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Okere City AS Rural Futuristic Project

In May 2022, we partnered with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTADE) to organize the inaugural #OkereSummit for Development. The summit attracted development experts and young innovators who had a unique engagement and exchange of ideas with the rural people of Okere village about re-imaging rural futures. Our founder and CEO, Ojok Okello gave the keynote address entitled: OKERE CITY AS A RURAL FUTURISTIC PROJECT. Read the full address below;

Within the Lango-speaking community, the phrase “Adwari-Adwari” commonly denotes "backwardness and rurality." For example, if someone fills water up to the brim of a glass, they might say, "you have poured your water Adwari-Adwari." Or if you try crossing the road and you find it difficult because they are many vehicles moving at the same time, they say that, “you are crossing the road like you are from Adwari”. For context (and reminder), Okere is situated in Adwari sub-county, a geographical location historically associated with backwardness. How do we re-imagine villages or the countryside like Okere as places and agents for the performances and construction of more just and desirable rural futures? How can we ensure that these futures diverge from the path of extractive and unjust urbanization and modernization? How do we protect the countryside from big corporations who invade them to establish large farmlands or extract precious minerals for the sake of profit maximazation and not environmental conservation and protection? 

Contrary to conventional depictions of the rural or the countryside as marginal, peripheral, and backward, rural futurism transcends these stereotypes. It extends beyond viewing villages and the countryside as mere factors of production. Rather, rural futurism aims to ensure that rural spaces actively participate in the generation and exploration of people-centric and more appealing futures. It advocates for empowering rural areas to excel as key contributors in the rural-urban landscape. The question then arises: How can the rural evolve into a more effective performer, and what role can Okere City play as a rural futuristic initiative in this transformation? Over the years, we have been attempting to answer these questions in many ways. Our continuously evolving solutions aim to lay the foundation for a sustainable rural future in our local community. 

Environmental Conservation and Protection: The rural landscape stands as the pivotal battleground for safeguarding and preserving the environment. Within these villages lie expansive tracts of land, offering the ideal canvas for planting trillions of trees - an imperative strategy in the global fight against climate change, as endorsed by experts. Moreover, rural inhabitants inherently live in harmony with nature, positioning themselves as its natural and most dedicated custodians. Unfortunately, the expansion of urbanization has exacted a perilous toll on environmental preservation in Okere. An alarming consequence is the escalating demand for charcoal in urban areas, primarily in Lira and Kampala cities, resulting in the decimation of over 70% of the shea trees' cover in Okere over the past two decades. In response to this pressing issue and the looming threat of a climate apocalypse, we have embarked on a mission to plant 1,000 shea trees annually for the next decade. Additionally, we actively engage in sensitization and community awareness campaigns to combat the wanton destruction of shea trees. Through our ongoing efforts in shea regeneration and protection, we envision establishing shea trees as the "vibranium" that catalyzes economic transformation in Okere, contributing to the sustainability of both the environment and the community.

Rural Futurism reignites interest in rural areas and mitigates rural-urban migration: Rural Futurism challenges the notion that the benefits of rural living should be exclusive to the affluent, who can afford opulent country homes, or those seeking upscale countryside experiences. Such practices only risk transforming rural communities into replicas of urban environments, offering limited advantages to the actual rural population. In essence, rural futurism champions the establishment of social and economic opportunities in rural areas, providing residents with viable alternatives for cultivating improved and dignified lives within their localities. The choice to migrate to urban areas should stem from personal preferences rather than a lack of opportunities in rural settings.

Rural futurism has the potential to serve as an antidote to flawed politics, addressing a critical need as rural populations are often the most adversely affected by poor governance. In Africa, rural areas are frequently a site of oppression, and the impact of deficient service delivery and corruption is acutely felt by rural dwellers, who typically have fewer alternatives than their urban counterparts. In many cases, the lack of literacy among rural residents hampers their ability to demand accountability from public offices, making their livelihoods vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous politicians who leverage gifts like salt or cheap alcohol in exchange for votes. In Africa, especially, such politicians often exploit their rural constituencies to secure political power. Now, envision a future where rural inhabitants are politically conscious and empowered to transform their localities from sites of oppression to sites of resistance. Picture a rural landscape where voters are well-versed in their democratic rights and responsibilities, eager to utilize their rural margins as spaces for radical openness. Envision a rural future where literate and civically informed voters engage with political leaders as equals. This is the future that Okere City aspires to create. While acknowledging the challenges of realizing this vision, we have taken a bold leap to invest in our leadership laboratory. Here, local leaders gain not only skills, knowledge, and exposure but also the opportunity to interface with and be accountable to ordinary citizens - the very people they serve.

Doesn’t the future truly belong to the countryside? Come! Let's all gather in our countryside, for they need us just as much as we need them.

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