Gender equality and women’s empowerment critical for sustainable livelihoods and management of wildlife resources. Within the Elgon protected areas, family-based communities co-exist with wildlife species. Families are constantly negotiating and sometimes conflicting with wildlife over food supply, water resources, and land use. At the same time, sociocultural norms about what is considered appropriate for women and men in society operate to determine who has power over access, control, and use of these resources. Evidence shows that supporting gender equality and promoting women’s empowerment translates into increased food supply and better nutritional intake in families, improved health and economic security, as well as innovative ideas about land use and water management. EWCO takes gender issues into account to provide training and research. Activities include grassroots training of indigenous communities in relevant skill-sets to include, food security, reproductive health,Natural resource use and management , social entrepreneurship, land-use planning and disaster management,and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
The Mt. Elgon region of Uganda is reported to have the highest rates of landslides and floods in the country with devastating effects on the livelihood of people. Population increase is a very significant driver to landslide occurrences and it also increases the risk as many people settle in the steep slopes with high landslide hazard.
The communities in this area because of low literacy levels rarely use family planning methods. Under-age marriages have also been identified as a contributing factor to a fast growing population. The level of education is low and 60% of the communities have attained primary level education and 10% have no formal education. This makes it difficult for many to easily understand the conservation measures that reduce landslide disasters.
The key primary effects to landslides and floods in the Mt. Elgon region include loss of life and injuries, destruction of infrastructure, destruction of farm land and livestock and destruction of property and business. In the long run, communities with broken sanitation facilities, disrupted education systems, malnutrition and poverty are susceptible to secondary effects such as famine, disease outbreak like cholera, Typhoid and other public health concerns.
1. INTEGRATED PHE,WASH&CONSERVATION
Elgon Wildlife conservation Organization is working with partners to implement an integrated Conservation with Population, Health, and Environment (PHE) and WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) project whose approach is based on the premise that people’s health and the environments in which they live are inextricably linked. A functioning ecosystem sustains life and provides the necessary services for human well-being.
The aim of our PHE and WASH projects is to improve access to reproductive and other health services, access to clean water and sanitation services for vulnerable populations in rural and ecologically threatened areas, while at the same time empowering these communities to manage their natural resources in ways that benefit their livelihoods. By linking these issues, people are increasingly motivated to change behaviors that threaten their health and the environment.
Elgon Wildlife conservation Organization uses an intergrated PHE, WASH and conservation approach proposes that close collaboration and coordination across multiple sectors contributes to holistic results—people with improved health outcomes, diversified livelihoods, and stronger, more sustainable ecosystems.
The provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in communities has been established to improve health, boost educational achievement, and promote gender equity which has a positive impact on the society
The challenges of water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices in Mount Elgon communities are becoming alarming due to incessant reported cases of water-related illnesses, which continues to be one of the major health challenges in this indigenous communities Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization is working to improve alternative on how the communities could be reached through our WASH program to proffer solution to the looming danger on public health.
2. EXPANDING ACCESS TO FAMILY PLANNING SERVICES AT COMMUNITY LEVEL.
Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization works in front line indigenous communities bordering protected areas to promote access to health and Family planning(Sexual Reproductive) services, Education$ Entrepreneurship skills building , Access to Safe Water & sanitation services and Economic empowerement .
3. MITIGATING LANDSLIDES & CLIMATE CHANGE IN ELGON REGION OF UGANDA
Mount Elgon from which the National Park derives its name is an extinct volcano with an age of about 24 million years. Nine districts share Mount Elgon and these are Bukwo, Kween, Kapchorwa, Bulambuli, Sironko, Mbale, Manafwa , Bududa and Namisindwa .
Mount Elgon volcano and its surrounding districts is the hotspot for landslides in Uganda. Degradation of slopes through soil loss due to landslides in this district is a problem with fatalities, environmental consequences and food shortages in the future. During the period 1997 to 1999, landslides killed 48 people and displaced 10,000 (Kitutu et al., 2004). Further still in 2010 and 2011 about three hundred and eighty people were killed by landslides in this area.
CAUSES OF LANSLIDES IN THE ELGON REGION
The main triggering factor for landslides in the Mount Elgon Region include increasing human population growth, Forest encroachment, Deforestation, Unsustainable farming practices and Climate change hence rainfall changes . Rains that go on for days while delivering little amounts of water cause more landslides because of high infiltration of the water into the soils causing stagnation. The preparatory or causal factors are geology, slope shape, slope undercutting and soils texture.
There are a number of factors predisposing people, infrastructure and institutions to the effects of landslides and floods among which include; settling in high-risk areas such as mountain slopes, lack of information on mitigation measures to reduce the effects of landslides; instability of slopes; the informal nature of houses which makes them prone to collapsing in the event of a landslide; and low level of preparedness in the district. In the event of a disaster, the social characteristics of household members such as age, sex, health status, and disability increase vulnerability to the disaster effects. Oftentimes, women, children, the sick and the elderly have been reported to be the most at-risk groups affected by landslides and floods. In particular the young children and elderly are vulnerable because they are too weak to run and often times remain at home and miss out on the warnings about the threat of landslides and floods.
IMPACTS OF LANDSLIDES IN THE ELGON REGION
Population is a very significant driver to landslide occurrences and it also increases the risk as many people settle in the steep slopes with high landslide hazard. The communities in this area because of ignorance rarely use family planning methods. Under-age marriages have also been identified as a contributing factor to a fast growing population. The level of education is low and 60% of the communities have attained primary level education and 10% have no formal education. This makes it difficult for many to easily understand the conservation measures that reduce landslide disasters.About 507 people have been killed by landslides since 1800. The economic damage from these landslides is not well documented which is one of the shortfalls in this process.
4.WOMEN EMPOWERMENT THROUGH RENEWABLE NATURAL RESOURCES
The main economic activity is farming and both cash and food crops are grown. The communities are strongly dependent on forest land for farming, food, firewood, among others. Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization is working with partners to change the dependency on land as the only source of livelihood by creating awareness on the importance of forest conservation and finding alternative source of income.
Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization is collaborating to implement some of the alternative interventions suggested by the community including, Conservation Education and awareness program to sensitize the community about the usefulness of afforestation, working with Uganda Wildlife Authority and District Natural Resources departments to come up with strict rules on those who encroach on forests.
Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization is working with individuals, households and communities to come up with some local coping strategies including a combination of all the strengths, attributes and resources available within a community, society or organization that can be used to avert some or all of the negative effects of a shock or stress.
For instance, relocation to safer areas if the threats are too great to ignore, receipt of aid and relief, and resorting to subsistence and innovative farming practices such as terracing in order to overcome crop destruction following heavy rains .
In Uganda the national policy for disaster preparedness and management addresses some key coping issues such as resettlement of people living in high risk areas, applying appropriate farming technologies and prohibition of settlement in high risk areas.
However, implementation of the Policy actions on landslides remains significantly inadequate. This could probably be because of the limited capacity to manage and reduce disaster risks at both community and national levels.