Protect Vulnerable Women From East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project Land Conflicts

By Ireen Twongirwe

It’s important to note that Uganda is a 3rd world country and most of the citizens are vulnerable. Having this in mind, it means that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer for this case therefore, the vulnerable will continue to suffer till end of the world.

According to research, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project which will start off in 2022 in Uganda which will displace about 14,000 households and their property. In this include women, elderly, men, disabled, girls, boys, pregnant mothers who are very delicate to move in this situation.

It’s clear that the oil companies, government leaders and other relevant stake holders promised the affected persons to be compensated for their grabbed land but even now, they haven’t been compensated.  

Further, rural women face particularly strong obstacles to their control over and use of land. They often do not have the same level of access to extension services and other forms of support as men.

The risk of losing their land can also discourage women from investing in it, making land less productive. It’s clear that when women have access to assets, it increases their ability to start and grow businesses by giving them collateral they need to secure credit, it also allows them to invest in their families, changing outcomes for their children.

In addition, the Ministry of Land, Urban Housing and Development (MLUHD) drafted a copy of the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy (LARRP) aimed at addressing the challenges related to the legal and institutional frameworks governing both compulsory and voluntary land acquisition to protect affected people against risks of impoverishment and increased vulnerability. But this had never been effective and so they continue to live in  a night mare.

However, it’s important to note that vulnerable women are still facing challenges in accessing land due to the absence of land  laws/policy.  

Land valuation irregularities

There are irregularities in the valuation and disclosure of compensation rates. Compensation assessment (valuation) challenges due to a lack of policies, guiding principles and standards for the processes and methods used to value lands, structures, crops, business operations, and other property. More so, cut off dates.

The affected communities were stopped from using their land since 2018 and 2019 when government placed a cut-off date. They were stopped from growing key income-generating crops such as perennial crops and any development activities like building temporary structures before being compensated.

In addition, Unfair and inadequate compensations to the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) who have been displaced. Unfair compensation seldom allows a PAP to replace his or her assets affected by land acquisition. This is because most the affected persons do not know how to read and write.

There is also limited understanding by affected community members of the legal requirements, procedures, processes and rights under compulsory land acquisition implying increased vulnerability with individuals, families and communities becoming prone to misinformation, speculation and deception thereby getting highly exposed to manipulation, violations and abuse.

Involve women

There is need to promote gender equality and equity. Involve women in community consultations and negotiations on resettlement but engage with men and women separately to develop resettlement and livelihood restoration packages to compensate for impacts of displacement, recognizing the differing ways in which women and men hold and use their lands and recourses and the fact that women can find it difficult to make their needs known in some cultures.

More so, the affected communities should be adequately informed and consulted on all matters that affect them and will participate in decision-making related to the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation phases of the land acquisition and resettlement activities.

This will include providing access to appropriate advice on resettlement options and livelihood restoration to ensure that they understand their rights, responsibilities and options in regard to land acquisition.

Further, the government should avoid acquisition of public places like school and markets and also   protected areas like forest reserves and water bodies.

Lastly, there is urgent need to sensitize and empower vulnerable women, men on the ongoing project so that they should not again sign documents they don’t understand in the way of taking away their properties.

In a nutshell, I call upon oil companies and the involved government leaders to provide adequate compensation to the affected persons before they start off oil exploitation. And to the Ugandans especially those affected to remain vigilant towards this project.

For God and my country,

Ireen Twongirwe is the Executive Director, Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda. (WoGEM Uganda)

Letter To Janet Museveni: Incorporate Climate Change Courses In Schools’ Curricula

By Ireen Twongirwe

Dear Madam,

Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda (WoGEM Uganda) is a community-based organization dedicated to influence and promote women and girl’s participation in greener economy to promote social and economic development.

WoGEM Uganda brings together vulnerable women, girls and youth from all sectors and equip them with knowledge and capacity to engage in a greener economy movement for community livelihoods, climate change mitigation and resilience.

Madam minister, Mrs. Janet Kataha Museveni, we thank you for the work you have done so far and what you’re still doing. Its our pleasure to see that all tertiary institutions, universities among others have reported back to school after the lockdown of the economy world wide due to covid 19 pandemic. 

As we wait for the reporting of other secondary and primary schools come 2022, We thank you for your prior preparations and efforts.

The main objective of this letter madam minister is to ask you kindly with your team to introduce some of the climate and environment courses in education sector so that we can be able to mitigate and adapt climate change impacts in our country starting from the grass root.

According to COP26, UN Frame work Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) conference in Glasgow, UK government in partnership with United Countries promise to help developed and developing countries to promote solidarity in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Its important to note that during COP26 summit, more than 100 countries pledged to end deforestation by 2030. And so, when our students get involved in these programmes as soon as possible, it will give us a chance to cope up with the mitigation of climate change impacts.

In May 2020, the PS/ES constituted a technical committee to spear head and fast track the development of Education Digital Agenda (DA) and the ICT in education Policy whose main goal were to improve Uganda’s education service delivery through sustainable digital transformation.

Its vital to know that education plays an important role in addressing climate change impacts such as, providing children and young people with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about how to adapt individual lives and ecological, social or economic systems to a changing environment, encourage people to change their attitudes and behaviour on conserving and protecting the environment.

It can also help them understand the impacts of global warming and learn how to reduce the carbon gas emissions hence promoting climate change resilience.  Madam minister, education empowers all people, but especially motivates the young to take action in adapting and mitigating climate change impacts.

Below are the courses we would like to be introduced in schools both in primary and secondary schools,

  • Climate Studies & Meteorology.
  • Biodiversity & Conservation.
  • Sustainable Development.
  • Clean energy Vs fossil fuels
  • Natural resource management
  • Environmental conservation.

Madam minister the above courses will help the students in schools to address climate change impacts in away that they will be informed on the importance of environment and ways to protect and conserve it.  This will further help in creating an eco-group that will protect ecological areas like waterbodies, forests, among others. 

This will enable schools to calculate school’s carbon footprints, tackle consumerism, reduce wastes and make transportation a priority. Lastly, they will be encouraged to plant trees which will help in reduction of carbon gas emissions, reduce on disastrous floods, prolonged drought, reduce on the sea water levels among others.

It’s noted that when these friendly actions are introduced in schools, it will increase on the adaptability of climate change impacts hence promoting green economy.

Madam minister we shall be obliged seeing you and your team adjust in the curriculum to incorporate environmental and climate change courses while joining the solidarity to curb the impacts of climate change which will enable students to study in conducive environment.

Yours faithfully,

Ireen Twongirwe is the Executive Director Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda (WoGEM Uganda).

Human Rights, Environmental Defenders Must Be Protected, Not Attacked

By Aryampa Brighton

While this is a problem worldwide, Uganda has directly and indirectly become a hotbed for violence against human rights and environmental defenders.

Earlier this year on 2nd day of January, President Yoweri Museveni directed the immediate shut down of the activities of Democratic Governance Facility (DGF). DGF is a biggest donor fund in Uganda.

It is an institution that supports quite a number of organization in Uganda raging from Uganda Media Women Association, Uganda Law Society, JLOS, ACODE, to CSBAG and so many others that have been instrumental in empowering women to participate in politics and conservation.

Many of these organisations offer probono/free legal services, help in drafting national budgets and other various activities that aim at strengthening democracy, protect human and environmental rights, improve justice and enhance accountability in Uganda.

The shutting down of DGF directly cut funding for the human rights and environmental defenders.

On the 20th of August, 2021 the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO BUREAU) under the ministry of internal affairs directly issued a statement halting the operations of 54 Non-Governmental Organizations without being heard.

In the same year, we have individual activists being arrested and their accounts frozen including but not limited to Nicholas Opiyo of Chapter 4, Maxwell Atuhura, an environmental activist in Buliisa and others.

On 22 October, 2021 Police from Kiira arrested Dickens Kamugisha, the Chief Executive Officer of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and all its staff were arrested and detained at kiira Police station.

Dickens had escorted AFIEGO staff who had been given police bond after their arrest last week on a charge of operating without a permit. Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) is a company limited by guarantee that was incorporated under Uganda's Companies Act.

AFIEGO undertakes public policy research and advocacy to influence energy policies to benefit the poor and vulnerable running three programmes including; Electricity Democracy Programme, Extractives Governance Programme, and Renewable Energy Efficiency Programme.

AFIEGO, Youth for Green Communities and other partners have been under immense pressure and intimidation for being vocal in defending the rights of oil affected communities as well as protection of Bugoma central Forest Reserve which is being cut down for sugarcane growing by Hoima Sugar limited in Hoima.

AFIEGO and most other organizations affected by the NGO Bureau directive under law are regulated by the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) not the NGO Bureau.

It is so unfortunate that the government of Uganda has preferred taking the route of committing condemnable inconsiderate acts of harassing human rights and environmental defenders instead of taking stronger actioner action to protect them in Uganda’s Oil frontier.

This happening amidst the reports by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which came out earlier this week warning of imminent climate catastrophe. Major atmospheric and climatic changes are already under way and happening in Uganda as we speak.

People have caused climate change, and must now bring it to a halt through radical changes in our behaviour and attitudes. And yet it’s the defenders of our environment whose lives are being risked to advocate for increased environmental protection.

The government should know that Environmental and human rights defenders are ordinary people who defend the environment and the human rights associated with it.

They defend their communities from deforestation like in Bugoma, Zoka, Semliki, Mabira and others, they advocate against pollution of water supplies by big business, oil companies and others, they reveal corruption networks for the granting of illegal mining licenses, and they advocate for clean breathable air. This should not be the reason for their prosecution but rather it should the reason for their protection.

These condemnable and inconsiderate acts should be treated with the utmost seriousness they deserve. They are happening all over the world. The NGO Global Witness reported that 2019 was the most dangerous year on record for environmental human rights defenders, documenting 212 killings of land and environmental defenders.

The same year, Front Line Defenders recorded a total of 319 killings of human rights defenders involved in the defence of all rights. On 11 September 2020, environmental defender Roberto Carlos Pacheco was shot dead after years of receiving threats and attacks linked to his opposition to illegal mining in the Tambopata Reserve in Peru.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) documented an increase during 2020 in attacks against human rights defenders working on business-related human rights issues, with 604 attacks in 2020, up from 572 attacks in 2019. Mining and other extractives are the sectors most related to attacks.

These types of attacks are intended to silence and intimidate human rights defenders working so hard to empower citizens on their rights in extraction and duties to the protection of their environment against environmental crimes and far-reaching impacts of climate change.

Human Rights and Environmental Defenders come to do that work out of necessity. As the world becomes increasingly polluted, contaminated, destroyed or otherwise uninhabitable, many more people are likely to become environmental defenders but these kinds of harassment are not only risking the lives of the defenders now but also the environment and future generations.

The alarming IPCC report makes it clear that the crisis is already upon us. Those defending the environment must be protected, not attacked. We urge the government to look and take environmental and human rights issues very seriously.

The earth is what we have in common and never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; and it is one thing all of us share.

We must and should protect it amidst all harassments, intimidations and life risking threats. The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and the take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.

The writer is a lawyer and Chief Executive Officer, Youth for Green Communities. 

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How COVID19 Brought Oil & Gas Skills Development In Uganda To Its Weak Knees

The tumultuous impacts of Coronavirus Disease (COVID19), an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, declared a pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO), on the global oil and gas industry are well documented, and for Uganda, an upcoming oil and gas producer, the negative effects have been heartbreaking and have brutally killed dreams of many.  

In Uganda, the COVID19 pandemic menace has sent the country many years backwards away from realizing the production of the hydrocarbons as now the poverty stricken country is looking at achieving her first oil in 2025. Uganda first discovered commercially viable hydrocarbons in 2006 and has since been struggling to do all it can to empower citizens so that they can participate in the extraction of the 6.5bn barrel of crude oil and 500, 000 mmcf natural gas buried in the Albertine Graben located in Western Uganda.

TotalEnergies EP Uganda and CNOOC Uganda Limited, the International Oil Companies (IOCs) manning the oil fields in Western Uganda and holding the oil and gas investment plans for the country, because of COVID19 pandemic, couldn’t commit their monies to the Ugandan projects due to the uncertainties caused by the coronavirus. In fact, when COVID19 struck, they scaled down on their operations, resized their staff numbers and cut down on their expenses including suspending some of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in the country.

Because of the raging COVID19 pandemic, the oil companies could also not commit their expat employees to stay, work or travel to Uganda because of the health risks associated with the coronavirus, a disease that has since its breakout in 2019 claimed the lives of over 5m people globally and affected over 240m people. With travel bans and restrictions, lockdowns and a curfew, even the local workforce in the industry were restricted to working in their homes and on online platforms. This slowed decision making and projects implementations.

Apart from the once in a while engagements between the governments of Uganda, Tanzania and the oil companies who would meet to negotiate and sign contracts to expedite infrastructure developments in the region, especially the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), the oil and gas industry in Uganda stalled because of the COVID19 pandemic.

President Yoweri Museveni and Patrick Pouyanné the Chief Executive Officer met to pave way for the roll out of the Final Investment Decision.

While there were some activities happening in the high profile boardrooms, there was no to little activities taking place as Uganda has been under gruesome lockdowns right from March 2020 when covid19 patient zero was registered. The oil fields went silent as everyone sought safety from the killing virus.

As the sector went into limbo, Uganda’s preparations to participate in the development and production stages of the oil and gas industry and local content development took a nosedive. On registering patient zero, President Yoweri Museveni ordered the closure of all schools and training institutions as one of the measures of fighting COVID19. Since then, the education sector, including oil and gas skills training institutions and capacity enhancement establishments, hasn’t resurrected almost two years later.

In separate interviews with Earthfinds oil and gas training institutions and organizations have recounted how the COVID19 pandemic has disrupted their academic calendar cycle, budgets and routines. Already struggling to produce the right quality workforce for the industry, these institutions now have to adapt to new ways of living, studying and working in order to safely carry on with their operations. They say that when schools and training centres are reopened for physical learning, there will be need for mindset change to adapt to new globally accepted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) requirements and introduce new ways of communicating with learners without risking their health.

 

The Joint Venture partners have been facilitating oil and gas skilling development in the country but the coming of COVID19 saw these activities suspended.

The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), the statutory regulator of the oil and gas industry, in a communication to this news website acknowledges that the COVID19 pandemic has had adverse effects on the education sector including the skilling of Ugandans for the oil and gas sector but is not certain to what extent the closure of the training facilities and other capacity building initiatives will affect the participation of Ugandans in the sector.

Uganda Technical College (UTC) Kichwamba, the institution implementing the Albertine Region Sustainable Development Project (ARSDP) on Curriculum Development, Training and International Accreditation in four petroleum-related construction trades – welding, electrical, plumbing and carpentry, according to the programs coordinator, Dr. Drake Kyalimpa, was forced to stop their operations because of the COVID19 pandemic restrictions.  

The program being implemented by UTC Kichwamba is being funded by the World Bank and the government of Uganda through the Ministry Of Education and Sports. It is aimed at training trainers who will formulate courses and train Ugandans who will work in the oil and gas industry. The instructors who train the trainers are sourced from the United Kingdom (UK) but when COVID19 hit, they couldn’t travel to Uganda. Those who were already in Uganda were returned to the UK.

“This means we will delay our graduation and producing of graduates ready to work in the development and production stages of the sector,” Dr. Kyalimpa noted. Adding: “It is a bad experience; logistically some contracts of tutors and the implementing agency expire but also students are affected. They paid their fees but now they cannot study and complete on time,”

The disruptions that have rippled through the education sector due to the pandemic are curtailing the country’s skilling and local content capacity building agenda. While the impact cannot be quantified, the damage has been done. Patrick Mbonye, the Managing Director, The Assessment and Skilling Centre (TASC), a company that has done and still does a lot of oil and gas skilling projects with the IOCs and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, tells that by adhering to the COVID19 SOPs they had to reduce the number of learners they take on at a time.

Mbonye reveals that the lockdowns and restrictions that came with COVID19 left a scathing effect on the female learners. “The ladies, unfortunately, every single one of them was pregnant when we called them to come to the workshop. For me it was very disastrous because they missed out on the opportunity to get into the world of work. We had to really struggle to get others” he revealed.

In all these challenges, the leading stakeholders in the oil and gas industry like the PAU, the IOCs and civil society, driven by National Oil  Gas Policy 2008 goal to eradicate poverty and create lasting value to society, still remain focused to help Ugandans get the skills and capacities to work in the industry. The PAU operates the National Oil and Gas Talent Register (NOGTR) which captures available skills that may be absorbed in the oil and gas sector. 

In an email interview, Gloria Ssebikari, Manager, Corporate Affairs and Public Relations at PAU, said during the first outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there was a noticeable reduction in the number of new applicants to join NOGTR. "However, the number of registered applicants in April 2021 and May 2021 were 1, 267 the highest registered in two months since the register was launched in 2019. This is attributed to the signing of the key oil agreements in April 2021," she said. 

The interest to register on the NOGTR has seen 2, 614 talents register during the period between August 2020 and August 2021. Overall, the register has 5, 277 talents in the database; 4153 are male, while 1,124 are female. The PAU also operates the National Supplier Database (NSD) where companies intending to work in the oil and gas sector are mandated to register to be able to qualify to be given contracts.

Similarly, the Joint Venture (JV) partners, the IOCs, have despite the hiccups that came with COVID19, shown resilience and are working with host communities to ensure that local content capacity is on the roll and citizens are getting skills. In a message to Earthfinds, CNOOC Uganda Limited emphasized their commitment to National Content Development and ensure the development of human resource in Uganda.

"We are on course in implementing its activities despite the COVID pandemic. We are working with key stakeholders to ensure that sustainable development of the oil and gas industry in Uganda. We have held virtual supplier development workshops and training as earlier planned and we continue due doing so efficiently,” Aminah Bukenya, the Senior Public Relations Supervisor at CNOOC Uganda said.

But while the will is there, the consistency of the COVID19 pandemic continues to bamboozle training institutions and students. While the government pronounced that tertiary institutions should reopen on 1st November, many are uncertain if this will be possible.

For example, UTC Kichwamba is not ready to reopen this November preferring to do in January. Dr. Kyalimpa said they have written to the Ministry of Education and Sport to allow them reopen in January – at least that is when they can have their instructors from the UK come to Uganda or send the Ugandan trainees to the UK as the World Bank, the funders, mandates them.

“We cannot reopen in November. We are a technical institution. The idea is that you need to have enough time for students to use all the materials and technical equipment. You need a whole running semester other than a month or two so we requested the ministry to allow us bring back our instructors in January,” Dr Kyalimpa notes.

Institutions like UPIK have been disrupted and now have to play catch up in their local content capacity building agenda.

For Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK), the COVID19 pandemic has brought about unexpected variations in budgets to cover costs associated with the implementation of COVID SOPs and inadequate space for SOPs like social distancing. “UPIK programmes are competence based that require more that 60% workshop time, therefore 100% online is impossible,” Bernard Ongodia, the Principal of UPIK told Earthfinds in an interview, adding that the Institute has worked with the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to implement partial online learning so that hands on time can be optimised on reopening.

An industry baseline survey conducting by CNOOC Uganda, TotalEnergy and Tullow Oil, alongside government agencies in 2013 revealed that the oil and gas projects will at the peak of the development phase require a workforce of about 160,000 people. It divulged that out of the total manpower required, 15% are engineers & managers, 60% are technicians and craftsmen and 25% are people without any educational background – the unskilled laborers.

Asked if they will be able to supply the required workforce the industry needs, the Principal of UPIK Bernard Ongodia, who agrees that there exists a skilled labor gap, explained that they will collaborate with other institutions under the Oil and Gas Trainers' Association Uganda (OGTAU) to consolidate the available jobs in the sector for Ugandans.

Clean Energy Dreams, Lack Of Citizenry Support Delaying Uganda’s Oil Projects

By Brighton Aryampa

What comes next in the Uganda’s struggle to combat global warming will probably transform how Ugandans live, where they get their power and other bits of day-to-day life like food, both quietly and obviously.

So far, the greening of Uganda has been subtle, driven by Environmental defenders, NGOs, CSOs, CBOs, market forces, technology and voluntary actions of host local communities.

But that’s not enough, we need a flurry of executive actions, Mr. Museveni should steer the Uganda economy from one fuelled by fossils to one that no longer puts additional heat-trapping gases into the air by 2050. We request the president to look at the backbone of Uganda’s economy, the sectors that have been providing jobs to Ugandans.

Our leaders should be looking at the right development pathway that Uganda should be pursuing. Our mission as a country now should be promoting sustainable and climate-smart economic development and investment opportunities for all Ugandans to promote green and sustainable economic development as a scaled-up strategy not only to recover from Covid-19 nightmares but also to stop the growing climate change impacts.

Let our country rejoin and honor the international Paris climate accord and also join many other nations in setting an ambitious goal that once seems unattainable: net-zero carbons emissions by midcentury.

That means lots of changes designed to fight increasingly costly climate disasters such as wildfires, mudslides, landslides, floods, droughts, storms and heat waves for our people.

Thereafter we can have the moral authority to hold Europe, America, China and other most greenhouse gases contributors causing lethal damage in our green Uganda accountable.

Inspire young people (youth) to think of the journey to a carbon-less economy as a road to focus and develop in the green economic activities like tourism, fishing, agriculture, clean energy, Bee keeping and others that are environmentally sustainable.

Our leaders must embark on producing green results that will be noticeable. We want to see our power eventually coming from ever-cheaper wind and solar energy instead of coal and natural gas.

Our members of Parliament should start debating motions on clean energy transition, Save Bugoma forest and others, enforce the national climate change bill, smart agriculture, find long standing solutions to districts affected natural disasters like Land and mud slides in Bududa and nearing areas, flooding in kasese and other districts, Drought and change of season that are hitting Uganda as a whole and Locust invasion.

Those are viable discussions that will sustainably develop Uganda based on its capacity dependent on endowed natural resources.

However, it is absurd that at a time when responsible countries and companies across the world are stopping exploitation of extractive resources as part of implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement to save the world from the dangers of climate change, the government of Uganda and its partners are launching new oil projects.

These projects are raising untold concerns which the government must address immediately to get citizenry support for the oil projects. Small-scale farmers’ concerns: Small-scale agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, providing the largest number of jobs and ensuring food and nutritional security.

Per the Uganda Bureau of Statistic’s Annual Agricultural Survey of 2018, over 7.4 million households in Uganda are engaged in agriculture or livestock rearing; the survey’s results were published in May 2020. Of the aforementioned 7.4 million agricultural households, 66.2% operate less than one acre of land while only 13% farm more than two hectares.

Despite holding small hectares of land, these farmers feed the nation and contribute to maize, banana and coffee among other exports. These exports contribute to the foreign exchange earned by Uganda. Moreover, the agriculture sector, to which the small-scale farmers highly contribute, contributes 24.7% to Uganda’s GDP. The small-scale farmers also assure Uganda of food sovereignty and sustainable growth, if prioritized and invested in.

Concerns: Small-scale agriculture is important for the country. However, this sector is threatened by Uganda’s oil development agenda as it is estimated that the burning of Uganda’s oil will produce over 100 million metric tonnes of carbon per year until the oil is exhausted.

This will worsen the impacts of climate change. Oil pollution is also a threat to the productivity of Uganda’s soils. Moreover, the compulsory land acquisition practices characterized by delayed, under- and unfair compensation take away small-scale farmers’ foremost productive asset: land. Small-scale farmers across Bunyoro, Mubende, Gomba and Greater Masaka have lost land or the use of their land through cut-off dates.

The launch of oil projects amidst the above gaps is a big threat to small-scale farming and Uganda’s continued economic growth. Remember, the oil sector will not employ everyone. It also cannot replace agriculture.

 Fisheries’ sector concerns: Further, Uganda’s oil activities are taking place in major lakes and rivers. Under the Tilenga project, an oil pipeline is planned to be constructed under River Nile to transport oil from the oil fields to Hoima. Two-thirds of the EACOP will also be constructed in the Lake Victoria basin.

Rivers such as Kafu and wetlands across the ten EACOP-affected districts in Uganda are going to be affected by the EACOP. This is concerning. This is more so the case because in 2020, Nile Perch in Lake Victoria died in great numbers. Experts explained that pollution led to the fish dying. Plastic and other pollution is also a threat to the survival of fish. Amidst the above, oil pipelines are planned in Uganda’s major lakes and rivers.

Experiences from countries such as Nigeria show that oil spills are almost unavoidable, especially in African oil-producing countries. Despite this knowledge, our government allowed oil pipelines to be built in catchments for lake and rivers.

There are no assurances that fisherfolk, who contribute 3% to Uganda’s GDP and 12% to the agricultural GDP, will be protected amidst Uganda’s wild oil exploitation plans. The other concerns that I will explain later which include are Natural resources and forestry concerns, tourism, clean energy dreams, rights of host local communities, acquisition process and compensation, and others.

We urge and recommend the government to divert the investment to grow the existing green industries that already offer sustainable economic livelihoods to communities, lean and position Uganda into an innovative and expanding clean energy country for green quality jobs.

Alternatively, The Ugandan Government can address those raised concerns to gain citizen support for its oil projects. Let not our oil dreams shatter our economy, it’s a big project that needs utmost caution of all stakeholders starting from young people, women, local communities, CSOs, NGOs, CBOs, climate experts, scients private companies, government to borrowing experiences from other oil producing countries like Ecuador, Nigeria and others. I can guarantee that we shall messed up as country if we leave this big investment monopolized by Hon. Mary Goretti Kitutu, and her ministry of Energy and mineral development.

Brighton Aryampa

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The writer is a lawyer and the Chief Executive Officer of Youth for Green Communities (YGC).

 

PELUM Uganda, Partners Promote Organic Food, Farming For Better Production, Environment

By Stella Lutalo

Collective action across 150 countries is what makes World Food Day one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. Hundreds of events and outreach activities bring together governments, businesses, NGOs, the media, and public to promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.  

Under the theme "Our actions are our future - Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life" the World Food Day 2021 will be marked for a second time while countries around the world deal with the widespread effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die every year from eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. However, these numbers represent only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as comprehensive surveillance data for foodborne illnesses is not available everywhere. 

When food is not safe, humans cannot benefit from its nutritional value and cannot grow and develop. In the face of the Covid 19 global pandemic, consumption of natural, safe, diverse, nutritious food can build our immune systems to fight the virus as well as recover from the disease.  

Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Uganda works to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and the sustainability of rural communities through the fostering of ecological land use management.

Interventions are undertaken through a broad network of 65 like- minded NGOs that have a presence in over 122 districts and reach over 3 million smallholder farmers in Uganda.

PELUM Uganda is the Country Implementing Partner for the Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture in East Africa (KHEA) which is part of the continental Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture in Africa (KCOA) project.

The KCOA project is being implemented by GIZ with funding from BMZ and the Eastern Africa hub is being hosted and coordinated by Biovision Africa Trust and co-hosted by PELUM Uganda.

PELUM Uganda and KCOA KHEA are joining the rest of the world in commemorating this year’s World Food Day 2021. The theme speaks to the core of our work to advance Agroecology and organic farming in Uganda for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life. 

Organic agriculture presents a great opportunity for Uganda to address the multiple challenges of food insecurity, malnutrition, land and forest degradation estimated at 2.2% per annum (NEMA, 2018) and poverty that is especially higher among the rural agricultural based population which presents majority of Uganda’s population.

Uganda has approximately 262,282 hectares under Organic production and is ranked in 4th position globally and 2nd position for number of organic farmers (IFOAM, 2020). Despite the comparative advantage, the country only enjoys 5% market share of the rapidly growing organic market.

Ms. Stella Lutalo is the Country Coordinator PELUM Uganda

The country exports organic products worth 50 million USD which accounts for over 17% of agricultural exports (NOAP, 2019). Scaling up Agroecology therefore has great potential for contributing to Uganda’s socio-economic transformation. 

Through our various country level interventions, we are contributing to efforts by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to scale up Agroecology among member states as well as efforts on implementation of the 2011 African Union decision on establishment of an African organic farming platform based on available best practices; and to provide guidance in support of the development of sustainable organic farming systems and improve seed quality.

Further still, our work is contributing to implementation of the National Organic Agriculture Policy 2019, the National Agriculture Policy and the Agro- Industrialization programme of the National Development Plan (NDP III). 

The overall goal of the continental KCOA project is to successfully introduce knowledge hubs as an innovative strategy for promoting organic agriculture with actors in the regions of East, West, North, Central and Southern Africa, while the KHEA goal is to ensure that Ecological Organic Agriculture is integrated into the various participating countries’ agricultural systems. 

One of KCOA’s action fields is ensuring that validated knowledge, strategies and good practices in the field of organic agriculture, adapted to the contexts of the countries participating in the regional knowledge hubs, are disseminated to various target user groups. 

To contribute to attainment of these goals, PELUM Uganda is working closely with country partners including St. Jude Family projects in Masaka and Kulika Uganda center in Lutisi - Wakiso as well as Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi.

Together with these partners, we are collecting, validating and disseminating organic agriculture knowledge and practices and using this knowledge to promote networking within agricultural value chains.

We have made great strides in strengthening Centers of Excellence and farmer level demonstration sites on organic agricultural practices as well as strengthened capacities of 6 Master Trainers in organic agriculture practices. The 6 Master Trainers have so far empowered 272 Multipliers and 152 farmer leaders in organic agriculture.

The KCOA project is specifically addressing the following food challenges in Uganda, in line with the 2021 World Food Day theme

  • Sustainably increasing agricultural production and productivity
  • Improving nutrition and health through providing diverse, natural, safe food that is essential for addressing challenges of the non-communicable disease burden, malnutrition and stunting.
  • Conserving agricultural biodiversity and agroecosystems health
  • Improving quality of life through increasing incomes of smallholder farmers including women and youth

Food availability and safety requires a holistic approach, such as ‘One Health’, which recognizes the connection between the health of people, animals, plants and the environment. Safe food production improves economic opportunities by enabling market access and productivity.  Investing in food availability, nutrition and safety today will reap future rewards for Uganda.

As we commemorate this year’s World Food Day, PELUM Uganda and KHEA would like to create awareness on the benefits of organic food and farming to achieve better nutritional and health outcomes (reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases, malnutrition and infectious diseases) across Uganda, in addition to promoting and preserving the rich African agricultural biodiversity, including use and preservation of seed, enriching and improving soil health by avoiding toxic agro-chemicals which pollute the soil, waterways, air and contribute to climate change.

We call upon the government, CSOs, researchers, academia, private sector, media, farmers, consumer movements and the general public to join us in the efforts to promote ecological organic agriculture for healthy agroecosystems, productivity, nutrition and health.

Ms. Stella Lutalo is the Country Coordinator PELUM Uganda

World Tourism Day: Turn Bugoma Forest Into A National Park

By Ben Ntale

Uganda joined the rest of the world to mark World Tourism Day on September 27, 2021. The theme for the celebrations was “Tourism for inclusive growth”.

In a statement by the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Tom Butime, the minister underscored the potential of the tourism sector in improving community livelihoods.

He noted that prior to the travel restrictions that were imposed because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda received 1.5 million visitors. Tourism earned the country $1.6 billion.

These visitors were cut to one third in 2020 and the 2021 prospects look bleak. Despite this dreary outlook, there is hope that tourism will play a big role in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

Currently, the tourism and travel industry employs 667,600 people, nearly 6.7% of Uganda’s labour-force. 

Further, according to the 2017/2018 to 2030/2031 Uganda Green Growth Development Strategy (UGGDS), if further invested in, tourism and other green economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry and clean energy among others can create nearly 4 million jobs. They can also increase Uganda’s GDP by 10%.

Unfortunately, despite the aforementioned minister’s beautifully written statement which showed that government is placing emphasis on developing the tourism sector, government investment in the sector is still lacking. 

Moreover, resources such as Bugoma forest that can scale up Uganda’s tourism are being destroyed for sugarcane growing and illegal logging. Many of us are aware that Bugoma forest is a habitat for over 500 chimpanzees. The forest is also home to the Ugandan mangabey, a kind of monkey identified to only be in Bugoma Forest. It’s also a Birding Hotspot with over 200 recorded bird species. 

Chimpanzee tracking is a profitable venture, and Uganda has a competitive advantage in this area in East Africa. Ordinarily, chimpanzee tracking permits cost UGX 150,000 for Ugandans, $150 for foreigner residents and $200 for foreign non-residents. This is a good amount of money while Preserving the Forest for Crucial Ecosystem Benefits.

Because of the high demand for chimpanzee tracking permits, the available permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) are often scooped up before all the tourists who would want to track chimpanzees get them. Tourists predominantly visit Kibale National Park for the Chimpanzee Tracking. 

If Bugoma forest was turned into a touristic hotspot instead of being cut down for sugarcane, more chimpanzee tracking permits would be available for tourists to earn the country up to $200 per tourist.

No bag of sugar grown in Bugoma forest can earn the country that much. Moreover, Bugoma forest plays climate stabilisation, soil fertilisation, water provisioning and other roles that no sugarcane plantation can replace. The forest can also be a source of pure organic honey and herbs from which communities can make a living. 

In the spirit of this year’s World Tourism Day theme therefore, the destruction of Bugoma forest should be stopped. The forest should also be turned into a national park to promote tourism.

The writer is a board member of the Association for Conservation of Bugoma forest (ACBF) and a member of the Inclusive Green Economy Network-East Africa (IGEN-EA).

EACOP Affected People Need Help

We are writing today from Kyotera district. Kyotera is one of the districts where government, through TotalEnergies, is acquiring land for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.

Land for the EACOP project is being acquired from over 3,000 households with over 20,631 people in ten districts. These are huge numbers. In Kyotera district, the number of affected households is 524. Of these, 511 are losing land they use to grow crops and support their families while 13 will be physically displaced.

The 13 households are losing their houses and will have new houses built for them by government through TotalEnergies. There are disputes already as regards the types and sizes of houses that TotalEnergies wants to build!

Recently, through its sub-contractors, TotalEnergies, carried out what it called the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) disclosure exercise. During the exercise, the persons whose land and other property is being acquired for the EACOP were shown the compensation that is due to them.

Unfortunately, the exercise was characterised by several flaws. The first was that the assessment forms that the affected land owners or users were given were in English. The majority of the affected people do not speak English. Community-Based Monitors or other trusted people who do so and could have assisted the affected people to interpret the forms were not allowed to support the affected people.

The forms were given out in secret and the affected people signed them. Many have reported that they signed forms whose contents they do not understand. How can the people be sure they were not cheated?

In addition, in our district of Kyotera, 12 affected people refused to sign the assessment forms. Very low values were placed on our property such as coffee. Coffee plants in Kyotera were given a value of Shs. 33,000/ yet that in Lwengo was valued at Shs. 88,000/. What explains the big difference? In Kakumiro district in Mpasana sub-county, eight affected people refused to sign the assessment forms. Other people signed because they were intimidated. They were told that they will be taken to court if they refuse compensation and stop government projects!

This issue of intimidation is too much! When EACOP-affected people or human rights defenders complain about the project, they are intimidated by sub-contractors and security agencies. On August 26, 2021 for instance, one of the authors of this article was summoned by district security officers because of the work he was doing to empower communities to defend their rights.

The intimidation must stop. All the things that went wrong during the RAP disclosure exercise also need to be righted.

Rodgers Ntumwa and Herman Bbale

EACOP Community Based Monitors

Government Told To Sensitise Communities On EACOP Risks

By Nelson Mugisha & Ivan Ssegujja

We are Community Based Monitors (CBMs) or environmentalists from Lwengo and Kikuube districts. These districts are two of ten through which the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project will be constructed.

Recently, we attended a meeting during which we were sensitized on the potential environmental and biodiversity impacts of the EACOP project. We did not know that the project had very many risks! We would like to thank Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and others for sensitizing us on these risks.

Among the risks of the EACOP is the looming construction of the EACOP in between Wambabya and Bugoma forest. Those two forests are important habitats or corridor forests for chimpanzees. Chimpanzees live in Bugoma forest while they use Wambabya as a route, or a road if you may call it that, through which they travel to find food, mates and others.

There is something interesting about chimpanzees, our close cousins who share over 98% of our DNA. If they are to survive, they cannot in-breed. Chimpanzees in Bugoma forest therefore need Wambabya forest to move to say Budongo forest to find mates so that they don’t in-breed.

However, the EACOP project is going to affect Wambabya forest, thereby undermining chimpanzee’s ability to move, breed and survive. This is unfortunate. As community people, we don’t know what the EACOP project developers will do to ensure that we don’t lose chimpanzees, which are very important for research that benefits human beings and for tourism.

In addition, many wetlands associated with Lake Victoria and River Katonga in Greater Masaka and elsewhere are set to be affected by the EACOP. Greater Masaka is made up of the districts of Masaka, Lwengo, Ssembabule, Rakai and Kyotera. Save for Masaka, the rest have been affected by the EACOP.

Information available to us indicates that the Lake Mburo-Nakivali, Sango Bay-Musambwa Island-Kagera and Nabajjuzi wetland systems have been affected by the EACOP.

Others include Lake Nabugabo, Mabamba Bay and Lutembe Bay.

Communities rely on these wetland systems for clean water access and for fishing. Yet communities largely remain unaware that these wetlands have been affected by the EACOP and how their lives will be changed.

More must be done by government to fully sensitize communities on all the EACOP risks so that communities fully know what they face.

Nelson Mugisha and Ivan Ssegujja

EACOP Community Based Monitors

 

Empower Women To Champion The Use Of Clean Renewable Energy

By Patrick Edema

Women in Uganda are excessively responsible for household duties like fetching firewood for heating, lighting and cooking. Most women, particularly those in rural areas, depend on natural resources. However, because of climate change challenges such as drought, deforestation and unreliable rainfall, these women are unable to access the natural resources. In fact most of the households still depend on kerosene as a source of lighting. This source of energy imposes health implications, respiratory problems and contains hydrocarbons that contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere causing global warming.

Although the energy sector has progressively improved, there is still an energy crisis. A significantly small percentage of renewable energy can be reported. World Bank's global tracking framework report indicates that renewable energy accounted for only 18 percent of the global energy mix in 2015. The World Bank further stated that 1.2 billion people globally had no access to electricity while 2.8 billion people rely on wood or other biomass for cooking and heating their homes. Fundamentally, 80 percent of this population is said to live in sub Saharan Africa in which Uganda is inclusive.

Therefore, educating these women and supporting them establish solar power plants in their homes will enable uninterrupted lighting, heating and cooking. Poultry farming is a common venture among women. It would be expanded and strengthened when there is reliable supply of power. Solar energy would enable women undertake the activity successfully because it is renewable, clean and sustainable at the same time used for lighting, cooking and heating.

And while it is clear that women can influence a drastic shift to renewable energy, it is important to consider them as equal partners in climate change decision-making processes. Information is power. The more the women who understand the causes and effects of climate change, the higher the chances of developing mitigation and adaptation measures. In fact, women face the consequences of climate change more than men do. Lack of energy impinges women's freedom. In order to attain this freedom, women can actively engage in advocating for cleaner energy since they always want the best for their families. They will be willing to forego activities that deplete natural sources in order to preserve for future generations because they are better in upholding sustainable resource utilization.

Nevertheless, government should further consider women as agents of change and also be considered to participate in all stages of strategizing and executing energy development prospects especially renewable energy because without access to modern energy, women and girls spend most of their time in basic subsistence tasks that are time-consuming and physically draining. Clean cooking solutions is the first step towards women’s empowerment and reduces in-house air pollution, improves health and saves time. Solar lanterns and solar panels should be available in rural areas because people can satisfactorily watch television, listen to radios charging mobile phones and torches.

PATRICK EDEMA, ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER, AFIEGO

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