Build Communities Capacity To Adapt To Climate Change In Agriculture And Water Sectors

Once described as Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill in 1908 for the abundance of fauna and flora with unique wildlife species and having beautiful sceneries, Uganda is currently on the verge of losing the accolade due to the impacts of climate change that is threatening food security, water supply and biodiversity conservation in the country. 

With the increase in the average temperatures, frequency and intensity of rainfall patterns, prolonged droughts seasons, persistent floods in the country yet with less adaptive strategies in place, Uganda thus is driving as one of the countries highly vulnerable to impacts of climate change.

The agricultural sector that supports more than 80% of Uganda's population especially in rural areas is the most affected especially for communities who depend on rain fed agriculture, which is a direct threat to economic development as well as the well-being of the people.

While Uganda's biodiversity hotspots especially in the Albertine Graben that hosts both world’s endemic and endangered species, are being threatened and degraded by the emerging oil exploitation; where infrastructural developments such as oil refinery and oil pipelines are resulting into the clearance of forests cover for development activities and displacement of communities pushing them deeper into protected areas in search for alternative settlement areas are all  accelerating the impacts of climate change on biodiversity conservation.

It should be noted that without intervention, climate change will inflate the frequency and intensity of extreme weathers patterns and has the potential to halt or reverse the country’s development path including achieving vision 20140 of “transformed Ugandan society from peasant to middle income economy.”  

In particular, this will be revealed and felt in increased food insecurity, loss of biodiversity and tourism potential, shift in the spread of diseases such as malaria, land degradation, flood damage to infrastructure as well as settlement and will also lower productivity of agriculture and natural resources.

The events of the past years such as the 2016 drought in the cattle corridor that resulted into famine, the 2010 mudslides in Bududa district that resulted into the massive loss of lives and property and the 2007 floods in Teso sub region that swept away agricultural plantations is a clear indication of the magnitude of the problem our country is facing. 

It is thus clear that the poor and vulnerable communities tend to be the most affected by these impacts due to their limited capacity to manage them. With the development of the oil industry in western Uganda and clearance of forest for plantation agriculture, it is important for government to ensure that all policies formulated to mitigate and adapt to climate change in Uganda are compiled with so as to minimise the negative effects and build communities capacity to be resilient to climate change especially in agricultural production and water security.  

 

Samuel Okulony

Programs and research coordinator

Africa institute for energy governance

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

 

 

Green Kids Xmas Party Returns

Every Christmas, Uganda Little Hands Go Green celebrates the birth of Christ with a purpose, a purpose to save the environment by planting trees and a purpose to fight climate change through encouraging children to plant and not to cut trees.

As we enter into the Christmas festivities, Uganda Little Hands Go Green is yet again organizing the annual Green Xmas Party at Kololo Airstrip on December 18. The kid’s party will be used to create relevance and awareness regarding protecting the environment. Entrance is Ushs10, 000 per child while adults will enter for free.

Uganda Little Hands Go Green officials say the Green Xmas Party is a platform ‘to give children the opportunity to enjoy their childhood with meaningful environment conservation participation and above all celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

The biggest Green Xmas Party in East Africa that blends a celebration of Christmas with a celebration of the children's love for conservation of the environment will be graced by some of the country’s top artists. The event was in 2014 graced by the president of Uganda Yoweri Museveni.

President Museveni became the first president in Uganda’s history to plant a tree at Kololo airstrip where this great nation was born. He also did it in style with Uganda’s Little Hands go Green. He gave valuable lessons to the children, sang for them and promised to spend more time with them at the next Green Fest.

 

Climate Change: Uganda’s Journey To Marrakech

Last year by now, the Climate Change Department (CCD) at the Ministry of Water and Environment was busy finalizing the preparation of INDCs, a document that promised out how we are going to contribute in the fight against climate change,paving way for our attendance and participation in the landmark Paris climate Agreement COP21.

COP22, a ministerial meeting of discussions on means of implementation of the Paris Agreement before and after 2020 is yet again set forNovember 7 to 18 in Marrakech, Morocco. According to minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, Salaheddine Mezouar, speaking during a two day ministerial opening conference, said one of the pillars of the plan is to encourage Parties to implement and strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Uganda is one party currently taking a road that doesn’t reflect its INDC where the country pledges to cut “22 percent of national green-house gas emissions by 2030 compared to business-as-usual”. Easy said than done as they say.

We are right now digging up more oil wells despite the Global Climate call to keep fossil fuels in the ground—to curb carbon pollutants that warm our planet.

Crude oil reserves estimated by government geologists at 3.5 billion barrels were discovered in the Albertine rift basin along Uganda's border with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) way back in 2006.

But immediately after Paris meeting (Feb 2015), Uganda contracted three dirty energy companies; Nigerian firms WalterSmithPetroman Oil Limited, Oranto Petroleum International, Niger Delta Petroleum Resources and Australia's Armour Energy Limited rather than focusing pursuing its “paltry” renewable programs—paltry in comparison to the expenses and attention given to dirty energy investments.

So, as Mezouar congratulates the international community for the recent major successes achieved in fighting climate change which include triggering the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the ICAO agreement to curb CO2 emissions from the international aviation sector and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol for the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in Malaysia, he should have commiserated parties whose strides towards cutting carbon dioxide emissions are inconspicuous as Uganda. But he didn’t. Instead, he said:

“COP22 offers us all a new hope to refocus on the targets we envisioned during COP21 Paris.”

Once again, 195 countries will gather for to streamline actions to save our planet. As the world gears up to reaffirm its commitment, its important Uganda, a country proud of its nickname: The pearl of Africa, opens up its eyes to the climate accelerated disasters such as heat waves, water shortages in its northern region, hunger and starvation amidst other tragedies manifesting a warming planet.

We should also recall what happened duringParis procession. Real world pictures of dwindling snow at Uganda’s “snow-capped” mountain Rwenzori was telecasted live into the conference till it turns out among some of the mind boggling sirens of climate change raising eyebrows of the delegates.

The Ministry of Water and Environment then noted that “we could actually lose the entire snow at the top of the mountain” if globe is not cooled. We, at the Paris climate accord, realised and acknowledged ways of cooling our globe by signing our name against ParisAgreement, an urgent need to keep the global average temperatures below 1.5 degree threshold.

But when the last knell went and we departed, the lure of dirty energy profits darkened and overshadowed our precision with realising rapid transformation in clean energy.

We could make clean energy strides if the current course of developing oil wells as well as gas sector is altered towards lifting clean energy sector from the ground where it’s currently lying at only 3 percent, and work for the over 85 percent of the country still plunged in darkness not only without “reliable, clean energy supply” but without any form of electricity. This hope should be refueled in the forthcoming COP.

One powerful illusion that could deceive Uganda steer away from its targets is the “sugarcoats” of its forecasted oil exploration. According to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, a leader famous for his much affection for black gold and gas as audible in his common adage “my oil”, this mineral exploitation “would create hundreds of thousands of jobs within few years, yield the government 80-90% revenues that would be invested back to agriculture and infrastructure”.

But an article titled “Uganda’s oil: pitfalls and environmental loss”, published in New Vision, refutes every “good aspect” of oil exploration amidst call to end carbon pollution. The article also revealed hidden realities behind oil and gas discovery, including the $14 billion – 880 miles Uganda – Tanzania Crude Oil Pipeline (UTCOP) proposed pipeline to transport crude oil from Uganda's oil fields to Tanga, Tanzania, a port on the Indian Ocean.

Yes, we don’t disagree that these facts are expiring world economic strategies for development.We realise fossil fuels area mirage of the worst counter-climate action caliber, and doesn’t only streamline the very carbon emissions we fight but also blocks the road to renewable energy development.

But we cannot sit back and be misled by illusions. If ourrecent agenda wasn’t all powerful enough to be reflected back by the promises we made before and during Paris, Marrakesh must be used as a new platform for catalyzing stimuli, to further stress the importance of implementing the pre-2020 commitments.

Written by: Boaz Opio

East Africa: Walking As A Community To Cop22 In Morocco

East African Community consists of 6 countries of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda politically bonded with one slogan: one people, one destiny. But how far does the federation walk together towards achieving 1.5 degree global temperature goal after COP21?

Adding to the much politicized tether, in 2009, East African Community Climate Change Policy (EACCCP) was drawn “in in response to the growing concern about the increasing threats of the negative Climate Change impacts to the development of set targets and goals in the region.”

But last year (2015) by now, Uganda was at the brink of submitting its INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to UNFCC. Minister of Water and Environment Honourable Ephraim Kamuntu with his team at the Climate Change Department knew they were already behind schedule by weeks. Nevertheless, the document that envisaged “an approximately 22 percent reduction of national green-house gas emissionsin 2030 compared to business-as-usual” was later produced.

Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania had already submitted theirs. Kenya in July 2015, and Rwanda and Tanzania in September. South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation was left behind —submitted and announced on 23rd November 2015 after all her members.

What should be noted is that all Parties were invited to communicate to the secretariat their INDCs well in advance of COP 21; the deadline was 1st October. This means some individual countries within the community had already been left behind had UNFCCC not relaxed the deadline.

INDC document was paramount to “initiate or intensify” domestic preparations of how parties are willing to contribute to global warming and its timely drafting and submission is what COP counted on for streamlining decisions. Late submissions, thus, wouldn’t only interfere with the programmes following Paris climate agreement, but also meant delay on the side of national climate decisions.

Meanwhile Kenya was already in its journey launching several adaptation and mitigation programmesin response to her INDC communicated over 3 months earlier.Consequently Kenya launched a number of renewable energy projects that comprised of the Kinangop wind farm, a 61-Mega Watt wind farm that would generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of 150,000 homes in the country. The fruits of these swift actions put Kenya and Rwanda among few countries in Africa where renewable energy is mostly invested according to the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP).

Today the country produces over 14 percent of its energy from renewable sources on the road to 90 percent target by 2030. Compared to her neighbour to the west—Uganda, a country according her own Bureau of Statistics access to electricity is at only 14 percent; 40 percent of urban households have access to electricity, while only 5percent of rural households have access to electricity, she’s too ahead.

Even the intentions and long term development plans of these two close countries are at a distance to one another:  according to Uganda Vision 2040 master plan, Uganda needs to generate 42,000MW of electricity from hydro, petroleum and gas sources, geo-thermal and nuclear sources, using uranium to become an upper middle income country. Her renewable energy sector is still below 3 percent of energy supply.

Their biggest neighbour to the south – Tanzania is even more behind. According to the 2016 country’s energy profile published by Renewable energy Association, only 1.2 percent of energy is generated from clean sources.

In the north most partner state, south Sudan, a country dubbed to have the biggest potential for solar—roughly 6.1 kWh/m2/day—according to studies byGlobal Environmental Facility (GEF), is also ranked the downer in terms of the utlisation of the energy with “only 10 percent of potential solar energy tapped” though the South Sudan generates 27 percent of power from solar alone.

While concentrating efforts to achieving 100 percent renewable energy was key to cleaner negotiations and ensuring immunity against dirty energy lobbyists, even within the region, countries have shown laxity in renewable investments.  In the same lane with her southern neighbour Uganda, 83% of South Sudan is rural and uses, Kerosene, charcoal and fire wood.

Walking and working as a united community and advocating for our fate together during the course of Cop22 climate negotiations this year in Marrakech would not only add power to this region’s voice as regarding their unique energy situations but will also strengthen unity and promote regional cooperation fighting climate change which seems to be currently lacking—countries are more focused on achieving their own domestic targets. This could be misleading or even tragic.

Because when climate related tragedies hit, it hits us together. The heat waves; the rainfall shortages: between July 2011 and mid-2012, a severe drought affected the entire East Africa region.Said to be "the worst in 60 years" the drought caused a severe food crisis across Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya that threatened the livelihood of 9.5 million people.

Many refugees from southern Somalia fled to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, where crowded, unsanitary conditions together with severe malnutrition led to a large number of deaths. Other countries in East Africa, including Sudan, South Sudan and parts of Uganda, were also affected by a food crisis.

The crisis was regional and never selected certain countries ‘that were lazier to act’and spared ‘active ones’ as it ought to have. If this isn’t scary enough to force East Africa to ‘run’ together in pursuit of their regional collaboration beyond economic spheres, missing an opportunity to hike favourable bargains during COP22 could be detrimental current progress achieving 1.5 degree temperature threshold.

By Boaz Opio

Felling the Walls of Lies Tobacco and Oil Industries Built

He smoked cigarettes and coughed a lot, leaning against the walls of a streetin a cold morning. As I became more concerned, as of my journalistic works, I cracked open my car door immediately inhaling an unfair share of his cigarette smoke blended with the permanent carbon taste of the roads.There and then, I knew we were all not safe from deadly harm caused by the Tobacco and fossil fuel industries.

At first, the smoker looked at me with a grin in his face as though I was coming add him the “sticks”, unfortunately, all I wanted was take photos on the public.

It is of course not odd to spot smokers like him despite all the calls to end smoking, but the addiction to Tobacco seems far much powerful than the legal tools and regulations World Health Organisation (WHO) usesto inform the public against the dangers of smoking.

As the saying goes “actions speak louder than words, In 2006, the US court dragged the tobacco industry to court and found them guilty of a decades-long racketeering enterprise in which it conspired to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking.

Specifically, the Department of Justice alleged that the cigarette industry purposely and fraudulently mislead the public about the risks and dangers of cigarette smoking. The government alleged that "the Defendants have engaged in and executed – and continue to engage in and execute – a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act”.

The Big Tobacco knew. They knew that their industry was seriously damaging people’s health, for years they had known of the relationship between tobacco and lung cancer, along with many other diseases. Instead of acting upon it, they started a huge strategy of confusion and denial, trying to mislead population and spending lots of money on advertising “healthier” smoking options.

In that same year 2006 they were declared guilty and had to pay $10 billion in fines. Since then, life of the Tobacco Industry has become a little difficult: laws and regulations were put in place, they have been set aside of the negotiation tables, and strong regulations grow against their industry day by day. Shamelessly, they continue taking people’s health, now rapidly expanding their business in the global South.

Speaking for ThinkProgress, Sharon Y. Eubanks – the leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted the landmark lawsuit against big tobacco – says the Department of Justice should investigate Exxon and possibly other fossil fuel industry players for a similar claim, only much worse. The conspiracy isn’t only against smokers’ health, it’s against all life on Earth.

Like Tobacco, the Big Oil also knew. Companies like Exxon, BP, Shell and Peabody Energy have known about climate change and their role in creating it for many decades. Again, instead of solving the problem, these big polluters embarked on a series of campaigns designed to deceive the public about the reality of climate change and to block any actions that might curb global warming emissions.

Actually, Big Oil and Big Tobacco shared the same “playbook” to misinform the public, often through the very same paid academics, “think tanks,” and PR firms. Ten years ago, a federal court ruled against those tactics. Maybe it is time to rule against those exact same ones that the Oil Industry used.

Last year, the New York attorney general began an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business, and has demanded to the company extensive financial records, emails and other documents.

Furthermore, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines sent this July to 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self-determination”.

The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies. The complaint argues that the companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented”.

The Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a powerful tool to hold companies liable for the damage they have produced.

Article 19 gives Parties the power to use the law to hold the tobacco industry legally and financially accountable for its abuses, putting the societal burdens of the tobacco on the industry. Nowadays this article is infra-utilized, due to the fact that low and middle-income countries lack the resources and legal expertise to take on the industry in the courts and defend against its litigation attacks. 

But a broad implementation of Article 19 would help countries recoup the exorbitant costs of the tobacco industry’s deadly abuses and severely limit Big Tobacco’s power around the world. But this is possible if we first deal with the lies these two deadly industries have built about their unhealthy products that causes trouble on human health as well as the health of our planet.

Authored by Boaz Opio

 

Is Uganda Losing Its Pearl of Africa Spark?

Uganda was once named “the pearl of Africa” by Sir Winston Churchill. She was endowed with beautiful environment comprised of rainforests, woodlands and various species of fauna and flora that lent a bird’s eye view of the most beautiful-green area patched around Africa’s great lakes region. Due to the unforgiving impacts of global warming, today these appealing features are nothing but appalling historical facts to meditate over.

Where is the beauty anymore? What kind of woman is this that destroys her own attraction and what are the consequences upon her and her children? 

Remember that Uganda one time ranked first in the list of the most toured countries on the entire earth. It is probable that her fall is a consequence of enjoying foreign exchange gifts from the flourishing tourism with less effort to preserve her treasured micro climate.

Plague number one: the tourists have turned into NGO expatriates flocking in to attend various international environmental mourning ceremonies masquerading as workshops and fellowships.

Wretched villages no longer appealing to livelihoods; fields that no longer grow; stumps left of forests, saluting the hot of the sun, extreme weather conditions like strong winds that blow down people’s homes in addition to socio-economic dilemmas such as increased scarcity of wood-fuel and water shortages from prolonged dry spells.

Plague number two: October 2009, in the Eastern district of Bududa. Mudslide buries over 2000 people in 2 villages inhibiting the slopes of mountain Elgon, a tragedy that left over 3000 people destitute, homeless and bereaved.

The government was forced to declare a public holiday for Ugandans to mourn those who perished in the landslide. Climate Alert’s quickly casted the disaster to the “list of the deadliest mudslides of all times.”

The menace was linked to rampant deforestation of the steep slopes for wood-fuel production and farming space. When torrential rains resulting from the changing weather patterns hit the bare mountain slope, it fell apart upon the villages. 

National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) sent outcries to the public to conserve forests. The local watchdog had noticed the size of forest cover had declined over time in an alarming rate. It was estimated that there was an annual forest loss of 88,638 hectares per year from 1990-2005nationwide corresponding to pressure to provide livelihoods and economic benefits.

International watchdogs also barked. World Bank Group in partnership with Korea Green Growth Partnership published a 60 paged document, Promoting Green Urban Development in African Cities with critical concerns that Urban Africa has seriously lost much of its green vegetation.

Focusing on Uganda, former public spaces and parks in Kampala and other towns have been mysteriously converted into other urban uses such as erection of tall buildings.

Another plague was brought to light more recently during the Paris Climate summit. Moments of silence shifted to live images of the receding snowline at two summits of Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains: Margherita and Edward.

The images, beamed into the summit by a team of seasoned mountaineers on location atop the Rwenzori, helped cover the melting glaciers as a consequence of warming planet.

Among the images streamed through at the summit included an expanse of the mountains’ vegetation that was razed by a wild fire late 2014 that lasted almost a week, following a spell of close to a month without rainfall on the mountains that are also a UNESCO heritage site.

“The Rwenzoris are known to experience heavy rainfall at least twice every week, and long spells without rain on the mountains are a stark indicator of the effects of climate change,” says Tim Jarvis, the ambassador of World Wide Fund for Nature, Australia, and leader of the four-man crew of mountaineers who streamed live to the summit from the Rwenzoris.

This is the heavy price we are paying encroaching the nature. If we want a greener future for the generation to come, it is important we combat climate change from its roots. This would render cutting down all various fossil consumption of all sorts and focusing on renewable energy investment.  

A greener country and a brighter future will lean on the raptures of renewable energy miracles, a trance that will break the bondage of carbon dioxide karma, as a contribution to the united effort to achieve the major goal of an agreement reached last year in Paris—to stop climate change and keep the temperature increase below 1.5 degrees.

Such huge efforts to heal the country mean small, small contributions. Works will need to be focused activities like conservation and enhancement of forest landscapes, reclaiming waste lands hence restoring biodiversity; livelihoods, and economic opportunities which they support.

Doing, one of the most pertinent goals of Paris climate summit, “Pledging to create one new ecosystem for every ecosystem destroyed by climate change,” will be deliberately met to avoid more unknown plagues.

 

By Boaz Opio

 

 

 

Climate Risks: Pastoralists in Kenya Get US$77m From World Bank

The Government of Kenya last week launched Kenya’s component of the US$197m Regional Pastoral Livelihoods Resilience Project (RPLRP). Over 93,000 households whose livelihoods rely mainly on pastoral activities in the 14 participating counties are expected to benefit directly from the project.

The RPLRP supported by the World Bank Group is designed to help the beneficiaries manage climate risks, develop coping mechanisms against drought and animal diseases that are frequently the bane of African pastoralists.

The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) is contributing US$77 million for the Kenya component. Besides Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are participating, and 267,000 households are expected to benefit directly from the project in the three countries.

“Our main focus is on livestock, which we all know, is the single most important asset and the key source of food and income for pastoralists.” said Diarietou Gaye, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “Pastoralists face unique challenges because they also live in the most under-resourced areas in Kenya, and this project will help mitigate some of them.”

The project aims to reduce the death rate of cattle by 30%; increase the value of livestock traded in selected project markets by 10%; reduce the number of livestock traded in drought years by about 8%; increase the number of livestock traded in normal years by about 6%, and to also halve the time lapse between early warning information and the response.

A vaccination campaign saw over 15,000 heads of cattle, 10,000 sheep and goats vaccinated during the launch which took place at Muwarak/Posta (PND) in Laikipia County. Major livestock routes converge in the PND area in search of pasture and water in times of drought, and as they head to Rumuruti livestock market. As a result, it is an area that is prone to livestock disease outbreaks.

“The focus on livestock corridors like in Laikipia is based on the reality that seasonal and cross-border movements are a crucial feature of pastoralist livelihoods and coping mechanisms against droughts and conflicts.” Philip Jespersen, Senior Social Development Specialist and Co-Task Team Leader for the project. “The ecosystems from which pastoralist derive their livelihoods often go beyond national borders and counties as do the market networks.”

Reaching the pastoral population and improving their livelihood resilience is key to achieving Kenya’s Vision 2030 and realizing the World Bank’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Why Polyethene Ban Is Failing To Work In Uganda

In the last ten years, the Ugandan government has been considering to ban polyethylene bags commonly known as kaveera of gauge below 30 microns used to carry mostly groceries albeit with little success as members of the private sector fight tooth and nail to save their businesses that benefit from the use of the environmentally unfriendly carriers.  

But in April 2015, despite numerous callous demonstration from members of private sector, including court battles, the Ministry of Water and Environment under National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) effected the ban on importation, manufacture and use of polythene bag of gauge below 30 microns.

The implementation however has not been a rosy one as affected businesses and other government agencies including cabinet fought the ban calling for its suspension. This back and forth has left the public in a state of indecision. Some traders stopped packing customer purchases in the kaveera while others continued to use the ban substance despite threats of legal action from NEMA.

And the Minister for Water and Environment Sam Cheptoris has blamed this inconsistency on the lack of sensitization and awareness about the dangers of the use of kaveera and the ban throughout the country. The minister says many people including those fighting the ban of kaveera don’t know the reasons why kaveera was being banned yet if they knew they would comply.

“The ban has not been successful because people don’t know the reason for the ban. We need to increase sensitization,” the minister said during his maiden visit to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) head office since taking over the ministry following his appointment in the new cabinet.

The minister advised NEMA, a government agency tasked with managing the country’s environment, to always make sure that when enforcing environment regulations people understood and appreciated the reasons for such actions.

The unwanted ban

The ban of kaveera took center stage during the Budget speech of 2009  before former finance minister Syda Bbumba and the then Environment Minister Maria Mutagambwa presented the proposal to cabinet and parliament before being famously halted following lobbying from traders and manufacturers of kaveera in the country.

The impasse dragged on as negotiation between environmentalists, government and traders hit dead ends all the time until April, 2015 when NEMA under the directive of the line ministry moved to implement the ban. The kaveera, according to advocates of the ban, is being banned because of its hazardous effect on the environment.

NEMA in a statement ahead of the ban last year said the economic, health and social costs of the continued use of kaveera outweighs the economic benefits derived from the production of kaveera and its cost is reflected in the increasing cost of malaria, reduced agricultural productivity and infrastructure repairs. The ban has however continued to get resistance across the country.

Kaveera and environment

According to www.academia.edu the accumulation of polyethylene waste in the soil will result in poor soil aeration and poor absorption of water and nutrients. They continue to say that polyethylene materials can increase soil temperature. Polyethylene products can last up to 1000 years in the soil inhibiting the breakdown of biodegradable materials around or in it and the other fear is that agricultural crops cannot grow where polyethylene products are because their roots cannot penetrate the soil for water, nutrient etc.

The website also explains that kaveera has negative impact on water because it can endanger the lives of water species like turtles, whales and sea birds who can mistake these polyethylene wastes for food or get entangled in it, resulting in painful injuries, or even death. Also marine plants and animals can be smothered by polyethylene plastic bags.  Marine debris which also include Polyethylene waste is unsightly and unwelcoming to beachgoers, which can result in lost revenue from tourism.

The negative impact of kaveera also extends to the atmosphere because when burnt polyethylene waste produces unpleasant and chocking smell, polyethylene waste combustion produces soot which is an airborne particulate emission and the combustion of polyethylene (both low (LDPE) and high density (HDPE) has been found to produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) especially olefins, paraffin, aldehydes and dioxins which are a danger to human life.

Shortage Of Energy Resources Fueling Charcoal Burning

The lack of alternative energy sources is the leading factor why Ugandans continue to descend on forests to cut down trees to collect firewood and burn charcoal, the executive director of National Environment Management Authority, Dr. Tom Okurut confessed.

Dr. Okurut was speaking on Tuesday during a meeting where the Authority hosted three ministers from Ministry of Water and Environment. Sam Cheptoris, the Minister for Water and Environment, and his deputies Ronald Kibule in charge of water and Maria Gorreti in charge of environment were on a familiarization tour of the statutory body.

Uganda's main source of energy is biomass acquired from national resources like tress and other fossils. Burning of renewable resources provides approximately 90 percent of the energy in Uganda because it is affordable, readily available unlike alternatives like electricity and solar.

Charcoal, a solid black substance got after burning tree logs, is most used domestically to cook, provide heat and light, in rural and urban areas. The demand for charcoal increases every day as population and urbanization continues to grow. This has resulted into climate challenges like global warming.

To revert the challenge, Dr. Okurut said they are working with local government across the country to reduce the cutting down of trees to get charcoal. This is proving to be a remedy in northern Uganda where success is being registered in Otuke district.

‘In Otuke, cutting down of trees has gone down by 80%.” Dr. Okurut told the ministers inside the Authorities boardroom. He blamed the burning of charcoal on lack of alternative energy sources like solar or electricity. He said while the citizens want charcoal for their daily lives, the process ‘should be done in a sustainable manner.

The state minister for water Ronald Kibuule asked NEMA to put in place regional offices to help in environment conservation including reducing the cutting down of trees to get charcoal. He vouched for NEMA to start a tree planting crusade. “Let us not just talk about charcoal burners but also encourage planting of trees.” he told NEMA.

Cheptoris, the Minister of Water and Environment, in his speech, said that the Authority should increase sensitization so that people are educated. “Make sure people understand and appreciate the action you are taking.” He advised.

Alternative sources of energy

The mainstream alternative source of energy is hydroelectricity and solar but the two are expensive and not readily available in rural areas. The coverage of electricity in Uganda still remains in major towns however the demand for electricity has been growing at an average of 10% per annum which government is struggling to meet leading to dramatic load shedding.

Uganda has installed hydro electricity supply of about 800MW but this will grow to about 4,356MW by 2035. Government is undertaking a number of big and small hydro power projects across the country to increase supply and meet demand. 

The level of solar energy utilization in Uganda is still very low. The use of solar is mainly driven by donor-funded programmes for lighting and vaccine refrigeration in health centers and rural schools. Domestic use is also picking up in rural areas as forest are depleted. The cost and maintenance of solar panels is an impediment.

Other alternatives to get include thermal power, oil and natural gas, wind energy, cogeneration, fossil fuels and biomass among others. Both government and private investors are injecting money to generate energy at a cheaper cost. Once realized this reduced the burden on natural resources but most especially forests and preserve the environment.

Development Should Not Be At Expense Of Environment – NEMA

The commemoration of World Environment Day reignited the need for mankind to be mindful of how they use natural resources. The World Environment Day was celebrated across the world with a call for humanity to do all that is in their means to protect the environment.

In Uganda, the World Environment Day was celebrated in Gulu, northern Uganda under the theme Conserve Wildlife, Sustain Livelihoods. To put the seriousness of the challenge at hand, Flavia Nabugera Munaaba, the Minister of State for Environment, said the decline in total forest cover was at an average of 89,000 ha per annum for the period 1990 to 2005.

The World Environment Day celebrations in Gulu attracted officials from UNDP, government minister and officials and the private sector

This has mainly been brought about by human activities.  The Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Gulu Capt. Sam Okot speaking at the celebrations said one of the biggest environmental problems is charcoal burning & timber harvesting. "Timber cutting is at a higher level, there is need to sensitize people to plant trees to keep the environment in upstate."

He advised that there is need to employ more police officers to protect the natural resources from being tampered with. The other challenge that was widely discussed was the lost wetlands. It was agreed that there is need to work with the local government, so as to fight encroachment on wetlands and restore all the wetlands hence preserve the eco system at large. Animal poaching is another danger at hand.

A man walks away with a tree seedling given to him by Uganda's Little Hands Go Green team

This year’s celebration kicked off on 3rd June with a number of activities being undertaken by National Environment Authority (NEMA), National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and partner Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green. There activities involved members of communities planting trees in major towns on the Gulu highway. The communities are taking significant efforts in conserving the wildlife.

Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green, an organization that teaches children about environment conservation teamed up with their partners and cleaned Gulu town. They also gave away thousands of trees to residents living in major towns enroute to Gulu.

Members of Uganda's Little Hands Go Green cleaning Gulu town ahead of the World Evironment Day which tool place in Gulu on 5 June

Onesimus Muhwezi, Team Leader, Energy and Environment, UNDP Uganda, who represented the UN Resident Representative to Uganda noted that 'together we can ensure that our environment is sufficient for us and our Children' adding the ‘it is vital for every one of us to fight and condemn illegal trade in wildlife.’ He warned against the illegal trade in wildlife because it will have significant national & economic effects.

The Executive Director of the National Environmental Management Authority, Dr. Tom Okurut implored that Uganda as a country shouldn't seek development at the expense of the environment. “We must seek for sustainable development,” Dr Okurut said.

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