Given the scope of the ResilientAfrica Network’s (RAN) www.ranlab.org operations, a team visited and interacted with the communities that were hit recently hit by landslides in Bushenyi district of Uganda. This visit and engagement was in an effort to further asses and appreciate the living conditions in the district given that this was the first landslide in this district. Bushenyi District http://www.bushenyi.go.ug/ is a district in Western Uganda. Like many other Ugandan districts, it is named after its chief town, Bushenyi, where the district headquarters are located.
The landslides occurred on Wednesday December 03, 2015 in Nyeibingo, Ruhumuro Sub-county, and Bushenyi district; and were preceded by a heavy down pour that lasted about 1 hour. Unfortunately, these landslides led to the death of a mother with her three children (including a pair of 3-months old twins) and property loss (gardens-millet, tomatoes and bananas; buildings-house and kitchen; and livestock-goats).
The RAN team Dr. Julius Sentongo, EA RI Lab Coordinator, Christine Muhumuza, Research Officer, Joseph Mukaawa Lubega, Multi-Media Developer and Fred Ibanda, Support staff visited the district with the aim of conducting a rapid assessment of the households that were affected by the landslides in this community. The assessment mainly focused on further clarifying the main shocks and stresses affecting this community, factors that make this community vulnerable to these shocks and stresses, factors that make this community fail to permanently resist or reduce their vulnerability (underlying vulnerability factors), factors that empower the community to adapt to the effects of these shocks an stresses and together with the community, generate possible solutions to the disasters in this particular community.
While conducting a series of interviews, the RAN team visited Nyeibingo village -Rumumuro sub-county as well as Kyabugimbi sub-county where the deceased were laid to rest: May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in eternal peace!
- Two Focus group discussions were conducted and these involved 12 men and 11 women from Nyeibingo Village;
- Six Key informant interviews with the Chairperson Local Council 3 Kyabugimbi sub-County, Councilor Local Council 3 Ruhumuro, Local Council 1 Chairperson Nyeibingo, Nyeibingo village elder, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Bushenyi district and the Bushenyi district forestry officer;
- Four In-depth interviews were held with the man who lost his wife & children, a woman who lost goats, kitchen and household utensils, a man who lost goats and a garden, and the father-in-law to the deceased woman
- It was reported that this specific area receives a lot of rainfall
- There are also reports of isolated cases of landslides but this is the first of the kind to cause human deaths!
- The team also witnessed scars on the hills that are indicative of past landslides (this particular landslide occurred in an old scar!)
- There are about 30 households that are at high risk of being hit by a ‘follow-up’ landslide. Moreover part of the landslide debris is still hanging high on the slopes and will soon roll down with subsequent rainfall,
- The area is also faces stresses of wild fires, thunderstorms and lightening
This area is more at risk for landslides due to the fact that:
- It is mountainous, rocky, barely left with any vegetation cover due to clearance of land for farming-millet and livestock/goats
- The soils are very soft (volcanic) and easily swept away by running water
- The fertile soils have attracted a lot of human activity-settlements/increasing population, land fragmentation and agriculture
- Myth – the hill has spirits/small gods- ‘abacwezi’
Conclusions and recommendations;
- There is an urgent need for the local government to coordinate with the central government and relocate the affected households. Nyeibingo is still at a very high risk of another landslide especially in this community that was affected by the recent landslides as some rocks were seen to be ‘hanging’ and could roll down any time.
- The district should coordinate with the affected sub-county to embark on land management solutions such as afforestation, reforestation and terracing
- Mobilization and sensitization of masses on the risk of landslides and other related disasters
- A need to conduct a rapid district hazard/risk profile
- Repair of the damaged infrastructure- roads and bridges to allow for normalization of business and address transport related challenges
These findings were presented to the district management team and a special technical working group has been set up to urgently follow-up and address the above emerging issues.