Electricity Tariffs Should Be Reduced To Promote Business Growth

By Ireen Twongirwe  

It’s important to note that electricity tariffs have contributed to the minimal business growth in Uganda. Clearly noted is, majority of the businesses are operating using electricity; and most of these businesses can’t afford to pay the high electricity bills.

In addition, Uganda is among the countries in Africa with the lowest electricity access rates. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) report 2020, access to grid electricity by Ugandans stands at 19 % where only 40 % of urban households have access to electricity while only 5% of rural households have access to electricity.

It also important to note that the country also has the lowest electricity consumption per capita in the world. Consumption of electricity is partly affected by high power tariffs that cannot be afforded by the vulnerable groups including women, youth, elderly, disabled among others.

Considering the statistics above, it’s very clear that lower consumption of electricity has also increased o the poverty rates in communities and this has led to poor standards of living in families and increased destruction of nature such as forests for timber, charcoal among others leading to environmental destruction. Its also clear that increased electricity tariffs have affected the economy.

It’s noted that the profits made out of the business are being used to pay electricity bills and tariffs and so find the business working in losses.  In addition, Uganda is among the countries in Africa with the lowest electricity access rates and this has limited the accessibility of social economic development and environmental sustainability in the country.

In my opinion, the Parliament of Uganda and cabinet should dialogue with Uganda Revenue Authority, Electricity Regulatory Authority and the Ministry of Finance to lower VAT on electricity from 18 per cent to at most 10 per cent in order to lower the cost of living ,  I also call upon  MPs to urge Umeme, the energy distributor to increase the quantity of the first monthly domestic electricity units chargeable and reduce the current average electricity connection charges for both domestic and commercial consumers.

More so, Parliament of Uganda and Cabinet should discuss with the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to lower the monthly Yaka service by 50 per cent from Shs3,360 to Shs1,680 so that business people both in private, Small Medium Enterprises and public sectors can be able to pay the bills and at the same time to make profits hence boosting the economy.

Importantly, reduction will boost livelihoods and economic growth by reducing the cost of living, putting more money in Uganda’s pockets and reducing the cost of doing business. Access to energy is also life-blood of any growing economy. Therefore, subsequent endeavors and strategies need to be put in place in order to expand the use of renewable energies for socio economic development and environmental sustainability in the country.

Henceforth, I continue calling upon government, ministry of energy to support both private, SMEs, communities and market vendors to further push for the clean renewable energy agenda to benefit communities especially women, girls, youth, affected local or host communities and others in Uganda.

For and my country,

Ireen Twongirwe  is the executive director, Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda. (WoGEM UGANDA)

OPEC's Barkindo Served With Distinction

By NJ Ayuk

Many will agree OPEC Secretary General H.E. Mohammed Barkindo walks in the same shoes as late world leaders Kofi Annan, who served as Secretary General of the United Nations, and Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, a former Nigerian Minister and OPEC Secretary General who has been described as one of the oil industry's most influential and respected ambassadors.

Barkindo, throughout his tenure with OPEC, has fought the good fight, finished his race, and kept the faith. After six years of what can best be described as remarkable leadership, he will turn over the reins to his successor, Kuwaiti Haitham al-Ghais, this July.

We knew the day was coming. After all, the position is term-limited, and no one can lead the group forever. Barkindo has always been against staying a day longer than his term.

Yet the industry has become accustomed to Mr. Barkindo's steady hand on the rudder, guiding OPEC through the volatile waters that global oil and gas producers must navigate, including growing public sentiment against fossil fuels.

If he had just maintained order during his term, that would have been enough, especially given the upheaval brought on by the pandemic. But Barkindo is not one to be satisfied with the status quo, even during the most trying times.

Granted, he could never have anticipated the global grip of COVID-19. But he did have the foresight to imagine how much impact OPEC could have through cooperation on an even more global scale — and that proved key to stabilizing the market when demand hit record lows.

Barkindo cultivated a very respectful relationship with oil-producing nations within and outside of OPEC, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China, and Russia, as well as U.S. shale producers. His talent for building bridges was just what OPEC, and producers worldwide, needed.

In 2017 Barkindo steered OPEC into a mutually advantageous relationship with 11 non-OPEC producers (10 nations since Equatorial Guinea joined OPEC in May 2017), including Russia. The benefits of the OPEC+ alliance were keenly apparent in 2020 when the pandemic hit and travel nearly stopped in its tracks.

It didn't help that an oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia flared up in March of that year, driving up production when demand was at a dramatic low. By April, oil futures plunged, at least for one day, into negative territory, and the oil industry was in jeopardy.

It was Mr. Barkindo who skillfully brought all parties to the table to find a resolution: The 23 members of OPEC and OPEC+ agreed to record reductions in output, a move that helped oil prices recover more quickly than they might have otherwise.

This outcome is a testament to Barkindo's skills as a leader, though, of course, President Trump took credit for resolving the crisis. OPEC's Secretary General knew that the longer the price war continued, the more economic harm would be inflicted on Africa and many poor people around the globe.

A Champion for Africa

As OPEC chief, Barkindo has a duty to be impartial. Yet it is no surprise that during his tenure, the number of member countries from Africa has increased. Barkindo's homeland of Nigeria joined OPEC 50 years ago.

In his own words, the nation "played a major role in driving the organization's focus on cooperation, goodwill, a sense of belonging and unity, and in working towards achieving oil market stability, conscious of the benefits this brings to both producers and consumers."

Since then, that sense of belonging and unity has been extended to Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. Today, those countries have a seat at the table, so to speak, a greater say in how their petroleum resources are used to benefit their people and grow their economies.

Recognizing his support of the continent's energy industry, in 2018 the Africa Oil & Power Conference named Barkindo their Africa Oil Man of the Year. His leadership proved that "if you want to go far, you go together," Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea said at the time. 

"He has been an enormous champion of African countries and giving them a voice to help stabilize oil markets," Obiang Lima added.

Barkindo also has been an advocate for Africa in the greater energy transition discussion. Having led Nigeria's technical delegation to the UN climate change negotiations for 30 years and serving three times as vice president of the Conference of the Parties — COP13 (Bali, Indonesia), COP14 (Poznan, Poland), and COP15 (Copenhagen, Denmark )— he is realistic about the way forward.

It is his firmly held belief that a world eager to meet the challenges of climate change must also accept that it will take all sources of energy to meet current and future demand, especially given that energy poverty remains a reality across great swaths of the continent.

Barkindo never shied away from visiting leaders around the world and making the case for abundant, cheap, reliable energy. Nor did he shy away from tough conversations. I remember him going against the advice of his advisors to have a civil discussion with a climate-change activist who insisted on protesting OPEC in Vienna.

You could hear a pin drop as he talked about energy poverty and his own experience growing up poor in Nigeria. His eloquence, transparency, and respectful approach gave many of us chills. He urged young demonstrators to hold fast to the idea of making the world a better place and welcomed them to be part of the solution to global solutions.

During the last year, Barkindo has been a particularly outspoken opponent of the current movement to restrict investment in hydrocarbons. Unless there is more spending on new oil and gas development, he has warned, the world should prepare for energy shortages and rising prices.

Shortly after the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Mr. Barkindo said oil and gas had been unfairly targeted at the event as unsuitable for the energy transition, a claim that is blatantly false. The global gas shortage that occurred in fall 2021 — when European countries grew increasingly reliant on burning coal in its place — should have been a worldwide "wake-up call," he said, that investment across the oil and gas industry is required.

During a visit to Congo Brazzaville, Minister of Petroleum Bruno Jean Richard Itoua and the current OPEC president described Barkindo as a true son of Africa, a man with a love for the continent who embraced Congo without reservations. There are so many stories that it would require a book to cover everything Mr. Barkindo does when it comes to encouraging investors to look at Africa and urging Africans to create an enabling environment to do business. I can tell you this: He does it with class.

He Served With Integrity

For many African businesses and countries, Barkindo has been a source of encouragement and inspiration: He expanded their belief that success is possible. He lifted their sights and encouraged them to serve with integrity and maturity.

In turn, leading OPEC has been a positive, life-changing experience for Barkindo. He has made amazing friends that he calls family, and I believe if you ask him quietly if he would do it again, the answer would be yes. He will still tell you, "I am proud of OPEC and I am a proud Nigerian and Africa is my home."

Although Barkindo has not said publicly what his plans are after Mr. al-Ghais succeeds him, his legacy is secure. A veteran of Nigeria's energy industry, equal parts businessman and diplomat, and a humble person of unerring faith, his wisdom, strength, counsel, and direction are greatly appreciated and will be sorely missed at OPEC. But, knowing Barkindo, he would be quick to ask us to be patient with him; he'd point out that God is not finished with him yet.

Uganda’s Oil Exploitation, Environment & The Economy

By Ireen Twongirwe

Two years after covid 19 reared its head, uncertainty has continued to dog the economy in 2022 as the specter of going back into lockdown, internally, and locally remains an ever-present danger.

 It’s also important to note that as Uganda pick up an activity in the oil and gas, the sector is expected to give some support to the economy on condition that oil activities are balanced with environment protection and conservation.

It’s noted that fossil fuels such as oil and gas, coal, electricity has led to massive destruction of forests, increased land grabbing, conflicts among families and compulsory land acquisition between government and citizens.

Importantly, Bugoma forest in south west of Hoima is being destroyed due to oil and gas exploitation in Uganda, Murchison falls in Albertine is also under destruction due to oil and gas. In this, wild animal habitants are being destroyed, 29% of flora and fauna are being destroyed leading to reduced government revenue through tourism sector.

Moreover, Uganda’s economy is basically dependent on agriculture, fishing, and tourism. According to Uganda Bureau of Statics (UBOS) research, agriculture sector, employs 7.4 million households amidst covid 19, the sector employed 34 million of over 42 million Ugandans according to 2021 Uganda’s parliament report on the national budget framework paper.

It’s also important to note that according to UBOS, agriculture employs 38% of youth and 90% of women of which they found out their survival during the pandemic. More so, fisheries sector is also a major employer of women and the youth. 

Its therefore clear to note that agriculture, tourism and fisheries are the dominant economic activities for Uganda’s economy.

How will Uganda’s oil affect the environment?

Oil exploitation will increase on the land grabbing in Uganda, compulsory land acquisition, increased domestic violence in families and lastly environmental destruction.

However, Ugandans are eagerly waiting for the oil activities to start off because it will on some extent increase on the Uganda’s GDP through revenue, improved infrastructure such as roads, schools, healthcare, hospitals, employment opportunities, and scholarships to the lucky ones and others.

Hence forth, as mentioned above, Ugandans need to be sensitized, empowered, educated on the negative effects of oil activities on the environment. This will give them courage to balance the oil benefits as they protect the environment.

In my opinion, as we expect oil exploitation to start off in 2025 and wait for the economy boost, there is too much that have to be done on the environment and economy as mentioned above. 

Ugandans should not be expectant on oil benefits alone rather minding on the negative impacts that can result on the environment. This can be done through the ministry of energy and mineral developments to create public awareness on the both negative and positive impacts of oils exploitation in Uganda.

More so, jobs in oil and gas should be accessible to reduce on the level of unemployment among the youth, this will also help in increasing Uganda’s economy.

I therefore call upon oil companies and environmental agencies to plan strategically to protect our environment against oil activities. We deserve a decent and green environment amidst the oil exploitation.

For God and my country,

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

Economic Arguments For Oil Exploitation Do Not Stack Up

By Diana Nabiruma

On January 11, 2022, the New Vision published an article, Why we need African energy banks. The article was authored by Mr. NJ Ayuk, the executive chairperson of the African Energy Chamber.

In the article, Mr. Ayuk observed that due to the climate change crisis, international financiers were increasingly withdrawing financing for fossil fuel (oil, gas and coal) projects.

At last year’s COP 26 in Scotland for instance, over 34 countries that provide at least USD 24.1 billion a year for fossil fuel projects committed to stopping international financing of the same projects by the end of 2022.

Some of these countries include France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and others.

Prior to that, the UK ended international financing for fossil fuel projects by March 2021.

The withdrawal of international financing for fossil fuel projects, Mr. Ayuk noted, stood to stall African fossil fuel projects.

This led to his call for the establishment of African energy banks so that Africans can finance fossil fuel and renewable energy projects to: (a) end energy poverty and; (b) support governments to earn revenues to meet communities’ pressing needs.

While I do share Mr. Ayuk’s concerns over the energy and material poverty in Africa, and while efforts to end the above challenges deserve support, the benefits of fossil fuel development as presented by Mr. Ayuk are not reflected in various African countries’ realities.

Take Nigeria for instance. Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest oil producers. The country started oil production in 1958. Despite over 60 years of producing oil, 85 million Nigerians, representing 43% of the population, do not have access to electricity, per the World Bank. In fact, the World Bank says that Nigeria has the largest energy access deficit in the world!

Moreover, Nigeria’s unreliable power challenges are well-known! Businesses and households perennially have to rely on generators to power their work and homes!

Angola, another big African oil producer, doesn’t fare well either. As at 2019, Angola’s electricity access rate was 45.67%, per the World Bank.

How about Mr. Ayuk’s arguments on oil exploitation supporting governments to meet communities’ pressing needs? Well, a look at Nigeria and Angola points a bleak picture. In Nigeria, 40% or nearly 83 million people live below the national poverty line.

In fact, may communities in the oil-producing region face livelihood hardships as their traditional farming and fishing livelihoods were disrupted by extensive, persistent and unforgiving oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

The poverty rate in the oil-producing Angola is 41%, per the World Bank.

In both Nigeria and Angola, a small section of elite enjoy their country’s oil wealth.

Mr. Ayuk’s article ended on a poignant note. He observed that H.E. Macky Sall, the Senegalese president and incoming chairperson of the African Union, had, in light of the ongoing climate change induced fossil fuel phase-out observed that: “Our countries, which are already shouldering the crushing weight of unequal trade, cannot bear the burden of an unequal energy transition.”

In other words, African countries need to utilise their fossil fuel resources to develop.

While African governments must be supported in their efforts to end poverty, proponents of fossil fuel development sometimes give the impression that Africa can only develop if it exploits its oil resources.

First, not only do poor African oil producing countries show us that oil exploitation does not necessarily result in economic transformation, there are also other sustainable and inclusive sources of revenue that can be exploited.

Uganda for instance has a green growth development strategy through which it says that investment in the green economic sectors of agriculture, clean energy, tourism, forestry and others would boost GDP by 10% and deliver an additional four million green jobs among others.

These green economic options ought to be pursued.

The writer is the coordinator of the Inclusive Green Economy Network-East Africa (IGEN-EA).

Save Bugoma Forest From Sugar Cane Growers

By Twongirwe Ireen

Bugoma forest was gazette in 1932 as a tropical high forest and home for chimpanzees and part of the ecosystem. Bugoma forest destruction started when NEMA granted Hoima Sugar company a certificate of approval of environment and social impact assessment okaying use of 21.54 square miles for sugar cane growing.  

On behalf of environmental activists, I stand to oppose the work of NEMA as an environmental institution that spearheads the development of environmental policies, laws, regulations, standards and guidelines and guides the government on sound environment management in Uganda. 

More so, National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) is also supposed to review environmental social impact assessment, environmental Audits, and oversees environmental Restoration, coordinate the various environmental management activities being undertaken by the lead agencies among others.

However, considering the work done by NEMA as mentioned above, it’s very unfortunate that it gave Hoima sugar Limited company ago ahead to cut trees to grow sugarcane which is a disservice to our nature.   

It’s also important to note that the destruction of the forest led to the death of flora and fauna which have led to reduced revenue from tourism. It has also led to the death of people due to human and animal conflicts since their habitats have been destroyed and crops have also been destroyed by the animals.

The local communities are living in fear from UPDF, wild animals and other corrupt leaders who are involved in the destruction. It’s noted that local people who try to protect and save the forests are being intimidated and arrested hence their human rights being violated.

Further, sugar cane growing has adverse environmental and climate change impacts including pollution of water bodies such as rivers, lakes, streams and soiling the water quality. It’s also unfortunate that the local communities and other interested parties were never given a chance to effectively put forth their views aimed at protecting their rights to a clean and healthy environment and protection of the country’s resources.

Who is responsible to protect and save Bugoma forest?

As environmental and climate change activists, we call upon NEMA and the court to cancel the certificate and order the respondents to replant trees on part of the forest reserve, which they had cut down, we also call upon the president to use his oversights powers to order the stopping of Bugoma forest by both NEMA, Hoima sugar growers, corrupt government leaders, the Uganda police force among others. More so Hoima sugar growers should also revise and stop their activities to save the forest.   

In my opinion, nature is an important component of Uganda’s growing economy and livelihoods because it is the source of food, energy, water air among others so we need to learn how-to live-in harmony with nature, build climate-resilient communities and sustainable landscapes by planting trees and conserving the forests. 

There is also a need to empower communities so that they can participate in protecting the ecosystem areas indirectly. More so, there is a need to create public awareness to ensure that energy resources are utilized in a way that does not undermine environmental conservation and also protects the human rights of the communities.

Lastly, let’s protect our environment by promoting a green economy for a better future. Let’s stop cutting down trees rather than planting trees to reduce carbon gas emissions and increase climate resilience. 

LET’S HAVE TREES FOR GLOBAL BENEFITS

For God and my country 

Twongirwe Ireen is the Executive director, Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda

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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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

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