Environment Journalists In Uganda Recount COVID19 Pandemic Impacts

A narration by members of Western Media for Environment and Conservation (WEMECO) explaining how the COVID19 pandemic that broke out in 2019 in China has affected their personal and professional lives reveals the extent to which journalists have endured the wrath of coronavirus and how it has negatively affected them. 

From directly suffering from the disease to losing employment, journalists in Uganda have gone through a myriad of challenges directly resulting from the occurrence of COVID19, a pandemic that has ravaged the world leaving over 5m people dead globally and still counting. 

Speaking at a members meeting sponsored by International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), journalists who subscribe to WEMECO a local nongovernment organization bringing together environmental focused journalists, revealed touching tales of how journalists were negatively affected by the pandemic. 

Peter Akugizibwe, the executive director of WEMECO, explained that when COVID19 happened with related restrictions, journalists, especially freelancers lost their jobs while many fully employed journalists also lost their jobs as their employers resized and cut down on spending. Many had to work from home, he adds. 

“When COVID19 came, journalists were faced with many challenges, especially during the first wave. Many had to adapt to working from home and the associated technology. They had to conduct meetings via internet platforms like on zoom,” Akugizibwe said. 

Drake Nyamugabwa reveals that after a thorough battering by the pandemic, many journalists had to be innovative and look for ways of working and surviving. “I had to use online means to work. I had to get internet data or free WIFI so I can work. Sometimes we had to walk distances one has never walked before to get a story,” he says.

While he was struggling with journalism in the pandemic, Nyamugabwa was introduced to poultry farming by a friend and this has helped him establish an alternative income.

Charles Kazoba, who at the time COVID19 struck was recovering from a blood clot, was hit harder as now he was in more need of money because he hadn’t been working. And like Nyamugabwa, Kazoba turned to the internet. He embarked on research to find out how COVID19 was affecting media houses. 

From his interface with managers of media houses, he noted that the entire media was struggling. “Media houses were not paying their reporters and didn’t care if the reporters reported for work,”

As a member of the Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) Kazoba and UJA mobilized for food that was distributed to journalists who were struggling. Meanwhile, he had to find a way to survive; that is when he started an online publication. 

Time had come for journalists to be creative and stop relying on media houses that employed them, this he said, will empower them and be more self-reliant. 

Mary Kyakuwa, who was volunteering at a media house, when COVID19 forced many to work from home, the people where she was volunteering no longer needed her services and cut off the benefits she was getting. It is at the time that she turned to bake and has not stopped to date. 

Doreen Ndeezi, the chairperson of WEMECO has called on journalists to be self-motivated and be able to be journalistically productive from wherever they are. Wherever you are, something is happening; you can get a story which you can publish, Ndeezi, a senior journalist advised. 

She called on journalists to report matters of COVID19 responsibly so that they don’t cause fear and panic in society. 

Kennedy Mugume, a member of WEMECO, noted that while COVID19 has had a big hit on a young WEMECO, the organization has been able to officially register and become a legal entity, started keeping books of accounts, secured a bank account, built alliances and got funding for some activities.

The executive director of Bio Vision Africa, Geoffrey Kamese, one of the organizations that have supported WEMECO was upbeat that the organization can attract funding an indication that people put their trust in you and can associate with you. 

“It is important in civil society, to be honest. Funders put in money and they want to see results. If you are not honest, you don’t deliver. You must be result-oriented and show that things are happening for every resource you get,” he advised.  

Reckless Facemasks Disposal A Threat To Environment & Ecosystems Of Lakes

By Peter Akugizibwe Araali         

The global outbreak of COVID 19 in 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan never spared Uganda, however, as both a short and long term remedy, facemasks were introduce as an essential tool and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of the virus.

These facemasks are made from different materials ranging from plastics and clothes; while most facemasks in the public domain are a reusable, many are a single use. But at the end of its lifecycle, every mask is disposed of and replaced by another.

With almost two years of the global use of facemasks, environmentalists are now questioning how environmentally friendly these facemasks are to the land. This worry is coming at a time when many countries are grappling with reckless disposal and littering of these facemasks after use.

As health professionals and government insist that people use facemasks, it is also equally important to give guidance on how to dispose of or recycle them safely. One of the areas where the environmental impacts of COVID-19 are most pronounced is in waste management.

This is a major environmental concern because of the surge in the demand for and the use of plastic products, protective gears, personal protective equipment (PPE), disposable of life support equipment and general plastic supplies like syringes, all used in the prevention and treatment of the virus.

Henry Bazira, the executive director of Water Governance Institute (WGI) says the need for government to plan for this new wave of wastes stream that is accruing from reckless disposal of facemasks need urgent attention or else Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is likely to pay heavily to collect these wastes to designated areas such as Kiteze.

Bazira explains that facemask wastes will not only affect the people of Kampala but all tax payers in the country. He notes that the need for leaders in both urban and rural areas to put in place designated places for facemask disposal or facemask waste collection centre’s is paramount as remedy to save the environment.  

According to research conducted by Oceans Asia, a nonprofit marine conservation advocacy organization, on average a person uses four masks a week, this makes it sixteen masks a month and this translates into over three hundred tons of waste a month.

Rogers Tumusiime, the Buliisa district local government environmental officer acknowledges that as a department they have not done much to research and come up with the right measures that can be used to stop the negative impacts that are coming with the littering of these facemasks in both urban and rural communities because of inadequate resources.

’’ We don’t have a budget for this problem but we know how bad it is to the lake,’’ Rogers lamented

Geoffrey Kamese, the executive director of Biovision Africa, says the challenge of facemasks disposal caught every one unawares and called on the authorities responsible to put in place designated areas for this new stream of waste.

“Our leaders need to put a mechanism that can help solve this problem otherwise we can’t keep looking on while our environment is being destroyed,’’ Kamese advised.

Hilary Kyamanywa, the project manager at Lake Albert Children & Women Advocacy and Development Organization, observes that these facemasks are not only dangerous to children who play with them after being littered everywhere on different landing sites on Lake Albert but also pause a threat to the ecosystem of the lake.

He adds that as an organization they have started campaigns to educate the communities the dangers that are associated with littering of these facemasks especially to the fish folks. “These are lake dependent communities so there is need to sensitize them to avoid the negative outcome of poor waste management,’’ Kyamanywa said.    

The commissioner in charge of environmental health at the ministry of health Moses Kabangi warns the public against using any facemask whose source is not authenticated by Uganda National Bureau of Standards

“This organism can survive five to ten days so any use of a facemask that is being dumped puts one at a very high risk of the virus,’’ Kabangi said in an interview.

Kabangi also points out that when these masks are thrown out, they attract dust that contains a lot of other organisms which are very risk and dangerous to human life.

He also noted that as ministry there are forging a way of how they are going to incorporate this new phenomenal that is associated with COVID 19, adding that it was not in their plans during budgeting process.

The writer is the Executive Director Western media for Environment and Conservation-WEMECO

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Agroecology Actors’ Symposium, Indigenous Food & Seed Fair On

The annual 3rd National Agroecology Actors’ Symposium (NAAS) and the 11th Annual Indigenous Food and Seed Fair will be held on the 27th of October and 28th /October, 2021 respectively at Silver springs Hotel Bugolobi in Kampala, PELUM Uganda secretariat told a press conference on Tuesday.

The NAAS will be held under the theme; ‘Transforming Uganda’s Food Systems through Agroecology’ and will bring together various stakeholders ranging from farmers, private sector, research and academia, government institutions, non-government organizations, international organizations, media and the general public.

Agroecology refers to an integrated approach that effectively provides for interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system.

PELUM said the main objective of the symposium is to provide a platform for agroecology actors to share experiences and strategies for food systems transformation through scaling up of agroecology in Uganda.

Since 2008, PELUM Uganda embarked on a campaign to restore the utilization and conservation of indigenous and traditional foods among communities in Uganda.

Several activities have been undertaken to this effect including national and regional food fairs, documentation of indigenous and traditional foods in Uganda as well as implementing projects to revamp indigenous and traditional foods and seeds.

The 11th Annual Indigenous and traditional food fair will focus on the theme; “Building back better: strengthening community resilience to COVID 19 through indigenous foods and agrobiodiversity management’.

The overall objective is to showcase the contribution of indigenous foods and plants toward strengthening community Resilience to COVID 19 and generate strategies for promoting sustainable agro-biodiversity management in the food system.

Like the NAAS, the Indigenous Food fair will be attended virtually by a wide range of stakeholders. Physical attendance is by invitation only.

NEMA, Makerere University Agree On Environment Collaboration

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Department of Environment Management of Makerere University will now be able to carry out joint research, curricula reviews and adopt short courses tailored towards strategic areas like Oil and Gas, and Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).

This development comes after the two institutions agreed to go into a collaborative partnership 'informed by the realization that effective environment management requires strong partnerships with the academia as well as other stakeholders to strengthen elements of research and knowledge sharing."

The agreement was reached at a meeting between NEMA Executive Director, Dr. Barirega Akankwasah and officials from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences led by the head of the Department of Environment Management (DEM), Dr. Justine Namaalwa.

According to a press statement released on Tuesday, the collaboration provide internship and apprenticeship placement for DEM students, preparation of National State of Environment Reports and policy briefs, review of ESIAs and support in implementation of Multilateral Environment Agreements.

The two institutions will sign Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U) to operationalize the resolutions that were agreed upon during the inception meeting.

4.5m Metric Tons Of CO2 Captured By These Sustainable Farming Systems

Trees for the Future (TREES) announces 225 million trees planted and more than 300,000 people positively impacted in a report released Tuesday.

The report, informed by 443 million data points over the past three decades shows the local, regional, and global impact of the agroforestry training nonprofit.

"For 32 years, we've relentlessly tackled the root causes of hunger, poverty, and climate change," says TREES Executive Director John Leary.

"It all comes back to food. By teaching farmers to grow food sustainably, we're breaking the cycles of hunger and poverty and reversing climate change."

Local TREES staff train farmers across sub-Saharan Africa in an agroforestry technique called the Forest Garden Approach.

The typical Forest Garden is around half an acre in size and home to more than 2,500 fruit, nut, and agroforestry trees and dozens of species of food and resource crops.

"You cannot know how much this project is changing people's lives," said Mamadou Fall, a Senegalese farmer and program participant.

Key Takeaways from the Report:

·         35 million trees planted between July 2020 and July 2021.

·         225 million trees planted since 1989.

·         25,708 Forest Gardens established between July 2020 and July 2021.

·         4.5 million metric tons of CO2 sequestered since 1989.

·         706% increase in access to nutrition for participants and their families after three years in the four-year program.

"The positive impact we're having on both people and the planet is proof that food systems really can change everything," Leary says.

"We're incredibly grateful for the community of supporters and partners behind Trees for the Future and cannot thank them enough for making this type of impact possible."

With 225 million trees planted, the organization is on track to reach their goal of planting one billion trees by 2030.

Governments Worsen Climate Crisis With Billion Dollars In Export Finance

Each year governments provide tens of billions of dollars in financial support to fossil fuel projects via export credit agencies (ECAs).

Today, 20 civil society groups from 15 countries are launching a new website to shine a spotlight on how ECAs are undermining global climate goals.

In advance of the November UN climate conference, the organisations are calling on governments around the world to end public financial support for coal, oil and gas projects, including support from ECAs.

Ending this support and redirecting financial resources to sustainable alternatives is essential for a just energy transition.

ECAs are primarily public entities that provide companies with government-backed loans, loan guarantees, credits and insurance, usually to support exports overseas.

Despite the International Energy Agency’s conclusion that, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C, there can be no investments in new fossil fuel supply, governments continue to support fossil fuel projects on a massive scale through their ECAs.

“This support often flies under the radar,” says Niels Hazekamp of the Dutch organization Both ENDS.

“The aim of www.fossilfreeecas.org is to shed light on how governments are propping up fossil fuels through their export credit agencies. We are urging governments to end this support."

The website highlights a sample of ECA-supported projects around the world.

Among them are two projects in Mozambique, which together have received up to USD 18 billion in ECA support from China, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, the UK and the US.

“Ten years ago, this region was seen as the new Dubai. The gas would bring steady jobs and wealth to the farmers. The opposite is true. It has fuelled existing inequalities and violence,”  says Julio Bichehe of the farmers’ union União Provincial dos Camponeses (UPC) of Cabo Delgado.

The website also highlights The Kabaale International Airport and oil refinery in Uganda “The Airport is one of the projects set to support the transportation of fossil fuel infrastructure especially for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline which will add more carbon into the atmosphere,” says Samuel Aede of Environment Governance Institute Uganda.

“It has already received support from UKEF a British Export Credit Agency. Several other ECAs are also considering support. If it moves forward, the Airport and the EACOP will not only accelerate the climate crisis but also put the unique biodiversity in the project’s area at risk.”

Earlier this month, the UK government and the European Investment Bank urged governments and public financial intuitions to commit to phasing out all fossil fuels and proclaim their support for clean energy.

“The science is crystal clear,” says Laurie van der Burg of Oil Change International.

“If the world is to have any chance of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, export credit agencies need to immediately stop financing new fossil fuel projects, including gas projects.

At the upcoming global climate conference, ECAs need to join the UK and the European Investment Bank in committing to end all fossil fuel finance. Only then will we have a livable future.”

Rosebud Given Fairtrade Certification To Sell Ugandan Flowers Abroad

Rosebud, a Ruparelia Group subsidiary growing and selling flowers in Uganda and abroad, has received a boost after being awarded the Fairtrade certification to enable it sell Ugandan flowers to markets all over the world.

The development was recently revealed by Ruparelia Group managing director Rajiv Ruparelia while giving out over 2000 mattresses to farmworkers in the 10 villages surrounding the Rosebud flower farm in Namulanda, Wakiso district.

“We now have International certification meaning Uganda now exports quality flowers to all major markets. We have also attained Fairtrade standards which means we sell at good values which benefits the country and our workforce,” Rajiv Ruparelia explained.

Rajiv says that Rosebud is going to expand and this will increase revenue for the country and create more jobs for Ugandan youth and women.

“The market abroad is very big. Even if we increase the acreage of our farms we will not satisfy the entire market. This means we need to increase productivity using good farm practices that we have used for many years. If you work hard we shall all benefit as a family”, Rajiv said as he called for unity and hard work emphasizing the need to amicably address any disagreements that may arise in the course of executing their work.

“We are a family and trust me your interest is our interest too. We are all in this together to ensure your livelihoods are improved…That you can take your children to school and have a good life. So let’s work hard together to achieve together,” he implored them.

In 2000, Rosebud farmland was only 13 hectares but has now grown to over 60 hectares under greenhouses and employing over 1,500 staff.

Fairtrade certification is a product certification system where social, economic and environmental aspects of production are certified against Fairtrade Standards for Producers and Traders.

The Fairtrade system monitors the buying and the selling of the product until it is consumer packaged and labelled.

BUGOMA FOREST: 20, 000 People Petition Speaker Jacob Oulanyah

The fight to save Bugoma Central Forest Reserve continues to gain momentum, the latest of such efforts being a petition addressed to the speaker of parliament Jacob Oulanyah signed by over 20, 000 people residing in over 30 villages from the districts of Kikuube and Hoima, home to the threatened forest.

The over 20,000 undersigned signatories are a representation of the concerns of over 50,000 local people including children, women, elderly, youth and others who live in Kikuube and Hoima districts local communities bordering Bugoma forest.

"We appeal to you as the Speaker of Parliament and the entire Parliament to use your oversight powers to immediately stop the ongoing destruction of Bugoma forest. This is important to save the lives of local communities and conserve our natural heritage.

"Bugoma forest is one of the few remaining iconic symbols of our life, the life of our children, and the children of our children and therefore it should be conserved and protected from the ongoing land grabbing and destruction.

"This petition serves to inform you that Bugoma forest, located in Kikuube district, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom is being exterminated by Hoima Sugar Ltd facilitated by commissions and ommissions of several actors including Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD), National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), National Forestry Authority (NFA), the Judiciary, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF), the Uganda Police Force (UPF), the National Physical Planning Board, Kikuube district physical planning committee and others.

The petition highlights that because of the illegal activities of Hoima Sugar leading to the destruction of Bugoma forest, the lives of residents are in danger. They also fear that Hoima Sugar which is backed by UPDF will annex their private land.

"Bugoma forest is our main critical biodiversity resource that enables our area to get enough rainfall for agriculture as a source of our food and income, local medicine and other environmental, social and economic values. This is why we are calling upon Parliament to use its oversight powers to protect and conserve Bugoma forest at all costs.

And with this petition, the petitioners want parliament to stop the destruction of Bugoma forest, open boundaries of the forest, investigate corruption in the give away of the forest, suspend all corrupt government officials, and for government to use its powers of land acquisition under article 26 of the constitution to save the forest and its catchment areas from land grabbers.

The petition with a list of the undersigned signatories is also backed by civil society organizations like Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET), Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), ECOTRUST, Uganda Tourism Association, Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest and Tree Talk Plus among many others.

River Rwizi Drying Up

By Gerald Barekye

River Rwizi is located in western Uganda, Ankole, and is considered the largest in the sub-region. It serves many districts including Mbarara, Rwampara, Bushenyi, and Shema among others with water for both animal and crop growing.

Swamps like Nyakafumura, Mushasha, and Kanyabukanja among others serve as water reservoirs or catchments that release water into the river; this keeps the river with the average water volumes to serve dependent communities.

However good the river is serving communities, it’s on the verge of drying up due to human activities done alongside the river banks.

The river has lost 60% of its water catchment due to crop-growing around the river banks. Vegetation around the river has been cleared for farming activities.

The river is being degraded; swamps are being cleared due to human pressure to create farmlands. For example, Nyakafumura which is part of Mushasha Kyeirunga water catchment wetland has been cleared.

Kanyabukanja wetland in Karungu Sub County has also been converted into farmland. The whole papyrus vegetation has been cleared leaving the land bare and exposed to soil erosion agents.

When it rains, the soil is washed directly to the river and this has resulted in silting and water volume reduction. The surrounding areas also dump garbage into the river and this has left river Rwizi endangered.

The water volumes have been reduced due to moisture destruction by human activities. This threatens the surrounding communities with drought in the coming future.

Continuous destruction and improper disposal of garbage in the river puts the surrounding communities and the country at large under threat of water scarcity.

Due to garbage deposited in the river, many diseases like cholera may break out. A lot of environmental destructions have been taking place in Uganda and this puts our country on the verge of losing its green economy.

The recent destruction of the Bugoma forest and many swamps has caused the country to lose its beauty. This needs a serious intervention.

The National Environmental Management Authority should enforce laws and arrest people encroaching on the river banks.

Surrounding communities, leaders at different levels should come out and stop the damages facing River Rwizi to save the country from this environmental degradation threat.

Barekye Gerald - Research Associate at AFIEGO

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Stanbic Bank, Total Uganda, Roofings Launch Drive To Plant 150000 Fruit Trees Through Secondary Schools

Stanbic Bank, Total Uganda and Roofings have today announced a tripartite partnership to support over 250 secondary schools to plant at least150, 000 fruit trees in a bid to redevelop Uganda’s receding forest cover.

Under the tripartite, at least 250 secondary schools will collectively plant 110, 000 fruit trees in their respective school spaces which will ultimately support the children’s nutrition needs while conserving the environment.

Employees of Stanbic Bank Uganda and Total Uganda will also collectively plant 40, 000 fruit trees making a total of 150,000 before the end of the 2021.

According to data from Uganda’s Environment Ministry and National Forestry Authority, the country loses on average, 122,000 ha/year of forest cover, annually.

Since 2020, Stanbic Bank has supported communities to plant over 25000 trees through its annual National Schools Championship (NSC) a programme implemented as part of the bank’s sustainability agenda. The bank is also part of another multi-partner media campaign dubbed “Taasa Obutonde.”

Speaking shortly before signing the tripartite, Anne Juuko, Stanbic Uganda Chief Executive Officer said, “We welcome this partnership with Total Uganda and Roofings, together, we shall more than triple our efforts in this long-term struggle to save our environment.”

Ms. Juuko added that the campaign also aims at contributing towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 13 and 15, which, respectively, call for concerted efforts to mitigate climate change and sustainable life on land.

“Strategic Partnerships, as per SDG 17, are vital if we are to realize all the goals before 2030 deadline, we hope that Stanbic’s partnership with Total Uganda and Roofings will inspire many more local corporate partnerships to support Uganda’s Goals’ Agenda,” she added.

Daniel Mayieka, the Managing Director of Total Uganda said, the partnership reinforces the Group’s new climate ambition aimed at getting a net-zero by 2050 together with society, a goal aligned with the organization’s purpose to provide energy that is more reliable, affordable, and clean to as many people as possible.

“Total Uganda Foundation has made forest preservation and restoration a key focus of its work and is supporting projects to preserve and restore forests. We have therefore, decided to strategically partner with Stanbic bank and Roofings limited for this cause and to improve the environment in communities and schools as we drive the tree planting culture in Uganda as well as becoming carbon neutral over time,” Mayieka said.

 

Roofings Group Executive Director Nashila Lalani said the partnership helps reinforce the Group’s re-wilding and Ubuntu efforts that deeply embedded within its Corporate Social Investment programme implemented through the Forever Forestry Initiative.

Nashila Lalani, also added that this partnership gives Roofings an opportunity to tap into the mindsets of the next generations in aligning the country towards sustainable co-existence with nature.

“We are therefore facilitating the Stanbic National Schools Championship program in regreening hundreds of schools which in turn provides environmental stability for the generations that will come after us”, Nashila added.

Why schools

By choosing schools as touch points, the partners believe they will help influence the young generation to engage in activities that are geared towards conserving the environment.

“This campaign strictly focuses on helping schools to plant fruit trees which in future, will not only support the nutrition needs of students but also regreen the school environment; the collective impact of these schools will be notable across the country,” said Juuko.

Majority of the participating schools have ample land where they will plant the allocated fruit trees whileusing the student population to take care of their growth journey into mature forests.

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