Belinda goes to Africa

The message of Landcare will travel from the rolling hills of South Gippsland to the plateaus of Uganda in coming weeks as Australian Landcare International (ALI) volunteer Belinda Brennan prepares to address the Uganda National Landcare Conference.

Belinda, who is Partnerships and Engagement Team Leader with the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, will be presenting on the topic of catchment management, a practice that is embedded in Australian natural resource management but a new concept to African audiences.

“In Uganda, ‘catchment management’ might see the landholder consider the top of the nearest hill as the catchment rather than take a broader view that considers all the small creeks that flow into the broader rivers and then either to the sea, or in Uganda’s case, Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest inland freshwater lake and the source of the world’s longest river, the Nile,” says Belinda.

Belinda hopes that by taking a ‘whole of catchment’ approach, Uganda can adapt some of the learnings from the Australian setting to improve and protect their own environment.

“Our work in reducing run off and nutrient entering places like Corner Inlet or the Gippsland Lakes is directly transferable to the African setting,” says Belinda.

While the two countries have definite differences, Belinda says that the model that Landcare has developed over thirty years practice in Australia is comparable to the approach used in Uganda.

“In many respects, Landcare in Uganda follows a similar path to here in Australia with facilitators working with individual landholders to change behaviours,” continued Belinda who will be making her second trip to the equatorial, land linked  country.

One of the key differences however is the Ugandan farmer’s need for wood which often sees trees harvested for firewood to provide heating and cooking fuel for the household.

“One of the areas Australian Landcare International has been working with the Ugandan team is in the development of agro-forestry, the planting, management and harvesting of trees in a sustainable manner. This not only provides landholders with a steady and reliable source of much needed firewood, it has also help protect near-by National Parks which were being raised for firewood.”

A key difference between the two landscapes and local economies is the variety of roles a tree planted by Landcare in Uganda might have.

“While a planted tree might aid in stabilising the land as it might here at home, in Uganda the species of tree will be specific to the area so that it attracts bees, which supports the production of honey, one of the key crops in subsistence farming in the area. Further, the foliage from the trees might also be a source of feed for the one cow that a farmer might own, meaning that one tree can have multiple positive impacts.”

Belinda displays an incredible and deeply rooted passion for the impact Landcare can have both locally and overseas.

“Landcare is active in over 17 countries including places like Fiji, Kenya, Canada, the US, Pakistan, Japan, Philippines, South Korea and Uganda. I can tell you it changes lives in these places. We might give a grant of a few hundred dollars and it transforms lives. Who wouldn’t be passionate about being involved in something like that?”

Belinda’s journey to Uganda has been made possible by being the recipient of Victorian Farmers Federation/Landcare Victoria Inc Heather Mitchell Memorial Fellowship at the recent Victorian Landcare Awards.

Published Tuesday October 22nd 2019

Belinda Brennan after working with Landcare facilitators in Uganda. (Belinda is fifth from left on middle row)