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Uganda Joins Global Efforts to Restore Nature on World Biodiversity Day


Uganda Joins Global Efforts to Restore Nature on World Biodiversity Day

Uganda observed World Biodiversity Day on May 22nd, 2023, aiming to raise awareness and emphasize the significance of biodiversity for human well-being. The country also highlighted the urgent need for global action to prevent further loss of biodiversity.

Under the National Environment Act (2019), biological diversity encompasses the variety of living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, as well as the ecological complexes they form. This includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.

The event took place in Mabira Forest and witnessed the participation of various partners such as the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), National Forestry Authority (NFA), Uganda Biodiversity Fund, ATC Uganda, Buikwe Local Government, and schools under the theme; From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity” 

Some of the participants joined by a resident to plant trees in Mabira earlier today. Image by Arthur Musinguzi

Dorothy Ssemanda, the CEO of ATC Uganda, expressed their commitment to planting 5,000-10,000 seedlings annually, emphasizing the importance of environmental sustainability. She stated, “Last year we planted about 30,000 trees and this year we have started with 5,000 in partnership with NEMA and NFA. ATC Uganda is dedicated to providing renewable energy for every tower we construct.”

Akankwasah Barirega, the Executive Director of NEMA, highlighted the serious threats faced by biodiversity, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. These challenges affect not only Uganda but also the entire world. Barirega emphasized the need for collaborative efforts with NFA and other partners to prioritize restoration.

“Climate change threatens the survival of Biodiversity because it introduces conditions to which biodiversity is not adapted to. Loss of habitats like deforestation, wetland degradation and then pollution. Plastic pollution for example can induce climate change, but also directly affect biodiversity. We are here to work with NFA and all our other partners to walk the talk and do the restoration,” he said.

Barirega also acknowledged that while Mabira Forest still exists, there have been encroachments that call for restoration. The community has shown commitment to joining the restoration exercise.

A team from Total Energies also participated in the tree-planting exercise

Eng. Yorokamu B. Katwiremu, a member of the NEMA Board, urged local leaders to encourage tree planting in their respective areas. He emphasized the simple yet impactful step of each homestead planting 10 trees per year, leading to the formation of forests in villages.

“If there are 5,000 people in this village and each one planted 10 trees (avocado, mangoes, guavas and jack fruit among others) a year, those are 50,000 trees, you will have a forest in this village. It is not rocket science. LC1, go and make sure that in each homestead, there are 10 trees planted every year,” he advised

Tom Okello, the Executive Director of the National Forest Authority, expressed concern about Mabira Forest being the only significant remaining forest block in the central region. Its proximity to urban areas puts it at risk of theft for firewood and timber.

Okello mentioned the 12 enclaves within Mabira Forest and the increasing population in those villages, which contributes to pressure on the forest through encroachment for various activities, including farming.

Youth were at the centre of today’s tree-planting exercise in Mabira

Data from an NFA report shows a substantial loss of forest cover in Uganda over the years. The report estimated an average annual loss of 122,000 hectares from 1990 to 2015, with the highest loss estimated at 250,000 hectares annually from 2005 to 2010. These figures reflect the need for stronger institutions, coordinated policies, increased funding, and enhanced capacity to effectively manage Uganda’s forestry resources.

Okello emphasized the authority’s commitment to taking appropriate action against encroachers, stating, “Where people refuse to listen, we will apply proportionate force and bring them to justice.”

Issa Katwesigye from the Running Out OF Trees (ROOTS) campaign and Assistant Commissioner Forestry in the Ministry of Water and Environment shared the significant progress made in tree planting efforts. Over 8 million trees were planted in 2020, followed by 13.4 million trees in 2021, and an impressive 20.9 million trees in 2022. The campaign ensures that every tree is mapped using technology and focuses on monitoring its survival.

Ivan Amanigaruhanga, the Executive Director of the Uganda Biodiversity Fund, highlighted their role in providing funding to government institutions, NGOs, and individuals dedicated to restoring biodiversity. Amanigaruhanga acknowledged the financing gap in Uganda and stressed the importance of supporting actors in the sector.

Ivan Amanigaruhanga addressing participants during the World Biodiversity Day

The organization has allocated a substantial amount, approximately USD 10 million, to finance partners such as NEMA, NFA, UWA, and non-governmental organizations.

“We have a tune of USD 10 million that we are generating to finance actors like NEMA, NFA, UWA and non-government organizations. We partner with NEMA because they are the regulatory institution and NFA, because they are the foot soldiers for forestry management.”  Adding that; “We all know that resources that come from the Central Government for Biodiversity conservation are very minimal. And so, on a day like this of biodiversity, we see our role underscored in this sector and it is encouraging to us when we see actors from different sectors coming together.”

Amanigaruhanga expressed the need for increased funding and resources, as the current efforts are yielding positive results. He voiced his hope for generating more resources to enable every actor to fulfil their mandate.

The Uganda Biodiversity Fund contributed at least 50 million shillings in cash and resources to the day’s activities, leading up to the National Environment Day scheduled for June 5th, 2023, at Kololo.

Sarah K. Biryomumaisho is a Multimedia journalist (Broadcast & Writing) with 11 years of experience. She holds a Diploma in Business Administration from Makerere Business Institute and a Certificate in Media Management from Women in News. She completed a Course in Wikimedia in 2020, making her one of the very few Wikipedia Editors in the country. She also has a certificate in Gender Justice Reporting from The International Women's Media Foundation, IWMF. She has worked with a number of media houses including 6 Radio stations, most recently Galaxy fm 100.2 & Radio 4. She has worked with Andariya Magazine as a writer. Sarah worked as a Digital Communications consultant for the newly revived Uganda Airlines and is also a Digital enthusiast. She owns a Media Organization called TheUgPost that publishes in Uganda and has a global reach. Twitter;

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