Posted on October 13th, 2017
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.
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.
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 10,000 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.