In Northern Uganda, our work continues to support better health, livelihoods and environment for rural communities. Since January when we first announced this project, activities have been launched to great success, despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with our local partner RICE West Nile, two women’s groups have been identified to create Women’s Environment Clubs. They have learnt how to build energy saving cook stoves and have planted trees around their homes, with great benefits.

Bakoko is one of the women who has learnt to build her own energy saving stove. She would walk 4kms, spending 2-3 hours to fetch firewood from the bushes three times in a week to avoid spending Ugx.5,000 to buy firewood that barely cooked food for a day. “In a day I could use a bunch of firewood worth 5,000. This was tiresome because after spending hours fetching firewood I would go for water and do other house chores too”, she explained.

After receiving training, Bakoko is now using a medium size improved cook stove that can serve the twenty people in her extended household. “Currently I fetch firewood once in a week because I use the stove you taught us to construct and my kitchen”.

The stoves not only reduce the amount of firewood needed, they also reduce the unhealthy smokey open fires traditionally used. This improves women and girls’ health, who are responsible for household chores in most rural Ugandan households.

Club members have also planted over 11,000 trees to meet their basic needs and provide future income. The species planted will provide timber and fruits, improving nutrition and reducing the distance women habitually walk in search of firewood. By combining environmental protection with fuel conservation and family planning support, the project is holistically addressing the key challenges facing families and the environment.

The past six months have also presented challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the mobile health and family planning outreaches we had planned. Strict government measures are keeping communities safer, but unfortunately mean that the large gathering attracted to our clinics are not currently possible. In the autumn these will hopefully resume, giving women in the area the chance to learn about family planning and start using a modern contraception. This will prevent unwanted pregnancies and allow families to space their births, which is more healthy for the mother and child.

We are very grateful to the Paul Hodges Trust for supporting this project, and look forwards to bringing you further updates during the year.