Landcare in Africa

South Gippsland’s Belinda Brennan has returned from her inspiring trip to Uganda as a delegate to the Ugandan Landcare Network Conference.

“The excitement of the Landcare groups to showcase the amazing work they have been doing is truly inspiring,” said Belinda. “There is certainly a lot we can learn from our Ugandan and Kenyan colleagues here at home and lots more we can do to support them on their journey.”

Belinda, who is Partnerships and Engagement Team Leader at the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority was able to travel to Uganda after receiving the of Victorian Farmers Federation/Landcare Victoria Inc Heather Mitchell Memorial Fellowship at the 2019 Victorian Landcare Awards held in October.

As well as presenting at the conference, Belinda was able to visit two Landcare groups in Kenya and catch up with colleagues she had mentored during previous visits to Africa as part of her volunteer role with Australian Landcare International.

“The ‘Rise and Shine Landcare Group’ (Ukila Na Uitisuka Landcare Group) is made up entirely of women. They have been collecting stones washed down the creeks and selling them to fund their Landcare work. The group decided to take care of the land by conserving soil erosion through planting of sisals (A robust plant that aids in stabilising soils and can also be used to produce fibre for mats or other woven products) in the gullies,” said Belinda.

“In Uganda, the visit started with a street parade through the main street of Kabale, 12 local schools were involved.  Junior Landcare is doing amazingly well with the support of the Kabale Agroforestry Network who are all volunteers”.

“A showcase of the impact of Junior Landcare at the Kable Primary School was wonderful and again inspiring. The students have established a school vegetable garden, with cabbages to rival even the best we can grow here in Australia, 700 guava trees and an acre of Eucalypts for future firewood and timber.”

“The school now has enough cabbages to feed the growing number of pupils who get lunch at school. Last year they saved 1.8 million shillings (approx. A$720) from the cabbages they harvested from the school garden.”

The Ugandan Landcare Conference featured speakers from several neighbouring countries including Malawi, South Africa and Kenya as well as Belinda who presented on catchment management using the work done around Corner Inlet to demonstrate the principles involved.

“The response was really positive, with a key aspect being how do they integrate their current programs into the broader catchment approach and how do they bring everyone along for the ride.

“I facilitated workshops on catchment management and on partnerships. What was particularly interesting was how the focus on the church and its involvement in Landcare was seen as a key driver for getting more people involved. These are countries where the church plays an enormous role in the community.”

Now that Belinda is back in Australia, she is looking at how her experience in Africa can assist the local Landcare movement and how Australians can further support the work being done in Africa.

“I’ve got a bunch of ideas running around at the moment. For instance, it would be great to develop a program to connect Victorian schools to schools in Uganda and Kenya.  This may be financial but also just learning through each other,” she suggested.

“We might be able to build greater awareness of the Australian Landcare International Overseas Landcare Program, these are small grants up to $500 for Landcare projects in developing countries. So much can be achieved with this amount. And just developing connections between local Landcare groups and overseas Landcare groups to share learning and support. It would be great to see a greater transfer of learning between here and overseas.

More information about Australian Landcare International can be found at its website alci.com.au and social media channels.

Information about Landcare in Gippsland can be found at wgcma.vic.gov.au or by phoning 1300 094 262

Published Monday December 9th 2019