The head of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM)’s refuge desk in Adjumani District has decried the social and environmental challenges facing both the refugees and the hosts as the refugees struggle to access firewood for cooking.
Titus Jogo says that on average, refugees in Adjumani walk three kilometres for firewood, which is on the land they were not given, resulting in conflicts with their hosts, the local community.
Adjumani hosts the highest number of refugees in Uganda – over 208,000 of nearly 1.5m by the end of October 2022.
“I have been sued on behalf of the refugees and if I don’t win that case I will be paying billions of money,” Jogo said today while addressing the Building Stronger Universities (BSU) Conference 2022.
An individual has apparently sued him seeking over UGX 1bn in damages for trespass and destruction on his land, allegedly caused by some refugees from the Pagirinya settlement.
He also told participants that some refugee women have been raped, and girls have been defiled, as they search for firewood. On the other hand, the refugee demand for firewood has increased deforestation in the areas where they live.
The conference, held at Gulu University from November 24 to 25, is highlighting the progress in capacity building for research, teaching, learning and community engagement achieved by Gulu University through implementing the Danida-funded BSU programme which started in 2011.
One of the major achievements of BSU is a project worth UGX 6bn researching into making and using briquettes as an alternative to black charcoal, especially in response to climate change. The project is called UPCHAIN – Unlocking the Potential of Green Charcoal Innovations to Mitigate Climate Change in Northern Uganda. It is funded by Danida.
Jogo said there have been efforts before to ease energy access for refugees, including making and using briquettes, through a project of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), but they have not had immediate impact.
He said one of the challenges is the mindset of the refugees, whom he said were still stuck on the three-stone stove.
He welcomed the UPCHAIN project, which has a major component targeting refugees, and pledged support for it in Adjumani.