Women River Ambassadors

Rosemary Mugenyi, river- ambassador in Karangura. (c) Joseph Muhumuza

Women River Ambassadors for more resilient river landscapes and communities

Uganda – The Mpanga river catchment in the Rwenzori region is rich is water and forest resources. The catchment is known for its rich biodiversity, and the river and surrounding wetlands create stunning landscapes that also provide water for people. However, climate change and increased pressure on land and water resources are negatively impacting the integrity of the catchment’s ecosystem.

These challenges especially become clear when we zoom in on the interactions that happen between the river and the people living around it. People generate a lot of benefits from the river (like water, fish, washing bays, etc.), but people can contribute to its degradation (for example through pollution, waste disposal, increasing erosion). Furthermore, people living close the river, or farmers with land next to the river, are exposed to potential damages and health risks as a result of flooding.

That is why it is important to develop management plans for these river zones that enhance the resilience of the landscape and the people living against these negative impacts. But because these zones are so complex, with many different interests and uses, it is important to leave no one behind in the process of building these plans.

Women should be more involved in mitigation programs

To address this need, Join For Water recently began implementing a project as part of the Systems Innovation Learning Partnership (SILP) supported by EIT-Climate KIC and Sida.

The starting point of the project is the recognition that communities with poor access to water (and other natural resources) and communities exposed to environmental degradation and natural hazards should be given the maximum opportunity to participate in mitigation and adaptation support programs. Yet, we have experienced that especially women are often left out of this process.

Therefore, Join for Water seeks an answer to the question: “Will strengthening the capacity of women to participate in knowledge development and conservation planning help them to become drivers of positive change in sustainably managing rivers and the land surrounding them?”

To this end, we have developed a Women River Ambassadors model, or heroically called WORIAs. The project is implemented in Karangura, the source zone of the Mpanga River.

Expected impact

The expected impact of the project encompasses:

  • 75 women in Karangura are trained as WORIA. They will become responsible for a stretch of river and receive training on sustainable agriculture, ecosystem protection and the importance of trees for strong banks. As a result, the WORIAs will be better prepared to anticipate, absorb, adapt and transform to deal with the impacts of climate change and act as ambassadors in their communities.
  • Several schools around the Mpanga River provide land for the project. On these lands, the women can put their newly acquired knowledge into practice, which will help to disseminate ideas and solutions.
  • Through the training and experiences of the WORIAs, their capacities are strengthened to participate in the sustainable management of river zones, and stakeholders are informed about how to involve women and others in environmental protection in river catchments.
  • Best practices will be collected about the role of women in consensus-building in river zone management.

In July 2023, we started off with a gender and vulnerability assessment to better understand how women are currently impacts by river-related risks and how they are included in addressing those risks. In addition, we are working with Mountains of the Moon University in developing the training curriculum for the WORIA groups. To be continued…