FridaysForFuture Uganda: Our interview with Nakabuye Hilda

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“There’s no way a 20 year old would know more about what the right thing to do is!” This is what some of Nakabuye Hilda’s teachers thought when she asked to be excused from Friday’s classes. One of them even told her that climate change doesn’t exist and that she should focus on her books instead of climate strikes.

 

In the light of the upcoming international climate strike on 20 and 27 September, we want to show solidarity to the young people striking worldwide. With this in mind, we reached out to Nakabuye Hilda Flavia from Uganda to hear her story.

Nakabuye Hilda Flavia is a 22 year old climate activist and green campaigner living in Kampala, Uganda. She is studying at Kampala International University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in procurement and supply change management. She loves nature and is an organizer in the Fridays for Future Uganda team. In addition to the Friday strikes, she also carries out a lake shore clean-up activity with a group of people every week to #Beat plastic pollution and preserve water resources in crisis.

Hilda, how did you learn about #FridaysForFuture and Greta Thunberg? How did you start organizing strikes in Kampala, Uganda?

It was in 2015 that I started seeing changes in my grandmother’s garden. Her plantations were drying up since there was very little rainfall. We started bringing food and fruits to my grandma, instead of the other way around. Everything started becoming more expensive. I could see that the impacts of climate change were manifesting in my community and country. How we live and what we do has indeed built up towards this result. I knew that we needed to change, but I didn’t know what to do.

“The only way to create change is by being part of it”

I started reading more about climate change and I have been following Green Climate Campaign Africa on Twitter. I found out about Greta on Twitter too. I heard that she says “The only way to create change is by being part of it.” This made me think, why don’t I become part of this to create change?

My friends didn’t want to stand on the streets so I did my first strike alone in front of the university. I felt scared and thought maybe I was doing something wrong. But I felt responsible and felt like I should do it. Many people were looking at me and started asking why I’m doing this. They asked me a lot actually and the first times they didn’t get what I’m doing. I had to explain why. After 6 hours I went back to my friends and told them that it felt very natural to become part of the change. Maybe a closed door opened. I wanted to show people what they can do and I wanted to do this often.

As I continued to do this, people started telling me that I am right and that they have observed the same changes. I told them “Those what you are experiencing are all part of climate change!” I told them about Greta and what’s being done in other countries. I want people and the government to act. I want us to change the way we live!

Do you think that your Nakabuye Hilda cleaning plastic in Ugandaactions have brought more awareness to the public opinion about the climate change?

Yes, after some time people started waiting in line to talk to me! 14 year old Leah, 17 year old Bob and others came on board. We started going to gatherings, universities and schools to talk about climate change. Our actions have brought more awareness because wherever we go, we raise awareness regarding climate change in many ways such as doing climate strikes, climate campaigns, climate discussions where we traverse schools, high schools, church groups, community gatherings and universities. We tell others about climate change and share solutions on how we fight it.

We also do shore clean-ups and talk to people we meet. Many people’s lives depend on Lake Victoria so I started going there with Leah. At first they asked if we were being paid or working for others. It wasn’t easy but after some time we reached local leaders and fishermen.

Facing global warming, what is the biggest challenge for your country specifically?

The biggest challenge connected to global warming in my country is the changing weather patterns causing long periods of dry seasons, heat waves, frequent floods and prolonged droughts among others. This greatly affects each and every one of us. It complicates the ability of farmers to trace the rainfall patterns in order to know when to plant because they are always changing. Take August, for example, a month well known for planting crops. Due to the rising temperatures we are facing in Uganda nowadays, the rainfall patterns in this month are changing and causing these crops to dry out. What happens then is that the subsistence farmer in the village will be at a significant threat of hunger and starvation and the commercial farmer will not make any profits but losses. With agriculture being the backbone of Uganda’s economy, these abrupt changes to conditions reduce our performance and pose a great threat to lives and livelihoods of Ugandans as much as it does to the rest of the world. Surface waters of Lake Victoria, which is the second largest freshwater body in the world, are warming up at a very high rate, threatening many people whose lives depend on that lake including the Nile based countries.

What could traditional environmental organizations do to support you?

Traditional environmental organizations should add their voices to the global call for climate action, they should join campaigns against deforestation and plastic pollution, amongst others, and also promote community climate action. They can also support us by offering help in publicising our work, involving us in their ongoing programs and, linking us to like-minded people.

 

To learn more about their activities, follow Fridays For Future Uganda on Twitter. Find 20 good reasons to support the school striking youth in our previously published article and follow EKOenergy on Twitter and other social media. Stay tuned for our interview with Arshak Makichyan from Fridays For Future Russia!