In January this year, CHASE Africa and RICE West Nile started work on a new project to empower women, reduce poverty and strengthen natural resource management.

Over the course of 2020, the project aims to increase access to reproductive health information and services for women in the Arua District of Uganda, as well as improving the sustainable use of natural resources. 10,000 trees will be planted by women, and the project will also increase the number of fuel-efficient stoves produced and used in the area.

Supporting access to reproductive health

The first pillar of the project aims to give women the chance to choose the number, timing and spacing of their pregnancies to improve both women and children’s health. Only 19% of sexually active women in the West Nile region use modern contraception – the second lowest level of contraceptive use in Uganda. This is not their choice – in fact 43% of women say they would like to limit, space or delay their pregnancies but cannot access the contraception they need. This problem also affects young girls. A staggering 1 in 3 Uganda girls become pregnant whilst in education, leading to drop outs and reduced professional opportunities.

To address this need, RICE West Nile will hold dialogue meetings in marginalised communities to increase awareness and understanding of family planning. In remote and marginalised communities, many people do not trust modern methods of family planning, and they are unwilling to use it. The dialogue meetings will be attended by local leaders, religious leaders, the village health teams and other health personnel and many other community members, building trust in modern reversible contraception.

Following information sharing, we will conduct 2 mobile day-clinics. This involves a mobile clinic team with qualified medical staff visiting two villages, bringing all necessary equipment with them. They will set up the clinic for a day in each village, in a community building and with tents. The mobile clinics will provide free, voluntary family planning services and advice, primary healthcare, vaccinations, de-worming, HIV counselling and testing, and cancer screening. Contraceptives offered include 3-year and 5-year sub-cutaneous implants, 3-month injections, the pill, and condoms.

Tree planting and fuel-efficient stoves for better livelihoods and environment

Alongside giving women the chance to take control of their reproductive health, the project will also support improved sustainable livelihoods. When women can delay or space their pregnancies, they have more time for income generating activities which reduce poverty.

The project will work with 50 women on an environmental initiative to replenish degraded natural resources and reduce the demand for fuel wood. Women with access to suitable land will be assisted to plant a total of 10,000 trees, including fast growing species for fuel wood and timber, and fruit trees. These women will also be taught how to construct Lorena energy-efficient stoves, which use less wood to heat and cook, thus reducing firewood collected from indigenous forests.

With these skills, the women will be equipped to generate an income by making stoves and briquettes for other members of the community. They will also be able to sell surplus fruit from their trees.

Energy-efficient stoves and briquettes will reduce the demand for fuel wood, taking pressure off the local environment, and reducing the amount of time spent by women and girls gathering firewood, freeing up time to pursue other work or attend school.

We are very grateful to the Paul Hodges Trust for supporting this project. We look forwards to updating you as the project progresses.