KAMPALA —Unprecedented levels of biodiversity loss poses a catastrophic threat to humanity, conservationists have warned—expressing deep concerns over the speed at which Uganda is losing its green cover.
Launching the much sought-after diversity conservation commitments on Friday December 2, sector players including government ministries, agencies and departments, private sector and civil society noted that something ought to be done to change the situation.
Mr. Olupot Okasai, the State Minister for Energy called for innovations to ensure conservation of biodiversity and other natural resources.
“We have degraded our environment to level of to whom it may concern which is very dangerous. We need to look internally in ourselves. We have cut down our forests and destroyed water bodies”
Okasai said something needs to be done to save the situation.
Humanity impacts the planet’s biodiversity in multiple ways, both deliberate and accidental.
The biggest threat to biodiversity to date has been the way humans have reshaped natural habitats to make way for farmland, or to obtain natural resources, but as climate change worsens it will have a growing impact on ecosystems.
On his part, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) country director, Simon Peter Weredwong said the situation is alarming—reasoning that it must be fixed as early as yesterday.
“There is need to prioritize biodiversity because it is the things we depend on. Can you imagine a situation where grasshoppers (Nsenene) is not any more in Buganda yet there is Nsenene clan ! It doesn’t show a good trend. When you go to Teso, some of the biodiversity we used to enjoy is no longer there,” Mr. Weredwong said, also adding that: Life without biodiversity is nothing”.
“That’s why we need to ensure that it protected at all costs.”
The WWF country director noted that it is high time conservation of biodiversity is prioritized by both government and private citizens in all they do.
“I call upon all stakeholders to mainstream their commitments towards biodiversity conservation. The religious leaders, civil society and private sector, please mainstream your commitment towards this call. WWF is more than committed to biodiversity conservation in Uganda,” he said.
Uganda is one out of ten of the most biodiverse countries in Africa (Butler, 2016). It counts 1,742 known terrestrial vertebrate species, 4,816 plant species and 600 fish species.
With 24 different natural vegetation types, the country’s landscapes alternate between grassland through alpine vegetation.
Despite 722 formally recognised protected areas, the Ugandan biodiversity has been declining since 1995, mainly because of land use changes and habitat modifications. Both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are negatively impacted by economic activities, leading to phenomenon such as the eutrophication and sediment load in water bodies.
Central forests are notably vulnerable, like Mabira and Bugoma forests testify through sugar cane plantations. The deterioration of these ecosystems leads to concrete facts in terms of ecosystem services: extreme rainfall events are not anymore sufficiently captured by forests, woodlands or bushlands and the hydrological cycles are shortened in some geographical areas.
Historically, illegal activities from rural communities combined with counter- productive government policies lead to an uncontrolled rural development and conflictual accesses to natural resources.
At the function, several stakeholders committed themselves to playing crucial roles in the conservation of biodiversity.
According to Dr. Robert Nabanyumya, a consultant for sustainable land management, agriculture and energy sector development have contributed the most to destruction of the biodiversity.
He said commitments in the promotion sustainable of land management practices among smallholder farmers, restoration of degraded habitats and planning for indigenous trees particularly agroforestry ought to be made.
In the energy sector, he said commitments need to be made in terms of wood energy plantations, promote and incentivize use of alternative energy sources and promoting and installing efficient cook stoves and equipment such pressure cookers.
“The commitments being made by different stakeholders are helping us strengthen action towards biodiversity conservation. It is also going to help strengthen local linkages within existing and on-going efforts and it is helping us build momentum for more engagements for biodiversity sustainability. The world is now seeing us from a different perspective,” said Simon Peter Weredwong, the WWF country director.