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