Sharing skills and creativity, as well as resources, is essential to pulling our communities through these difficult times, says Kwagala Ruth.
In Uganda, and around the world, the economic lockdown has hit women and children hardest. Many members of my community earnt their wages on a daily basis. Economic lockdown meant mother’s could not cook their family meals, and children went hungry. It was hard to watch, and hard to help – but I blamed myself. Thankfully the government started distributing relief items like posho (a maize flour porridge), milk, sugar and beans to those most in need.
However, very few in my community even had enough fuel to cook the food they’d received, especially beans which take a long time to cook. This was even more frustrating. Those that did have fuels generally had inefficient expensive charcoal which is causing environmental damage and climate change, but had little choice but to burn it. Now I realised I could help.
I was once a volunteer at Restless Development Uganda, where I had learnt how to make charcoal briquettes. I knew I needed to share this training with my community. This innovation would give them access to a cheaper, more environmentally friendly and readily available fuel to cook their meals. Charcoal briquettes are made from cassava flour, water, sand or loam soil and charcoal dust, all of which is available in our local markets and communities for relatively cheap.
Restless Development Uganda did not only support me morally but also financially and this pushed me also to train more people with these life-changing skills. The smiles on the faces of my community members that I trained is assurance of the difference its making. Now my young brothers and sisters can afford to get at least two meals a day as my mother is no longer more worried about the high prices of charcoal.
Some of the community members that I trained have already started making charcoal briquettes for sale and this has created a new form of economic opportunity. This is helping them to buy food and other basic amenities whilst their previous jobs are unavailable. The sales from the charcoal briquettes has greatly improved on the family income levels in my local community. The youths and other young children are also training their colleagues on how best to make charcoal briquettes and this has created more bonding and brought the community together. I also know this is contributing to environmental conservation and sustainability in the community.
Kwagala Ruth is young female Ugandan with a bachelor's degree in arts of ethics and human rights, a certificate in Youth counselling and guidance and a certificate in Applied social innovation. She is passionate about the rights and well-being of all humans especially children and women. She loves creating change in the lives of people around her for sustainable development.