us and the generations to come. A great philosopher developed China by dictatorship and now China is a superpower we need some level of dictatorship in the aspects of environment, health and development ventures so that we sustainably take good microclimate and conducive and sustainable stands to help Uganda get out poverty as we move to the future for the future generations to have something to say about us or else we doomed and there is no next generation too. May be one school of thought can take me that it is through adverse conditions that humankind develops solutions, but I want to dilute this course by saying not when it is human-made. Can we all plant indigenous and fruit trees and trees that increase moisture in the atmosphere rather than planting species or varieties that have a lot of evapotranspiration that exhaust the aquifer water levels and in the end dry the environment. For example, Eucalyptus species, however fast-growing and with a lot of excellent services like hard timber and related attributes of good firewood in homes, schools, hospitals, hotels name it? If I may ask where are National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), National Forestry Authority (NFA), and Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA) National Land Commission (NLC) in all this disaster equation? If I may answer myself, these competent experts may be fearing for their positions and jobs as the ruling government has empowered society on rights and management which we the community are using this kind gesture of government in a wrong way and the end we the ones to suffer and start blaming the government! To remind ourselves we the government and the government is us so let us be rational in all we do in respect of experts particularly the professionals and the leaders who are champions on their game as we have just winners of the African Cup of Nations.
Why put in place environment police and yet this should be standard practice and knowledge and community work, aren’t we about to institute family policing police surely? I rest my case as we try to conserve environments in Uganda particularly swampland and sloping tops and forests unlike the destroyed Rwera- area and in respect to this article the more magnificent River Rwizi catchment area; For God and My Country Uganda!