KAMPALA – Why it is important to implement the catchment management approach for climate resilience in Uganda
The changing climate and climate variability are profoundly affecting Uganda’s natural ecosystems which provide human and environmental benefits, such as food, fibre and fuel. Additionally, they perform regulatory functions for micro-climate, water flow, erosion prevention and maintenance of soil fertility; supporting maintenance of genetic diversity and cultural services for recreation, tourism, education and spiritual experience.
However, the need for food, settlement and livelihood sources are forcing communities to engage in unsustainable utilization of ecosystem resources, leading to their degradation and subsequent reduction in quantity and quality of services delivered. The result is more devastating disasters, like the December 2019 landslides in Bundibugyo district, where 17 people died and over 12,000 were displaced. Across the country, degradation of ecosystems manifests through erosion (mostly sheet and gully), degraded wetlands, river banks, siltation of water infrastructures, flooding and pest and diseases. Uganda is experiencing changes in ecosystem functions and livelihood assets, exacerbated by climate change. This is impacting food security and is fast leading to a poverty-resource degradation cycle in many vulnerable communities. As such, urgent application of a sustained integrated ecosystem management approaches will safeguard the natural resource base, reduce disaster risks and support the prosperity of Ugandans is imperative.
The Government Strategy
In search of a feasible and relevant strategy, from 2003 to 2005, the Government of Uganda undertook a study to establish an effective framework to ensure sustainable and intergrated management of water resources. This resulted into the preparation of a reform strategy and the paradigm shift in water resources management from centralized to catchment/ basin management processes. In 2011, the Directorate of Water Resources Management (DWRM) in the Ministry of Water and Environment de-concentrated a number of the water resources management functions, formerly performed by DWRM at the central level to the four Water Management Zones (WMZs) of Lake Kyoga, Lake Victoria, Albert and Upper Nile basins. Each WMZ is staffed with about five people including a WMZ Coordinator, Senior Water Officer (Monitoring and Assessment), Senior Water Officer (Water Resources Regulation), Senior Water Analyst and Social Scientist.
The WMZ teams help to raise awareness among the key stakeholders about the need to promote integrated planning, management and development of water resources following a catchment-based approach. As a result about 23 major catchments have been demarcated based on hydrologic features and are being used for catchment management planning in the country. On 19 December 2018, the Government formally launched the completion and dissemination of the Upper Nile WMZ Strategy and five catchment management plans. This provides opportunity for all stakeholders to participate in the management and the development of water and land resources on ecosystem basis thereby ensuring sustainability and advancement of poverty alleviation efforts in the face of changing climate.
FAO’s support to the Government strategy
For the next five years, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), will oversee the investment of over USD 18 million dollars, by the European Union and the Government of Sweden, to support government catchment management approach across 54 micro-watersheds in 21 target districts. FAO will work with the Ministry of Water and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to implement two five-year climate-resilient projects in three water management zones and 12 catchments. The first project – Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+): Scaling up Agriculture Adaptation to Climate Change in Uganda, funded by the European Union, covers nine districts in two catchments – Kafu catchment in Albert Nile Water Management Zone and Katonga catchment in Victoria Water Management zone. The second project – Climate Resilient Livelihood Opportunities for Women Economic Empowerment (CRWEE) in Karamoja and West Nile regions, funded by the Swedish Government, will target 12 districts in four catchments – Albert Nile Catchment (Arua, Adjumani, Zombo, Yumbe, Koboko, Nebbi, Maracha and Moyo districts); Lokok catchment (Abim District); Lokere Catchment (Moroto) and Awoja Catchment (Nakapiritprit). The Albert Nile Catchment is located within the Upper Nile Water Management Zone; while Lokok, Lokere and Awoja catchments are within the Lake Kyoga Water Management Zone.
To ensure adequate coordination and opportunities for learning, synergy and scaling up of good practices, the projects will strengthen institutional linkages for catchment management at five levels: (1) water management zone, (2) catchment management organization, (3) District local government, (4) micro-watershed and (5) community/ village levels.
Water Management Zone Level: Working with the Ministry of Water and Environment, and the Upper Nile, Kyoga Water and Lake Victoria Management Zones, where the 21 target districts are located, FAO will identify and attempt to address the priorities of the WMZ, while reviewing existing personnel skills in the three WMZs. This will enhance planning and implementation of interventions, plus gender mainstreaming in the target 54 micro-watersheds.
Catchment Management Organization: FAO will support the government’s efforts towards strengthening the capacity of the catchment management organizations to improve water resources management and make or improve Catchment Management Plans (CMP) to consider the roles of women, men and youth.
District local government level: FAO will support each target district to form or improve its Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to provide technical and institutional advice on gender-responsive catchment and watershed management. The TAC will facilitate and promote local watershed development process to ensure collective decision making and action at the District government level as well as serve as mechanism for fundraising and coordination, replicating and transferring the gender-responsive catchment/ watershed approach and ‘good practices’ to other areas.
Micro-Watershed Ecosystem level: Where they are non-existent, FAO will support the formation of a Watershed Management Association (WMA) and strengthen existing ones. The WMA will be a platform for the various stakeholders to dialogue and address watershed ecosystem degradation and other related issues.
Community/ Village level: FAO will work with village leaders and community members to support and coordinate the watershed management efforts at the grassroots. The process of local institutional development for watershed ecosystem management will require considerable capacity-building effort at all levels and regular follow-up by the project team.
The renewed focus on catchment/ watershed management approach as mechanism for organization in developing and applying appropriate measures to protect ecosystem function and minimize impacts of climate risks on agricultural livelihoods and food security, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be a unique feature of FAO’s programme on climate change adaptation and resilience for the next five years. This model has been tested and should be scaled up by the government through responsible government institutions in order to safeguard lives and livelihoods, today and for the future generations.
Kennedy Ndubuisi Igbokwe is Ph.D., Project Manager and Team Leader, Climate Change Program Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation in Uganda