KAMPALA — The Government of Uganda and its partners have reiterated their commitment to restoring forests and degraded lands, as well as calling for commitments and actions to reduce biodiversity loss in the country.
The call for biodiversity restoration and better management of the ecosystem was made on Wednesday, October 19 during a validation consultative meeting on the scientific study analysis of the agriculture sectors towards commitments for biodiversity Conservation in Uganda.
The high level meeting was organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature, Uganda Country Office, NEMA, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development among others partners.
Ms. Cecilia Menya, the Principal Energy Officer in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development who represented Permanent Secretary Ms. Pauline Irene Batebe noted that Uganda faces a great challenge in meeting its national and global commitments to protect and restore forests because the country has a high rate of deforestation.
“We have been losing about 122 000 hectares of forests each year and if we continue this way- doing business as usual and if we don’t act, we shall not have any forests by 2030,” Menya said as she read PS Batebe’s statement in verbatim.
She noted that dealing with the problem of loss of forests and biodiversity requires innovative approaches, especially since the country has made ambitious commitments to restore its forest cover.
She said that the Ministry of Energy and selected partners including WWF Uganda are jointly implementing a project in facilitation of commitments for biodiversity dubbed BIODEV2030.
“The overall goal of BIODEV 2030 is to stop biodiversity loss by 2030 and achieve its restoration by 2050,” she said.
“The rate of exploitation and use of biomass resources currently outstrips its sustainable supply. This situation has resulted in several undesirable effects including rampant environmental damage, micro-climate changes, Biodiversity loss and evident land degradation in areas where most of the biomass is mined either for firewood or for charcoal production,” she said, calling for improvements in cooking technologies, utilization of sustainable fuels and modern technologies for a big positive impact on energy utilization in addition to offering a set of other co-benefits.
She commended the long standing partnership between the WWF and the Government of Uganda, whose basis she said is “the common understanding and respect for the idea of protecting forests while promoting a sustainable use of forests and forestry products”.
“We appreciate the efforts of WWF in mobilizing resources and for effectively coordinating and concluding the studies, and for the long and fruitful partnership they have had with my Ministry the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development,” she added.
On his part, WWF Uganda ag. Country Director Simon Peter Weredwong “the world needs urgent response to restore the ecosystem, including investing in tree planting and forest protection”.
Weredwong emphasised the need to invest, adopt and promote the use of alternative sources of cooking energy.
According to a study by WWF Uganda under the BIODEV 2030 project, Uganda is one of Africa’s richest countries in biodiversity despite its relatively small size. It has diverse ecosystems consisting of forests, wetlands, rangelands, lakes and rivers. The country has 53% of the world’s mountain gorillas, 11% of the global recorded species of birds, 7.8 % of global mammalian species, 19% of Africa’s amphibians and 14% of African reptilians.
There are however, a number of threats leading to loss of biodiversity including conversion of natural habitats to agricultural land and infrastructural development.
WWF is implementing the BIODEV2030 project with an aim of establishing voluntary commitments to be shared and implemented by relevant stakeholders as a complement to the enforcement of the legal framework on stop biodiversity decline by 2030 and to restore biodiversity by 2050. This is done through multi-stakeholder dialogue and science-based assessment.
Status of biodiversity according to the latest National State of Environment Report 2018-2019 Forests
- Forest cover in Uganda declined, from 23.8% (4.8 million ha) in 1990 to about 9.9 % (2 million ha). Natural forests have experienced a decline in the past decades while plantation forests increased from 3% to 8% between 2010 and 2017
- Out of the 31,411.4 km2 of wetlands left country wide, 21,526.3 km2 (69%) were intact while 9,885.1 km2 (31%) were degraded
- In rural areas, wetlands are mainly degraded through subsistence and commercial agriculture as a result of poor land tenure system which leaves land fragmented
- Mbale District has the most degraded wetlands with 99% of its wetlands under threat while Ntoroko has the lowest percentage of degraded wetlands at 2%. Mbale is also prone to frequent mud and landslides
- Wildlife protected areas and forest reserves altogether constituted 18.8% of the total land area of Uganda
- In protected areas, there has been an increase in wildlife populations. For instance the number of Mountain Gorilla increased from 292 in 1995 to over 400 in 2017, the Elephant increased from about 2000 in 1996 to 5,808 in 2017, Buffaloes increased from 18,000 to 37,054, Giraffe population increased from 250 individuals in 1995 to 880 in 2017while the Chimpanzee population increased from 3,300 in 1997 to 4,950 in 2003
- However, the Grant’s gazelle registered a decline from 100 individuals in 1995 to 57 by 2017.
- The Beisa Oryx, Eastern Black rhino, Northern White rhino and the Lord derby’s Eland declined to extinction in the wild.
- Black rhinos have, however, significantly increased in captivity from 8 in 2004 to over 22