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HomeOPINIONS AND COLUMNSOWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: How Eroding Traditional Cultures Is Simultaneously Eroding Our Environment In Uganda

OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: How Eroding Traditional Cultures Is Simultaneously Eroding Our Environment In Uganda

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By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

Let me start this article by clarifying what I understand as the meaning of Environment and Traditional Cultures. (TCs).

Environment is everything (living and unliving) and it therefore includes us, the members of the species of Man, Homo sapiens. However, to analyze and understand it, it is convenient to recognize that it consists of four dimensions: Ecological Biological Dimension, Socioeconomic Dimension, Sociocultural Dimension and the Time or Temporal Dimension. The dimensions are not exclusive but inclusive of each other and both interconnected and integral.

We can talk of environmental culture. According to GEMET (General Multilingual Environmental Thesaurus) environmental culture is the total of learned behavior, attitudes, practices and knowledge that a society has with respect to maintaining or protecting its natural resources, the ecosystem and all other external conditions affecting human and non-human life. Environmental culture is integral to the sociocultural dimension of the environment.

Culture encapsulates the people’s living styles, patterns and habits which are central to their survival in the environment. The protection of the natural environment against in all its dimensions indiscriminate exploitation of mineral wealth, deforestation, erosion bush burning and desertification as well as natural disasters can be achieved through the instruments of culture. (UNESCO, Diversity of Cultural Expressions). There are today two broad cultures of humanity: Digital Culture and Traditional Culture.

According to E. O. Wahab,1S. O. Odunsi,1and O. E. Ajiboye (2012) the culture of a people is their identity as it affords them due recognition in the world community of people’s. William Havilland cited by the aforesaid states that if culture is passed from one generation to the next it stands to reason that enculturation begins in the home, specifically from parent to child.

Enculturation has culture changed dramatically over the last century. Culture, therefore, is the reason why there is Identity Politics, and if there is genuine concern for conservation of culture then identity politics is the way. Identity politics, however, is under threat from the politics of interests, which in Uganda is what President Tibuhaburwa Museveni prefers but is greatly behind the acceleration erosion of culture and environmental degradation, thereby undermining environmental conservation.

Every society and subsect of society has a unique culture. Culture can describe many parts of human life, including: religion, language, intellectual interests, tradition and even the type of food eaten. In every society, culture is at the core of what is important to a group of people. If it is destroyed the people’s group disintegrates. Different forms of disintegration of society in Uganda are taking place are taking place under the full collective impact of factors I have listed below.

Traditional Culture are shared experiences that are transferred from one generation

to another. This can exist at the level of a community or nation and can transcend borders (John Spacey, 2023). Another way of looking at traditional culture is as “A set of information, practices and experiences transmitted through traditional means from generation to generation in a society.

Note that traditions form an essential part of our lives for many of the same reasons that civil laws do. Lack of tradition, or disintegration of tradition, causes a shift in societal practice and perhaps even a breakdown in the cultural environment. This is already happening indifferent parts of Uganda, and with it environmental decay and collapse.

Many factors are interacting to cause cultural erosion, environmental decay and collapse, breakdown of the total cultural environment and disruption of historical culture-environment linkages, let alone the traditional links between culture and environment in Uganda.

Whole indigenous communities are being forced into manifesting as internal refugees and as human pollutants in an environment which was previously theirs but is now foreign in its altered form These factors are: State emphasis of materialism and money at the expense of values, the Politics of Interests, refugees, land grabbing, false economic policies, the Uganda Constitution1995, nomadic pastoralism, presidentialism, agricultural and forestry policies, wrong environmental education or the failure of environmental education, knowledge disintegration, digital culture and technologies, exacerbated individualism, exacerbated craving for money, exacerbated I don’t care attitude from bottom to top, Indianization of the environment, Chinization of the environment, and the greed and selfishness of the political and military governors who are the principal land grabbers. These same factors are behind the worsening climate change situation in the country.

Since British colonization in the early 1900s and after independence in the 1962, the State of Uganda has historically failed to fully respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples. But it is indigenous peoples that have lived in harmony with the environment for ages and conserved it through their culture -environment interaction. This means culture in its diversity is the best conservator of the environment.

Therefore, we cannot protect and conserve the environment in a cultural void. We conserve via the diverse cultures and the diverse languages thereof. Environmental conservation fails the moment culture is removed from it and a foreign culture, including a foreign language, is used as the medium of the activity. This is the major reason why we should rediscover our diverse indigenous groups and return conservation to them.

Uganda is home to a wide diversity of Indigenous Peoples. The Uganda Constitution 1995 recognizes 65 “Indigenous communities”; However, this number excludes many self-identifying Indigenous Peoples (IPS). The majority of the Indigenous population is located in remote regions throughout the country, far from Kampala, the seat of power.

The Equal Opportunities Commission of Uganda (EOCU) called for an amendment to the State’s Constitution to legally recognize eight indigenous peoples: Benet/Mosopishek, Bakingwe, Bagabo, Maragoli, Haya, Basese, Bagaya and Meru. This is an important step towards their legal recognition for these communities. They suffered colonial abuse  when the British occupiers of the  area

they called British Protectorate of Uganda, the Commonwealth Realm of Uganda(on Independence Day) and then Uganda (on the first Anniversary of Independence (on 9th October 1963), established National Parks and Game Reserves. This way, they made them perennial foreigners or “human pollutants” in their environment

Government the must endorse the adoption of the Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Specific Aspects of the Right to a Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa and ratify it. Further, the Uganda government must fulfil its promise to ratify the United Nations 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, having made a formal pledge to do so in 2010. 

We need relevant research to salvage cultures and environment. Researchers may want to research on how each of the factors I have listed is individually eroding cultures and environment and sabotaging environmental conservation in Uganda for paper qualifications. However, qualifications do not conserve the environment.

It is the time-tested culture-environment dynamics. However long we conserve in a foreign culture and foreign language, the environment will continue to succumb to those different factor I have listed. For example, land grabbing with impunity by the powerful, refugees and nomadic pastoralists have jointly eroded cultures and broken the essential culture-environment linkages more so in our time than in the past.

Both the future of cultures and environment and the cultural and environmental security of future generations of Ugandans are in our hands today. What we do or do not do will determine if cultural capital and environmental capital will matter this century and beyond. We ore a lot to the future.

For God and My Country

The Writer is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

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