Make it Rain in Mabira: Strengthening Forests and their Communities

Posted on October 13th, 2017

Mabira Forest Water Collection

It’s a long walk through the forest to the nearest water source for these two brothers.


This week marked the beginning of HYT’s latest project, and one of its most exciting yet! The Trust has partnered with Mabira Forest Integrated Community Organisation (MAFICO) and Australian benefactor Bob Sayer, to carry out a project to benefit both the forest and its people.


Mabira Forest Foliage

‘Mabira’ means ‘forest of forests’ in local Luganda dialect.


Spanning over 30,000 ha, and with more than 200 tree species, Mabira is one of the last large blocks of moist semi-deciduous forest in central Uganda. Thanks to its rich array of wildlife, including the endangered Nahan’s partridge, it is classified as an Important Bird Area.


But the forest is under growing pressure from expanding industry, with cash crop cultivation replacing ancient vegetation and polluting waterways. Firewood extraction further impacts local wildlife, and disrupts vital ecosystem services such as water regulation, nutrient cycling and carbon storage.


Mabira Water Source

Surrounding communities suffer along with the forest, as water becomes increasingly polluted.


HYT is introducing Mabira’s forest communities to the Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block (ISSB) which, unlike the widely used burnt brick, cures in the sun without the need for firewood. Local youths are getting to grips with the technology as they learn to build six 20,000 L rainwater harvesting tanks in regional schools. These make use of the forest’s abundant rainfall to give communities easy access to clean water.


The course is led by expert trainer Musa, who passed through the programme himself seven years ago. We joined him on a tour of the area to understand the current situation of its people.


Mabira Brick Kilns

Musa is proud to teach a sustainable alternative to these environmentally damaging fired bricks.


These kilns are used for making Uganda’s principal building material – the burnt brick. This involves firing clay from wetlands, which contributes to widespread degradation and threatens the habitats of species like the sitatunga and vulnerable shoebill.


Mabira Brick Makers

Until recently, the forest fragment to the right covered the entirety of this degraded wetland.


Each kiln of 10,000 bricks consumes fourteen tonnes of firewood, or three large, mature trees! The brick-makers we met here had sold their entire stack within a week. It is HYT’s mission to transform this lucrative business from an environmental disaster into a sustainable industry.


Mabira Trainee Irene

Irene is one of the new trainees, soon to become experienced in sustainable construction.


Last week, unemployed Irene Nakafeero was amused by the possibility of being selected to take part in construction in her village of Kizigo. However, she and two other trainees from the local area will soon become employable, environmentally-friendly builders as they learn alongside experienced HYT masons.


Mabira Kikube Primary School

Collecting water is a time-consuming and often dangerous task for the children of Mabira.


Within a few months of intensive training, the youths of the Mabira Forest region will gain vital skills to benefit both their communities and their environment. The water tanks will allow schools to collect water from regular rainfall, saving long trips to polluted water sources. They will also introduce the forest’s people to low impact building techniques, so that they can develop in harmony with, rather than at the expense of, Mabira forest.


You can keep up-to-date with Mabira and the rest of HYT’s work by following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.









Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

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Kathy’s Centre: “Another Block in the Wall Against HIV!”

Posted on September 22nd, 2017

On Friday 15th September, representatives from Uganda and the UK gathered in Mayuge to celebrate the culmination of an ambitious construction project, and the beginning of a state-of-the art health, social and educational programme, here at Kathy’s Centre.


Kathy's Centre: Moris & Harriet

The opening ceremony was expertly led by Act4Africa team members Moris and Harriet.


The project embodies the name and spirit of Kathy Smedley, teacher and co-founder of Act4Africa who passed away in August 2014. Like its namesake, Kathy’s Centre is dedicated to providing an array of resources and assistance to the most vulnerable in Ugandan society.


Kathy's Centre: Kids

Children from the local community were eager to check out the beautifully hand-painted kindergarten.


Committed to conscientious, positive change from the programme’s inception, Act4Africa partnered with Engineers for Overseas Development (EFOD) and the Haileybury Youth Trust (HYT) to construct a high quality, sustainable community centre using the interlocking stabilised soil block (ISSB).


Kathy's Centre: Martin & Tracy

Act4Africa co-founder Martin Smedley & key fundraiser Tracey joined the Ugandan team dancing for joy at the opening of the new centre!


Building with ISSB means providing sturdy, stylish infrastructure using locally sourced, widely available soils. These are manually compressed into blocks and dried in the sun, saving the 11 tonnes of firewood necessary for a burned brick structure as big as Kathy’s Centre.


Eco-friendly Kathy's Centre

3 of the large, mature trees overlooking the centre would have paid the price for its construction using burned bricks.


By choosing to use ISSB, Act4Africa has helped to ensure the long-term health of Mayuge’s environment and its community. Local youths have also joined in the construction process, learning vital building skills alongside graduates of HYT’s ‘one community’ programme.


Kathy's Centre: Trainees

Mudoola Abdulah and Bogere Ibra are rightly proud of the structure they’ve completed here, all while learning on the job!


EFOD and HYT training has provided sustainable livelihoods for these young masons, who now make blocks for sale from the centre. How’s that for employable skills? This is one of many activities, including goat-rearing and basic veterinary training, that will help to provide access to independent income for the centre and its beneficiaries.


Kathy's Centre: Goat Farm

Kathy’s Centre will soon be the goat-to place for young women to gain economic independence…


Crucially, Kathy’s Centre will provide the district, which has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence in Uganda, with vital testing and counselling services, adding to the 70,000 people the organisation has tested and the 1.4 million it has educated since 2000. The new facilities will also host a youth club and a kindergarten, empowering the young men and women of Mayuge district!


Kathy's Centre: Celebration

The talented dance troupe who performed at the ceremony are part of the generation who will receive the benefits of the centre.


We’d like to thank Act4Africa for making us a part of such an exciting and transformative project! HYT and its new masons also extend their gratitude to Engineers for Overseas Development for their ongoing professionalism and patience – our trainees weren’t the only ones who learned a thing or two!


In the words of Pastor Richard Abaliwano, “Together, we have put another block in the wall against HIV.”


Let’s keep building!









Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

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