KAMPALA —Conservationists that are pushing for stronger ecosystems protections have been armed with a cache of evidence, released in a series of biodiversity report cards that warn the country teeters at a crossroads.
Biodiversity — the variety of plants, animals and all living things on earth — is being degraded by pollution, overfishing, and increased use of forest land for agriculture, says the report, published by World Wide Fund for Nature Uganda.
While the WWF acknowledges that Uganda is one of Africa’s richest countries in biodiversity in form of forests, wetlands, rangelands, lakes and rivers — with up to 53% of the world’s mountain gorillas and 11% of the global recorded bird species among others— urgent action is needed to protect food systems and health and mitigate climate change.
WWF Uganda country director, David Duli says the development trajectory has skyrocketed infrastructural development — causing massive biodiversity crisis.
Other threats to biodiversity, according to Duli are, proliferation of invasive species, human-wild conflicts, illigal wildlife trade, climate change, pollution among others.
Mr Francis Ogwal, the Head of Biodivesity at NEMA, confirms the unprecedented degradation of the environment in Uganda but says the choice of the national theme for International Biodiversity Day 2021 is meant to mobilize all Ugandans to take and sustain concrete action to restore the environment especially focusing on forests, wetlands and species of wild plants and wild animals.
The UN has declared 2021—2030 the Decade for Ecosystem Restoration”.
Thus, the national theme is timely to put Uganda on course to begin a serious and sustained programme of restoration of ecosystems in Uganda.
In 2010, leaders from 196 countries gathered in Japan and agreed on a list of goals designed to save the Earth.
The Aichi Biodiversity Targets laid out a 10-year plan to conserve the world’s biodiversity, promote sustainability, and protect ecosystems.
The targets were ambitious, but crucial. One, for instance, aimed to prevent the extinction of threatened species and improve their status by 2020.
Last year we reached the deadline — and the world has collectively failed to fully achieve a single goal, according to the United Nations’ Global Biodiversity Outlook report, published September 2020.
The higheted that biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, and the pressures driving this decline are intensifying but Duli believes the loss isn’t an environmental issue but also development, economic, health, social and moral issue.
“We call upon our government to join the coalition to great global diversity framework that is a tool for transformative change,” he says, noting that, we need leadership at the highest level of state or government in both development and implementation, through a whole of government approach”.
He adds: “All government ministries, not just the Ministry of Environment, need to unite behind an ambitious mission, goals and targets that remove the sectorial drivers of biodiversity loss and decrease our ecological footprint”.
Reversing the trend
Changes to food systems and stronger environmental protections could stabilise losses, says new research published in the journal Nature, which formed part of the WWF report.
“Pioneering” modelling produced a ‘proof of concept’ that the world can halt, and reverse, biodiversity loss from land-use change, say researchers.
“Through further sustainable intensification and trade, reduced food waste and more plant-based human diets, more than two thirds of future biodiversity losses are avoided and the biodiversity trends from habitat conversion are reversed by 2050 for almost all of the models,” says report, adding that, ambitious conservation efforts and food system transformation are central to an effective post-2020 biodiversity strategy.”
WWF is now implementing the BIODEV2030 project with funding from AFD and Expertise France to establish voluntary commitments to be shared and implemented by relevant stakeholders — including government departments and agencies as a complement to the enforcement of the legal framework to stop biodiversity decline by 2030 and to restore biodiversity by 2050.
This, WWF says is done through multi-stakeholder dialogue and science-based assessment.