Gender and Climate change. The role of Women in adaptation work

Friday, July 12, 2013


By Tracy C. Kajumba, ACCRA Uganda

It was a rainy morning on 12th November 2012 when I led a team of government official and ACCRA staff from Mozambique, Ethiopia and Uganda travelled to Harugale sub county, Bundibugyo District in western Uganda to share experiences of the communities participating in the implementation of the National Adaptation Programmes.  Regional learning exchange visits is part of ACCRA’s approaches to enhance adaptation initiatives.  The NAPA implementation in Bundibugyo district is being done through a tripartite agreement between the Ministry, ACCRA Uganda and Bundibugyo local government. Among the adaptation activities being carried out by the communities are implementing energy saving cook stoves (a brick lorena stove type)  

Bundibugyo District is vulnerable to disasters like landslides, mudslides, and soil erosion due to the steep slopes which characterise the area. Collecting firewood is very tedious for women and girls who have to walk long distances with the winding roads up and down the hills. In addition, forest clearing is very rampant as community members burn charcoal to earn a living. This is a big concern for the District leadership who envisage increased erosion and landslides due to the bare hills, or else something is done. The introduction of the energy saving cook stoves was therefore a welcome idea.

I met Biira Annet at the sub county, she is medium sized and dark skinned, with a serious and responsible look. She is a member of the sub county NAPA implementing committee and a trainer for construction of energy saving cook stoves. She says that the cook stoves have benefited many women who had to walk long distances and yet had a lot of other domestic and farm work to do. She says that the girls also benefit because in their culture, boys do not collect firewood, so the girls had a big burden of walking long distances to collect firewood which affects their education, and exposes them to other dangers like defilement, cuts and wounds. She has trained 80 women in Harugale Sub County, who are also training others. I asked her the challenges she meets while training women and she says, “Construction of cook stoves has been a domain for men; some of them think I should not be the one training. I learnt from another NGO that was working in the District but, I had never got an opportunity to use my skills. With NAPA project, I now have a chance to use my skills to help other women.” Although she hinted that she does not earn from this work but does it voluntarily.

After the sub county meeting, we hiked up the mountain to visit some of the women who were trained by Annet to make the cook stoves. The hiking was so tough that I almost stopped mid way!! Never the less, I managed to reach Yeyeri’s home. Yayeri is one of the women who Biira trained and when I asked her how the energy saving cook stove has improved her life, she had this to say; “When I was using the three stones cook stove, I was using a lot of firewood. A bundle would be finished in two days, but now I use only three sticks a day and I only collect fire wood twice a week yet I used to do it four times or so.

The three stone cook stove required me to sit and tend the fire to keep it burning, which would make me inhale a lot of smoke which was dangerous to my eyes and lungs. The kitchen was always littered with ash and I was always worried about my children getting burnt. But with the improved cook stove, there is no more smoke and I no longer worry about the children. I put my food on fire and go to the garden, by the time i come back, the food is ready. This has reduced the workload and time spent walking to collect firewood, which I use to do other activities. As a result, I have helped 10 more women in my village to make their own stoves.  We work as a team. More women have expressed interest and we shall help them as well. ”

However, the women mentioned that they have a challenge because the soils are bad and easily break, sometimes they have to walk to the lowlands to carry soil uphill which they think is better. The bricks are also scarce but they manage by repairing the cook stoves every time they crack. They were excited that the demand for the cook stoves is increasing, which in the long run will reduce work for women and save the forests.

Later in our sharing sessions, the visiting team realized that the cook stove initiative has established strong social network for women to manage the challenges of climate change and implement adaptation projects. The team suggests that these women should be supported to commercialise the skill and earn income. The District should support the women to scale up the intervention in other sub counties. The little remuneration would cover their transport costs, lunch and even motivate them and compensate for the time lost to do other chores. I was motivated as I left and knew that this activity will be scaled up and will help women reduce on the work load, improve their health and most of all reduce the burden on the girl child.