Bunyoro, AFRICE propose partnership to protect indigenous foods, sacred sites

Indigenous seeds mobilised by Kabaale Tugarre ebyobuhangwa Women's Group in Hoima District under the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) project.

Bunyoro Kitara and the African Institute for Culture and Ecology (AFRICE) have mooted an alignment aimed to protect the ostensibly obliterating indigenous foods and sacred natural sites in the kingdom.

The sacred natural sites include caves, hills, trees, rivers, springs and mountains among others dating centuries ago but are on the brink of annihilation due to degradation for development.

The cultural institution’s partnership with the conservation organisation comes in the wake of the growing modernity, industrialisation and encroachment in the region; posing a threat to the cultural and traditional settings of Bunyoro Kitara kingdom.

Apparently, the current generation of young people has less or no value for indigenous foods opting for modern day lifestyle and capitalistic dogma at the cost of the good traditional aspects.

According to the Special Assistant in charge of Culture in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Robert Rukahemura, it has been observed that indigenous crops and sacred sites are being threatened with extinction due to modernity that is generating the urge for people to suit in the contemporary world.

Following the observation, Mr Rukahemura says the kingdom has embarked on avenues of salvaging native crops and sacred sites by way of Bunyoro’s partnership with AFRICE given the kingdom’s so limited a financial capability to propel the drive as the world speedily whirls towards making common Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and industrialising the planet at the expense of indigenous foods and cultural sites.

“On top of traditional crops at the advent of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which cannot be used as raw materials to do conservation, we need financial support to save these sites from diminishing since its management has been robbed by modernity. The financial support will also be used in sensitising the subjects about their importance in biodiversity conservation.” He says.

Mr Rukahemura is concerned that artificial insemination will result in the extinction of some indigenous goats and cow breeds like a red netlike spot cow (ente entimba) which is a totem for Baliisa and Bagana clan members and yet cross-cultural set ups had lived with them for time immemorial.

“We should sensitise people on how to coexist so that our culture which has been practiced over time does not disappear,” he continues.

While meeting officials of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom in Hoima city on November 1, 2022, Mr Denis Tabaro Natukunda, the Executive Director AFRICE, said it is better to sensitise local residents to appreciate the importance of protecting and restoring ecosystem resilience and integrity of sacred sites.

Semwema in present day Kakumiro district is one of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom’s cultural, historical and archeological sites with caves and a hill where people go for tourism and cultural festivals.

The trenches around Semwema site were used by the legendary great King (Omukama) Kateboha who reigned in the 14th century AD during the Bacwezi Dynasty in the Great Bunyoro Kitara Empire.

Some parliamentary sessions for Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom used to be held inside the Semwema caves during the reign of the Bacwezi.

Semwema cave and hill is a cultural, historical and archeological site for Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom. It is located in Kakumiro District.

He says AFRICE is partnering with Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom to use its cultural clout to ensure food security and good health of the indigenous people at this time when they and local communities are adversely being affected by climate change since they depend directly on the environment for basic livelihood needs.

Mr Tabaro reveals that with funding from the African Biodiversity Network and the Swedish Government, AFRICE is also implementing a three-year project in Buliisa which is one of the districts in Bunyoro Kingdom dominated by Bagungu tribe to revive and conserve their past using farming systems that protect Mother Nature.

To fast-track this, AFRICE has already identified and supported the custodians to document their customary laws on rivers, lakes, forests, wetlands and mountains among others.

The Non-Government Organisation in December 2020, sponsored Buliisa district council to pass an ordinance and conserve sacred natural sites as places of spiritual, cultural and ecological significance.

Mr Tabaro says AFRICE has also initiated a traditional seed centre in Buliisa for people to learn practising agro-ecology and traditional seed conservation meant to ensure food security since they have been an integral part of people’s culture and traditions in marking births, marriage and deaths within natural sacred sites.

AFRICE has concentrated on sacred sites in order to alleviate the high rate at which the environment is degraded that has caused loss of food resulting in climate change as ecologically fragile systems like wetlands are destroyed.

The ED says the meeting AFRICE held at the kingdom headquarters aimed to seek the kingdom support to protect indigenous crops and sacred sites which will eventually culminate into signing a five-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two entities.

Bunyoro Kitara’s indigenous multi-coloured maize species called amahunde.

Mr Tabaro says the MoU will stipulate food security, conservation of sacred sites, averting biodiversity loss and climate change and also boosting the ordinance which lacks strong backing from the kingdom due to limited financial resources.

The Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Prime Minister says AFRICE’s activities are embedded in the kingdom’s 30-year agenda to promote culture and co-existence for socio-economic transformation of the cultural institution.

Mr Andrew Kirungi Byakutaaga Ateenyi cites the introduction of modern religious beliefs as the biggest challenge in the conservation of culture since people brand it satanic; believing that the MoU will address it.

He says although some of the biodiversity species are used as totems, it is unfortunate that some people coming from outside Bunyoro are contributing to their extinction.

Mr Byakutaaga condemns some people eating chimpanzees saying although they are a delicacy to some, they are a totem to some clans in Bunyoro saying “We feel the MoU will mitigate that.”

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