Uganda learns a lesson, steps up to protect its Biodiversity.

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Gathered dead wood in a forest, Photo by Simon de Trey White

By Nangayi Guyson – nangayi.guyson@alleastafrica.com

Kampala, Uganda- Over 86% of Uganda’s population has been depending on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods in the previous years and its natural resource base has been considered one of the richest and most diverse in Africa.

The country’s Biodiversity was estimated to be contributing  about $1billion million per year in monetary, non-monetary and informal sectors, and through provision of ecological service.

But in the recent years, Uganda’s Biodiversity has been ignored. The country has seen its natural forests, savanna woodlands, wetlands, lakes and rivers being destroyed by both individuals as well as powerful alliance of international corporations and government officials.

Most of the forests and wetlands’ land has been giveaway to attract investors. Poor fishing methods have also been witnessed around lakes and rivers.

The country’s rich natural heritage has also  been under severe pressure mainly from the expansion of agricultural land as a result of a growing population, increasing demand for commercial and residential construction land, high demand for charcoal and fuel, unchecked logging and weak legal protections and even weaker enforcement around it.

Uganda is estimated to be losing its forest cover at a rate of 80,000 ha per year implying the ecosystem services associated with the forest are also lost

Experts are predicting that Uganda will not have forest and wetlands in the next 40 years.

In 1890 forests and woodland covered approximately 45% of the total land area and is now estimated at 20%. About 30% of the tropical high forests are now degraded.

Deforestation and rangeland degradation alone is estimated to be costing Uganda US$ 1.8 million and US$ 400 million while loss of wildlife is estimated at US$ 26 million annually

Soil erosion and land degradation are becoming more pronounced in the country. Rivers are getting more silted. Recent estimates of costs of natural resource degradation in the country are put at 17% of the GDP of which 11% is constituted by soil degradation. The annual economic value of soil nutrient loss is estimated at US $ 625m.

Because of such activities, the country’s climate has changed and Uganda is dragged into drought after missing several rainfall seasons in the past two years leading to the outbreak of hunger in many parts of the country.

Drought has hit the country and access to food in most parts of the country is becoming inadequate and recent reports are showing Uganda is being hit by hunger year per year. Farmers are struggling to feed themselves and their livestock.

But after learning a lesson that tempering with nature is not a good idea, Uganda has stepped up to save its biodiversity by restoring degraded ecosystems and species. It’s also halting destructive use of biodiversity, the encroachments on the land for forest and wetlands are being stopped. Community based activities that enhance biodiversity conservation for example tree planting are being emphasized together with strengthening awareness and enforcement. Management of invasive alien species is also being done.

The government has also stepped up to save the environment by demolishing all buildings constructed in wetlands and stopping cultivation. It’s also modelling catchment inflows into Lakes and rivers to balance its waters, planting of trees is also being encouraged and deforestation is now  a serious offense.

Last year in December, President Museveni gave wetland encroachers in the country one month to leave or be forced out by the police.

President Museveni and other authorities has now partnered  with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support efforts by government to repair the broken environment.

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