Edith Samia of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda being interviewed at the Local Climate Solutions for Africa (LOCS) conference.
By Mara Forbes, SDI Secretariat
“Climate change is improving on what we have so we can sustain in what we are doing.” Edith Samia, National Slum Dwellers of Federation of Uganda
A delegation from South Africa, Uganda, and Tanzania attended the second biannual Local Climate Solutions for Africa (LOCS) conference from October 30 to November 1 in Dar es Salaam hosted by ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability). Over 440 delegates attended the conference from 25 African countries. Of those, 300 were local government representatives, and of that 170 were heads of local governments (Mayors, Governors and Chairpersons). LOCS is a platform that brings together local government officials, academics, NGOs, private sector, and development partners to learn from each other and understand how local solutions can address the global climate change agenda.
Climate change is most frequently discussed in terms of a larger global issue rather then than a topic of national or local concern. More frequently this view has shifted to try and understand how climate change related issues are experienced at the local level and what resilience and adaptation efforts communities can provide to combat these effects. Those hit hardest by climate change live in countries that have low carbon footprints and have not created many of problems the world is facing. The global south, and particularly the urban poor in these countries, will be affected most from its negative impacts. They live in low-lying areas that suffer from heavy flooding, frequent landslides, droughts, and the like. Climate related risks are adding to the already existing challenges faced by the poor.
How do we take these global issues of climate change that are most often looked at from the large scale and understand how local initiatives can mitigate the effects? SDI took this opportunity to showcase how communities of the urban poor are addressing issues of climate change. Edith Samia of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda shared how communities in Uganda are creating and implementing innovative methods to mitigate climate change. For example, solid waste is being used to make charcoal briquettes. Briquettes are created by compacting loose biomass into solid blocks that can replace fossil fuels, charcoal, and firewood for cooking and heating. The community is able to collect and reuse the waste that accumulates in settlements and turn it into a form of energy, at the same time using this activity as an incoming generating project for community members. In Bwaise, an area that is prone to flooding from heavy rains, the community built a sanitation unit that also harvests rainwater. This water can be used for the flush toilets or can be sold by the jerry can, also an income-generating project.
For most, these measures are not understood as climate change but rather everyday activities that provide services, generate income, and improve their livelihoods. As Edith noted, “most of the communities don’t know about climate change and need capacity building and sensitization around this.” For communities of the urban poor these everyday practices demonstrate the innovative methods being used to make the urban poor more resilient to climate change impacts.
The LOCS platform opened a space that allowed local governments, academics, and NGO’s to come together to discuss how impacts of climate change can be addressed together. Spaces such as LOCS that aim to bring together various partners need to be cognizant of who is and is not included in these conversations. Communities that are affected most by the impacts of climate change need to be involved in the co-production of mitigation efforts. As Edith stated, “With such a big gathering we need to speak out, they [local government officials] sit too much and think about what to do for us, but we should be able to tell them what we need. Although community was at least given some time to talk, it was not enough. We are part of the problem but also the solution.”