From the title, some may wonder: Does Wales have anything to do with Uganda, a country far away at the equator? It must be about the disastrous climate changes situation in Uganda. That’s what I had thought about before I went to the lecture given by Prof. Hilary Thomas from Glamorgan University. When talking about climate change or global warming, the frustrating conventional thinking that it’s worrying but the problem is globally much related to economy and politics and cannot be solved if I recycle one piece of paper every day, would always come to the top of my mind. The lecturer answered the question, but as the title goes, ‘differently’. By demonstrating a successful Community to Community (C2C) project on tackling climate change in Mbale, Uganda by academics from Glamorgan University, the professor emphasises action in ‘region rather than nation’.
Mbale is the region the team chose to take action in Uganda. Supported by the charity PONT, the team built up a ‘town link’ between Rhondda Cynon Taf in South Wales and Mbale. The idea of a town link is not new but the one they created is not stopped on a culture level but to “bring about changes, to fight against poverty among communities in the developing world”. They are fighting not by donating money but by giving professional and technical supports so to make a sustainable development. That reminds me of the old saying ‘Don’t give people fish, but teach them fishing.’
For example, the team and the local NGOs helped local people build fuel efficient stoves, which means less bronchitis. They also trained the locals of manufacturing pressed bricks instead of baked bricks. The pressed bricks are stronger and cause less carbon.
In terms of climate change, the changed in Mbale are the slow rise of temperature which was less noticeable and the length and the intensity of the raining seasons, which are causing huge problem for the local coffee planting, which the local economy highly relies on. Growing coffee beans requires a special level of temperature and rainfall. Now the extended raining season makes the expected harvest impossible and the coffee beans unacceptable. That also means flood and landslide. The team helped the local research people to keep recording the changes and came up with the idea that to have tree shades for the coffee beans. Fruit trees are recommended, which will result in more stable soil for the coffees and also will grow fruits or another products for the farmers.
Equality is a message sending out through the link. The two towns both have a similar “glorious past” and a similar geological landscape – “bounded by mountains”. Moreover, the team there work with equal partners – teacher to teacher, medic to medic, engineer to engineer, pastor to pastor, academic to academic etc. While working with those colleagues, Prof. Thomas found that they’re just the same as colleagues elsewhere, having the same passion, same knowledge, however, they don’t have the same opportunity to get access to the internet, equipments and data, even data of their own country. She used to bring some basic statistics and documents on Mbale from a library in Britain to Mbale for the local researchers.
It’s uplifting that the group has done so much good work and built such a successful bridge between the two towns. Do it differently, we can still make a difference.