KAMPALA – The Embassy of Sweden has signed an agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to undertake the Green Schools Initiative (GSI). The purpose of this initiative is to raise awareness and understanding of climate change and environmental degradation within schools in Uganda, while empowering academic institutions and school-going children to take an active role in the solutions to environmental challenges.
Lack of knowledge, due to limited awareness and sensitization in communities is among the major factors limiting adoption of climate change adaptation and mitigation practices. Capacity development is thus among the identified priority areas if Uganda is to attain the set targets in climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience. Although school going children form the bulk of the population in Uganda, they are less exposed to aspects related to climate change and this affects their abilities to make informed choices regarding consumption patterns, lifestyle and influencing production trends which are environmentally sustainable in the communities where they live.
The Government of Sweden has allocated an additional 2.3 billion shillings to FAO as part of their Climate Resilience Livelihood Opportunities for Women Empowerment programme in order to implement the Green Schools Initiative. This is meant to enable FAO and the Government of Uganda in conjunction with other partners like the New Vision to implement the Green Schools Initiative. The initiative is expected to create avenues for schools and learners to implement green actions in their schools and the communities in which they live.
“The Green Schools Initiative is an exciting program as it works with young people who are the most vulnerable and yet also the most impactful for sustainability. 77% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, majority of them being school-going children. While a number of policies and plans have been developed on environment and climate, there is still a need for engagement of this section of the population without whom our effort for sustainability of the planet, will be difficult,” said Maria Håkansson, Sweden’s Ambassador to Uganda.
Some of the targets of the GSI include the training of teachers and students about environmental conservation and climate change, regional and national climate change debates organized, and, the publication of supplements, radio shows and telecasts on climate change and environmental degradation.
The GSI initiative is part of the broader five-year Climate Resilient Livelihood Opportunities for Women Economic Empowerment (CRWEE) being implemented in Karamoja and WestNile districts of Uganda, with funding from the Government of Sweden through the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda. This project aims to strengthen the gender-responsive, and climate-smart resilience of rural women who depend on agricultural production systems in Karamoja and West Nile Regions.
To date, the project has established five community irrigation sites in West Nile, supported farmers in the multiplication of over 500 tonnes of drought tolerant and high-yielding seed, established 15 tree nurseries and propagated over 500,000 seedlings for farmers, and supported 64 female-headed households with flexi-biogas units, the establishment of over 100 acres of woodlots, supported more than 400 households with customary certificates of land ownership and supporting more than 300 women with climate resilient and labor-saving technologies such as mushrooms, apiary and cassava postharvest handling equipment. Also, among the activities of this project was to create awareness and train 48 school youth clubs in climate-resilient approaches.
Speaking at the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda, at the signing ceremony of the additional funding, the FAO Representative in Uganda Mr Antonio Querido recognised the need to working with young people to raise awareness because children and youth represent the future and can play a crucial role in combating climate change and conserving the environment.
“In order to achieve the national wide campaign for climate change and environment management in Uganda, under this Green Schools Initiative, FAO will work with the Vision Group of Companies to implement the project in 150 schools across the country,” he said, noting that by the end of the campaign, we hope to have created a critical mass of informed and resilient people in society that respond to climate change and environmental degradation.”
In partnership with Vision Group, FAO will train over 600 teachers and 90,000 school children about environmental conservation and climate change, develop and publish science-based climate change education materials, document and popularize success stories from schools on conservation of natural resources, climate change adaptation and mitigation practices, and recognise best schools through regional and national competitions.