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Uganda Landslide

29 June 2012

Uganda landslide

Whilst on a trip to Uganda on behalf of Vale for Africa Professor Tim Wess, Pro Vice Chancellor for Estates, witnessed the aftermath of the fatal landslides that swept away three villages on the slopes of Mount Elgon.

Here he writes a personal account of the devastation caused by this tragic event:

"On Tuesday we made it to Mbale to meet Rob Rowlands from PONT which is a community link between Rhondda Cynon Taf in South Wales and Mbale, a stunning district in Eastern Uganda. Rob travelled with us into the hills to visit some of the tree nurseries in Bududa participating in Size of Wales' One million Trees project.

When we arrived we heard about the landslide that was being reported on the UK news, it had happened where we were supposed to be visiting the small scale coffee plantation. We'd already visited a fair trade coffee processing plant in Mbale town, and then went into the mountains to meet the farmers and the community workers who were tending the tree nurseries. We made a short video for Size of Wales, and then set off to visit the affected area.

We travelled up along poorer and poorer roads with more and more people walking along the roadside until we arrived at the scene of total devastation. The first view was across from the valley so the stark contrast of red clay against the tropical green backdrop, where the hollow of a hill had collapsed looked like a devastating avalanche. Tonnes of mud had travelled about a kilometre down the hillside.

When we got to the scene and walked over the mud it was clear that everyone's efforts were pretty hopeless. There were thousands of people on the hillside, something almost biblical. We tried to capture images and a couple of videos, it seemed to be voyeuristic for us, but I could appreciate why the people from all over the valley needed to come and see. When it started to rain everyone started to move away from the mudslide and we decided to leave.

Uganda landslide 2

I am pleased we took the pictures to show the heart breaking impacts of deforestation. The journey from the hillside was probably the most significant off road I have ever been in, I'm not someone who craves that sort of thrill so it was a bit harrowing and I didn't want us to add to the burden. By the time we had got back to Mbale town, I had been interviewed by the BBC and Western Mail. We then travelled back to Tororo in the dark, and Lee had the task of putting images from several cameras onto computers. Rob Rowlands from PONT explained to us quite a lot about PONT structure and lessons learned here in Mbale, Uganda."

Cardiff University is a Forest Partner of environmental charity Size of Wales – which aims to bring everyone in Wales together to help sustain an area of tropical forest the size of Wales as part of a national response to climate change.

The University is already taking a leading role in sustainability science with its Sustainable Places Research Institute pushing the boundaries of traditional sustainability research with the aim of finding solutions to the challenges of diminishing resources and climate change.

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