KAMPALA — A drop in Uganda’s biodiversity is putting our ability to produce food at risk, conservationists who gathered to celebrate wildlife day have warned.
Professor Robert Bitariho the director, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation who provided a keynote address said biodiversity in food and agriculture is indispensable to food security and sustainable development.
However, in recent years biodiversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels have all been in decline, reducing our overall food and agriculture systems’ ability to respond to shocks and stresses such as climate change.
“Uganda has experienced a sharp decline in forests from 24% in 1990, 14% in 2015 to probably less than 9% currently. If in 2031 the Ugandan population is at 75 million how many forests are we going to lose? he wondered, calling for an immediate implementation of sustainable use of forests.
While for many years it was reported that Uganda was losing approximately 90,000 hectares between 1990 and 2010 of forest cover annually. However, the recent studies conducted by Africa Natural Resources Institute indicate that forest cover loss has now increased to an estimated 200,000 hectares annually.
Apparently, Uganda has prioritized forest restoration as envisaged in existing targets provided in Vision 2040 and subsequent National Development Plans to restore forest cover to 24%, translating into 2.4 million hectares of degraded and deforested land in the country.
On his part, David Duli, Country Director World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the impact of the loss of forest has been felt by communities and that now they are starting to wakeup.
“Things are turning around now. We have registered an increase of forest cover from 9% to 12%. That’s significant. It is clear that the message has gone and people are now beginning to adopt the best practices”.
He added: ‘It (the message) can’t go like wildfire, it’s gradual and we hope that the steam continues”.
He also rallied stakeholders to to involve the indigenous people and rural communities with knowledge and experience in the use and conservation of forest ecosystems.
He rallied the public reflect on the importance of forest-based livelihoods to promote forest and forest wildlife management models and practices that accommodate both human well-being and the long-term conservation of forests, forest-dwelling species of wild fauna and flora and the ecosystems they sustain, and promote the value of traditional practices and knowledge that contribute to establishing a more sustainable relationship with these crucial natural systems.
Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Tom Butime while presiding over the event noted that prior to 2020, tourism was the leading foreign exchange earner for the economy.
He said that the government shall revive the tourism industry as the sector provides 8% total employment in the country.