Kampala — The first network of Uganda faith groups working on the environment and promoting sustainable agriculture will be launched in Kampala today. This is an extremely significant step in helping a substantial percentage of the country engage in addressing the environment crisis.
The launch of the Uganda Faiths Network on Environment Action (UFNEA) is an exciting step in engaging the biggest element of civil society in Uganda – the faiths – to take environmental action, said Susie Weldon of the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), which worked with Ugandan Christian and Muslim organisations to organise this new body.
"It's part of an extraordinary new environmental movement of faith groups in sub-Saharan Africa," she said.
"We expect that other national networks will follow but UFNEA will take a lead in East Africa in showing how faith groups can inspire their communities and work closely with government and other agencies to improve people's lives and protect the environment at the same time."
This network has a huge potential to improve people's lives: two of the initiatives it is championing are Farming God's Way and Farming with Islam which can not only involve farming that is cheaper for farmers, but also create bigger, healthier crops, through an approach that imagines God as the First Farmer.
The movement for faith groups to take active leadership roles in addressing environmental challenges is growing. In September 2012, at a major meeting organised by ARC in Nairobi, Mounkaila Goumandakoye, UNEP Director and Regional Representative for Africa, called it "potentially transformative," pledging to put more UNEP energy into working with the faiths
At the same meeting, Dr Ali Mohamed, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, described the movement as "A new awakening that will help shape beliefs, behaviour and actions for a greener and better Africa.'
Last year 27 Christian, Muslim and Hindu faith groups launched long-term action plans on the environment in Nairobi, Kenya, at ARC's Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent celebration. UFNEA is the first national faith environmental network to arise out of that movement.
The vision is to inspire faith groups in Uganda to strengthen awareness and action on the environment and sustainable agriculture, said UFNEA founding chair Muguluma Hamed who is also executive director of Muslim NGO Humanitarian Efforts and Relief Uganda.
"Environmental degradation and climate change are no doubt the biggest threat to humanity in this era," he will tell delegates at today's launch. "According to Uganda's National Forestry Authority, Uganda loses 92,000 hectares of forest cover every year which is almost the size of Uganda's biggest forest, Mabira. This is alarming.
"UFNEA is aware that there are a number of efforts, both local and global, aimed at addressing these issues but a lot remains to be done. This is why faith organisations and faith-based organisations have decided to join their efforts using a faith approach to address these challenges. This explains the birth of the Uganda Faiths Network on Environmental Action."
One of UFNEA's missions is to promote care of the environment as a religious responsibility. Committee member Bishop Nathan Kyamanywa, of the Anglican Church of Uganda's Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese, explained: "Creation is God's concern priority number one and when He gave us the mandate to be caretakers of that creation, we are only doing what God expects us to do.
"The Bible tells us in Genesis that God worked on creation for five days and spent only one day on humans. Therefore the creation of this Network is a good demonstration that the faith groups in Uganda are taking God's assignment seriously."
The Uganda Faiths Network on Environment Action (UFNEA) has been established with support from ARC through an initiative funded by the World Bank via its TerrAfrica partnership. It is open to all registered Ugandan faith groups and faith-based organisations engaged in environmental action and awareness activities.
ARC (the ) is a UK-based secular NGO working with faith groups around the world to help them develop environmental projects based on their own beliefs, teachings and practices. It was founded in 1995 by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, in his role as President of WWF International. For the past three years, ARC has been engaging faith communities in sub-Saharan Africa on sustainable land and water management, with support from the World Bank (through its TerrAfrica partnership) and the Norwegian Government.
In September 2012, 27 Christian, Muslim and Hindu faith communities launched long-term action plans on the environment at the 'Many Heavens, One Earth: African Faith Commitments for a Living Planet' celebration in Nairobi, Kenya. Between them, the 27 faith groups reach out to around 184 million people in 11 countries. More information from http://www.arcworld.org/news.asp?pageID=564 , or visit www.arcworld.org.