Background/Mission

Background

The Sahara Desert has been creeping south, west, and east for centuries along the frontier of man-made deforestation, nomadic livestock overgrazing, massive soil erosion and the associated climate change. Reclaiming the lands lost to the Sahara and protecting the surrounding tropical rain forests and savannah will not happen unless concerted efforts are made to address the rampant ravages of poverty, HIV/AIDS, massive human displacement caused by military conflict, and the resulting famine in the region.

Tropical rain forests and other vegetation, stretching from the Amazon across Africa and up to Indonesia, account for 18-20% absorption of greenhouse gases on a global scale. The destructive effects of these gases as manifested in global warming are not limited by national or international boundaries. This is our world undergoing unparalleled climatic distress.  Join Ochan Self-Help Alliance to help reverse the accelerating pace of man-made deforestation occurring in northern Uganda.

An estimated 3 million citizens previously displaced by prolonged civil war waged by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda have begun to resettle in their original villages as the prospect for peace increases day-by-day. Opac Village, one of the affected communities, is no longer a typical village.  The rhythm of life that sustained people–-their social fabric, their faith, their farming and animal husbandry, their land boundarieswas destroyed when the rebels (Lord’s Resistance Army) attacked in 2001.




Relaxing in their courtyard  in Opac before the war

Women relaxing in their courtyard in Opac before the war




War

During the bloodiest years of the war, the LRA turned Opac into their headquarters, and the local elementary school into soldiers’ barracks where student desks and chairs were chopped for firewood and the pit latrine ruined.  Hundreds of peasants were killed right in their homesteads; the survivors fled to army-protected internally displaced people’s camps (IDP camps) at Aloi, Alanyi, Abako Trading Center, Alebtong and Lira town where they have lived for the last 5-7 years.  The population now returning to Opac include the following: about 40% are children born in the IDP camps during years of war along with high numbers of widows, widowers and orphans in poor health typified by endemic malaria and HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

Recovery efforts

Determined to rebuild their shattered lives, members of Opac Village formed Ocan Agenne Self-Help Community two years ago. “Ocan Agenne” infers “poor and honest people helping each other.” This community-based organization, buoys villagers’ efforts to shed their years of fear and inactivity spent huddling in cramped huts of the displacement camps.  Members of this local organization mobilize the village’s manpower to build shelters for the weak.  Individual donations  have helped build a dry goods store and a rehabilitation center for conflict resolution issues as well as for support of local projects.

In a repeat of the century-old cultural practices, impoverished communities including Opac have once again embarked on the massive destruction of young trees, reeds and green grass for the construction of their traditional clay-walled, grass-thatched shelters for resettlement or derivation of firewood and wood charcoal for cooking, timber for instant cash. Alternative solutions must be considered to protect what remains of sub-Saharan biodiversity while protecting the welfare of persons displaced by war or natural disasters.

Mission Statement

Unlike the community-based organization which helps villagers in their resettlement and return to the lives they lost,  Ochan Self-Help Alliance is focussed on the looming impact of this number of returning citizens on the locale’s environmental well-being,  biodiversity, and human health.

Ochan Self-Help Alliance’s mission is a) to introduce important steps and methods to protect the environment while improving housing, agricultural activity, and b) to make modern health care available to its citizens and to villages beyond Opac.

Your contribution will yield multiplier effects on conservation, reforestation and social transformation in this sub-Saharan African region: a) offer protection to families from leaky grass-thatched housing and insect-borne infectious diseases through methods and materials for more durable housing that render obsolete the culture of destroying vegetation and bio-diversity for the purpose of home construction;  b) develop sustainable green commerce and c) make modern health care services locally available to the population.  We fervently hope that these efforts will help peace grow deep roots in this community and beyond.