Community-to-Community Exchange 2017 concludes with pledge to work together for sustainable livelihoods and environmental sustainability

During a community-to-community exchange 2017 event held in eastern province of Rwanda on 27th to 30th November 2017, communities from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda pledged to work together to achieve sustainable livelihoods and environmental sustainability through continued experience sharing and exchange.

This exchange visit was organized by the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network) with funding and technical support from the Rwanda’s Green Fund (FONERWA), the New Field Foundation, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the World Resources Institute (WRI).  This event is the second in a series of community exchange organized by ARCOS Network where Nature Based Community Enterprises (NBCEs) in the Albertine Rift region are facilitated to exchange and learn while doing from one-another as they adapt to climate change and build their sustainable livelihoods. The event drew participants from 30 NBCEs that are part of ARCOS network  from Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. 

The main objective of this community-to-community exchange 2017 was to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, lessons and cultural aspects and building social cohesion. During the event, communities shared experiences on best agricultural practices, biodiversity conservation, sustainable energy solutions, and value addition basing on ARCOS' BEST approach (B: Building sustainable institutions, E: Enhancing environment resilience, S: Sustainable business solutions, and T: Transforming and inspiring others).

The first Community-to-Community Exchange was conducted in 2016 and was hosted by NBCEs that operate along the slopes of Mt Elgon in Eastern Uganda. During the first two days of Community to community exchange 2017, participants visited different sites of Nyamugali  and Kigarama sectors in Kirehe districts.  

The host NBCEs are involved in different activities including coffee farming and processing, banana farming, horticulture, fishing, livestock (goat, pigs and cattle keeping on zero grazing), nursery beds establishment and rain water harvesting among others. 

Fourty one participants from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda attended this event. Mr Samuel Wakinya from Bushika Integrated Area Cooperative Enterprise Limited in Uganda offered to give lab-lab and mukuna seeds to the Kabungeri co-operative enterprise to be raised and planted along their gardens to act as mulch, fodder and nitrogen fixing plants for their degraded soils. Additionally, Mr Sabila Willy from Kapchebut Elgon Farmers’ Association promised to offer bamboo seedlings to Kabungeri and KOAMI Co-operatives to plant along Akagera River. The participants identified high degradation on the hillsides near Akagera river in Kabungeri village and planted trees there. Members of Kabungeri and KOAMI co-operatives to keep the momentum to stop cultivating along Akagera River and leave a mandated space of 10 meters according to the Rwandan laws as well as spearhead the activities of riverbank management. 

Participants from different NBCE’s shared captivating stories like, Maria Nduwimana from Burundi who talked about how the community where she comes from once lived near Kibira Natural forest and used to get their livelihoods from the forest. However, unorganized harvesting of forest resources by her community and encroachment was very degrading this important ecosystem and she decided to mobilise over 1,000 women who came together to secure the forest and conserve it. It was at that time that ARCOS joined in and encouraged them to establish nursery beds with indigenous seedlings. ARCOS also gave them 24 goats that have gone to multiply and are shared between the group members. They managed to secure a grinding machine that is used to raise funds for the cooperative. 

KOAKAKI shared with the participants what it takes to manage a 100000 tree seedlings nursery. The participants also learnt from them how to make manure from coffee pulps using earthworms (vermicomposting). 

Field visits were followed by Exchange Sessions that took place in Nyamata, Bugesera district of Rwanda on 29th November 2017, where participants recaptured BEST practices implemented by their colleagues and discussed on sustainable solutions that should be implemented to address the identified gaps. 

The event was concluded with an exhibition that took place at Bugesera district Office where NBCEs showcased their achievements and exchanged seeds of different crops including cereals, indigenous legumes, tubers, pumpkins, vegetables and medicinal plants. In addition to communities, the event also saw the participation of other stakeholders including development partners, NGOs, private sector, local and central government institutions. The latter joined community to plant trees in Masangano area (the area where River Nyabarongo meet Akanyaru to make Akagera River).

All the participants unanimously appreciated the work that ARCOS does to support communities in the region to ensure sustainability of their livelihoods under the changing environment. Everyone present during the event committed to continue this spirit of experience sharing to ensure lessons learnt in one place benefit people in other places instead of each community having to reinvent the wheel.

You can find the summary of Community-to-Community Exchange 2017 outcomes termed NBCEs' Bugesera Charter, 2017: NBCEs Bugesera Charter( English)NBCEs Bugesera Charter (Kinyarwanda)

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