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African Geographical Review
Volume 30, June 2011


Special Issue
Political Violence and Armed Conflict in Africa: People, Places, Processes, Effects

The Gendered Politics of Firewood in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Uganda

Deborah Mulumba

This paper examines the environmental destruction that arises from sudden location
of refugees in rural settlements in Uganda. It highlights the gendered biases
created when women are forced to traverse long distances to gather firewood. In
doing so, the paper seeks to improve the provision of humanitarian support to
refugee populations and the physical environment in their settlements. The research
design was exploratory, descriptive, and largely qualitative even though
small amounts of primary quantitative data were collected from a sample of 100
women and 30 men. Results of the data analysis show that refugee settlements
have a negative effect on the environment in and around refugee settlements due
to the excessive cutting of trees needed for firewood and charcoal. Moreover, the
data show that women refugees, whose gender role it is to collect firewood, had
to travel long distances in search of fuel wood, a process that exposed them to
exploitation and domestic violence. The paper concludes with some recommendations
including the provision of fuel energy and the adoption of environmental
strategies that can conserve the ecosystem in and around refugee settlements.

Key words: Women, refugees, gender, environment, firewood, refugee settlement, Uganda