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Mak Environmental Economists hold Policy Dialogue with Bugiri District Leadership

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Environmental economists from the Environment for Development Initiative (EfD-Mak Centre) were on 28th  and 29th October 2020 in Bugiri district, Eastern Uganda to dialogue with the local government officials on Lake Victoria’s rising water levels and pollution.

The team led by the Director EfD-Mak Centre Assoc. Prof. Edward Bbaale met with Bugiri district local government officials including the administrative and technical arms at the district headquarters.

Officials met included the Chief Administrative officer (CAO), Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Clerk to Council, Chairperson Local Council V, District speaker, District Police Commander and officers from the Environmental Police Protection Unit. The technical team was largely composed of the District Natural Resources officer, Forestry and Water officers as well as District planners and engineers. The meeting was also attended by representatives from Civil Society organizations (CSOs) and the Private sector.

Lake Victoria Basin (LVB) is a critical trans-boundary natural resource, underpinning the economy and livelihoods of the population, acting as a waste repository and providing food, energy, irrigation, drinking water, tourism and transportation to the surrounding communities and, is the primary modulator of the region’s climate.

Despite its importance, the LVB has undergone intense environmental degradation for decades, resulting in significant ecological and economic challenges. During the period of late January 2020, the effects of Lake Victoria bursting its banks started to be felt with several landing sites and settlements damaged by floods leaving almost half a million people homeless and property worth billions of shillings destroyed in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

The EfD-Mak Centre is mandated to carry out training, research and policy engagement in the realm of environment and natural resources and advise government on the best way the environment can be managed using evidence generated from research.

The university was in Bugiri because of its location and unique features. Bugiri district is located in Busoga Sub-region with a total land area of 1,045.9 km2 (403.8 sqmi). The district is located in a flat and rolling topographical zone with 90% of its landmass constituting the drainage basins of Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga. As a result, there are many swamps that crisscross the district as well as landing sites. The land surface is characterized by gentle undulating hills with few higher residual features. The district has a total of 1562m2 covered by water Wakawaka landing site covering 26,178 m2, Namatu (62,505m2), Rwengemaziriga (30,024m2) and Rwengekarent (26,645m2). The catchment areas have been grossly degraded, forest cover cut and swamps reclaimed.

The objectives of the policy dialogue was to discuss with district officials the status, challenges and to come up with strategies on how to have a nuance existence between the environment and human development.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Bugiri district Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mr. Ezaruku Kazimiro welcomed Mak dons to the district saying, the dialogue had come at a time when the district was experiencing very serious effects of climate change and environmental degradation manifesting with floods that were still continuing. Kazimiro called upon participants to put up some mitigation measures to address these challenges to enhance sustainability in the district and country at large.

The CAO described the policy dialogue as important and, one thatis in line with the National Development Plan III (2020-2025) whose implementation has just started. He said, the NDPIII considers environmental management and climate change very seriously which to some extent must also guide the dialogue.

Mak dons Dr. Nickolas Kilimani, Mr. Peter Babyenda and Prof. Edward Bbaale interacting during a break

Mr. Kazimiro said, the NDP III goal under natural resources and climate change sector is to stop and reverse the degradation of water resources, environment, natural resources as well as the effects of climate change on economic growth and people’s livelihoods.

“The key issues or challenges affecting the environment which this country wants to address in this period under NDP III are poor management of water, environment and natural resources coupled with worsening effects of climate change due to high exposure to hazards and disasters, low disaster risk planning, rampant degradation of environment and natural resources, limited access and uptake of meteorological information and poor coordination and institutional capacity”, The CAO said.

The CAO said, there is poor coordination among different institutions, sectors and local government, absence of incentives for good environment practices adding that, there are some key targets which must be achieved under NDP III five years from now.

This according to Mr. Kazimiro include, increasing percentage of land area covered by forests from 9.1% to 15% countrywide, to increase the percentage of the land area covered by wetlands from the current 10.9% to 11.5% within five years among others.

Speaking on behalf of the Resident District Commissioner, Ronald Mukasa expressed the dilemma between environmental conservation and development.

 “We have so many activities that are ongoing within our environment. We have timber cutting, we have sand mining in the waters, we have charcoal burning, we have construction ongoing but how really do we protect our environment when development is also going on hand in hand?

We have to sensitize our community and population on how to manage nature while preserving the environment. Our call is to plant more trees as we cut some down and this is the only way we shall maintain the environment and even preserve nature”. He said reiterating the call by the government and the president condemning acts leading to environmental degradation.

The representative of the LC5 Chairperson Mr. Mutamba Musa thanked Makerere University for considering Bugiri for the dialogue. He said forests in Bugiri were getting depleted, water levels rising and many activities taking place in the wetlands.

He told participants that the task ahead of every stakeholder was to ensure that the catchment areas that feed the bigger water bodies are protected. Mr. Mutamba attributed the degradation of the environment and natural resources to inefficiencies in environmental committees and the increasing population pressure.

“I would also love to encourage fellow leaders to also ensure that the environmental committees are made active. It is true we have these committees but they are inactive, so we should ensure that they do what is expected of them.

 I also think that as Ugandans we are over producing and as you are aware, the supply of land is inelastic so, people have started encroaching on forests and wetlands for survival. So we should ensure that at least we produce manageable numbers of children to safe guard our environment”. Mr. Mutamba said.

The District Police Commander Mr. Ssebuyungo Geofrey noted that although Uganda has adequate policies on environmental protection and institutions including the Environmental Police Protection Unit, there is lack of support to the enforcement and sometimes environmental protection is taken up by politics.

Bugiri District Police Commander Ssebuyungo Geofrey makes his remarks

“We need the independence of the enforcement team when it comes to environmental policies. It is also time that we develop a policy on road reserves, so that we plant trees by liaising with Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) because this is free land”. The DPC proposed.

Ssebuyungo also noted that environmental protection must be perceived and conceptualized in terms of development encompassing many things like empowering people to fight poverty.

He said, besides helping ordinary people to use the environment to make money, there is need to think of a policy for all Bibanja owners to plant trees along their boundaries and encouraging all people to have tree projects that can earn them big sums of money in future.

The Clerk to Council Mr. Nandhbu Joshua said Bugiri is one of the worst affected districts with the changing environment especially the rising or changing levels of Lake Victoria.

“We have a landing site called Wakawaka, it has displaced a multitude of homes, people are now moving around but as government we embarked ourselves on constitutionalism. The Minister of Environment wrote to clerk directing that all people who are around the affected area vacate”. He said adding that people who were instructed to leave the landing site were stuck and have nowhere to go.

In her Keynote address, the Senior Environmental officer Bugiri district Ms. Kauma Benadet who is also the Ag. Natural Resources officer reported that the district is faced with anumber of  challenges regarding environmental management including  the rising water levels, sedimentation due  to encroachment of the buffer zone, increasing water pollution and declining fish stocks.

The environmental officer reported that in March 2020, a number of people were displaced by the rising water levels on L. Victoria and they have not been resettled to date, leading to the decline of many economic activities.

“The increasing pollution of water is due to lack of sanitary facilities. We have over one thousand people along the shore, most of these are living close to within 200m of the lake and this has led to a lot of pollution. We only have one pit latrine that was provided by the district which cannot serve this whole community and so, the only alternative is the water source, Lake Victoria”. She stated.

Ms. Kauma said the district was grappling with issues of sedimentation as a result of waste disposal because the catchment, the wetlands have been silted and most of this silt ends up in the lake. She added that most of the people around the shore line have migrated from the village because they don’t have land, so they end up even cultivating the small area on the buffer zone hence increasing the silt in the lake.

The Environmental officer attributed all the environmental issues in the district to the increasing poverty levels and the declining economic activities.

“Most of the people who destroy our environment are below the poverty line and the only thing they can resort to for a living are the natural resources. That’s why you see most of our forests are disappearing because of charcoal burning and the demand of fuel wood. We see the way swamps are disappearing because people have to cultivate rice to earn money to take their children to school, to get the necessary medical services”, Ms. Kauma stated.

She however said, the district was partnering with development partners like the World Vision and Red Cross Society that have provided resources to mitigate the challenges.

Senior Environmental Officer, Ms. Kauma Benadet presenting on the status of the environment in Bugiri

Ms. Kauma also expressed gratitude to the government for increasing the budget for natural resources management in the district.

“We now have a running budget of 35 million shillings of which about 10 million shillings is for enforcement. So, on issues leading to pollution of the lake, sedimentation and the like, we are going to ensure that we enforce because we have regional officers in the management of environment. We shall always be calling them on board so that we can force the implementation of the 200m buffer zone.” Ms. Kauma stated.

The Director EfD-Mak Centre Prof. Edward Bbaale explained that the bursting of the lake banks is just an effect of the degradation of environment more especially the catchment areas.

“The forests have been cleared, the swamps have been cleared and as a result, erosion of all the debris with all the materials, metals, sediments end up directly in  the lake.

The lake is very shallow with an average depth of 40m and the highest being 80m and once degradation goes on for many years as of now, time comes when the lake is over whelmed and as I speak now the lake is over whelmed. It is saturated no wonder it has burst its banks leading to all sorts of issues”. Prof. Bbaale said.

The Director said  Lake Victoria is a trans boundary natural resource not only in Uganda but touches other East African countries where part of the solution lies in a consensus and  joint efforts where governments must work towards a common goal.

As for Uganda, the professor observed that there is no need for new regulations because the government is already committed to institutions.

“Government has established a number of institutions and frameworks that are intended to protect the natural resources and environment.  From parliament for example, we have a Parliamentary Committee in charge of natural resources and environment. We have the Ministry of Water and Environment, we have NEMA, and others and the government has worked together with civil society to protect the environment.

What we need to do is to implement and remove the weaknesses in the implementation of regulations that are here. The weak enforcements should be worked on or revised as a mechanism of achieving favorable environmental and natural resource outcomes”, He explained

Prof. Bbaale said as university researchers, they have a role to play because the population needs alternatives and these alternatives must come from new knowledge generated from research for instance on green energy or clean energy that can be used other than cutting forests or making charcoal.

The Centre Director expressed the university’s commitment to conducting research in the new alternatives as far as energy and agriculture are concerned noting that Agriculture is one of the culprits leading to degradation.

“The type of agriculture being practiced is not smart agriculture. This is the type of agriculture where even the productivity is so low, output per person is so low to the extent that if someone wants to harvest a lot, he needs a very big chunk of land.

But now, there should be research in the new agronomical practices that can ensure the highest yields even on a very small piece of land. You don’t need to clear a forest to have great alternative from your agriculture. You just need to undertake smart agriculture, you just need to work on agricultural productivity as a mechanism of protecting the environment”, He said.

Report compiled by: Jane Anyango, Principal Communication Officer, CAES

Agriculture & Environment

Mak Launches Policy Seminar Series on Rural Development

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The Chancellor-Prof. Ezra Suruma (3rd R), Vice Chancellor-Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (C), Chief Guest and NPA Executive Board Member-Prof. Obwoya Kinyera Sam (3rd L) and other participants after the Seminar on "Revisiting Uganda's Rural Development Strategy", 24th November 2020, SFTNB, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) has launched the monthly  policy seminar series to re-ignite the debate and bridge the existing knowledge gap between research and policy making on issues of agricultural and rural development.

The initiative supported by the Government of Uganda through the Research and Innovation fund (RIF), is being spearheaded by Dr. Rosemary Isoto (Principal Investigator ( PI),  assisted by Prof Theodora Hyuha and Prof Bernard Bashaasha, all  from the Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics (DANRE) School of Agricultural Sciences, the latter is also Principal CAES.

The function attracted over 100 participants physically and virtually and comprised members of the academia from Makerere and other universities, research, government ministries and agencies, development partners, the Private Sector and the Civil Society Organizations.

The monthly policy seminar series were officially launched on 24th November, 2020, by the Chairperson, National Planning Authority (NPA) represented by the Deputy Chairperson Prof. Sam Obwoya while the   Keynote address was delivered by Makerere University Chancellor Prof. Ezra Suruma at the Conference Hall, School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bioengineering.

The function was also graced by Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and the Chair, RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) represented by Mr. John Mutenyo.

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REDD-EA Project Shares Successes as Research Dissemination Workshop Kicks-off

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The Vice Chancellor-Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Front Row: 2nd R) with Members of the REDD-EA Project Team and NIDIC Leadership at the Research Dissemination on 24th November 2020, Room 3.2, CTF1, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

The REDD-EA project on 24th November 2020 launched a two-day National Research Dissemination Workshop to share its outputs under the theme “Forest-based emissions: Solutions for climate change mitigation, improved ecosystem health and sustainable livelihoods”. Held in Room 3.2, Central Teaching Facility 1 (CTF1), Makerere University, the workshop was officially launched by the Minister of Water and Environment, Hon. Sam Cheptoris, represented by Mrs. Mwebesa Margaret Athieno, the Ministry’s Assistant Commissioner for Forestry (Planning and Development).

REDD-EA stands for Building capacity for REDD+ in East Africa for improved ecosystem health and for sustainable livelihoods in Eastern Africa. REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, (+) plus conserving carbon stocks, sustainable forest management and enhancing carbon stocks. REDD+ which was negotiated out of concern for the rapid loss of forests globally is aimed at rewarding actions that conserve forests and contribute to social and environmental outcomes.

With the above as its basis, the REDD-EA project goal is to contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved ecosystem health for sustainable livelihoods in East Africa. The project which started in 2014 and ends in December 2020 purposed to achieve this goal by strengthening the capacity for education and research on climate change and REDD+ at Makerere and the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM).

Addressing participants, the Principal Investigator (PI) REDD-EA, Prof. John Tabuti shared that the project has so far graduated 23 PhD and Masters Students, which is the largest number of graduate students of all projects funded by NORHED.

“I thank the Norwegian Government under the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (NORHED) for funding REDD-EA. I also thank the Government of Uganda for creating the necessary conditions for attracting the grant that funded this project and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) for granting our students permission to conduct research in the country,” remarked Prof. Tabuti.

He equally thanked the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for allowing the project to conduct research in protected areas under their mandate. “I thank the Vice Chancellor-Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES)-Prof. Bernard Bashaasha and the entire University Management for availing us an efficient environment for the management of research projects.”

In her remarks, the Chairperson NIDIC (NORHED Institutional Development and Implementation Committee) Dr. Consolata Kabonesa noted that Norwegian Government support has enabled REDD-EA to contribute to generation of research crucial to not only economic development but also sustainable livelihoods. She paid tribute to the REDD-EA Co-PIs Prof. Douglas Sheil from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and Prof. Pius Yanda from UDSM for their contribution in ensuring that the project was a success. “The research being disseminated today will support the policy informing and implementation process not only in Uganda but also internationally.”

Prof. Bernard Bashaasha in his remarks applauded the School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences (SFEGS) for creating a strong environment in which research on protecting our ecosystems has thrived. “When we take away forests, it is not only the forests that we lose but entire ecosystems that are associated with them.”

Staying with the need to conserve our forests, the Director, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT), Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi noted that the dissemination was timely to address emissions from forest cover loss. “Deforestation is the second largest source of emissions after the burning of fossil fuels and accounts for more than all the emissions from the transport sector.”

He nevertheless expressed hope that the capacity built by REDD-EA over the years would help to generate new knowledge on forest conservation and increase its uptake through translation into technologies, interventions and strategies.

“It is heartwarming to note that this project has built capacity of over 60 researchers in REDD+ business through academic exchange mobility to Norway and likewise Norwegian Professors visiting Makerere to supervise students.” said Prof. Buyinza. These include 12 PhDs – 8 from Makerere and 4 from UDSM and 35 MScs.

The Vice Chancellor in his address thanked the Norwegian Government for supporting research and staff development initiatives at Makerere University over the years through various programmes such as NUFU, NOMA and NORHED. He applauded Prof. Tabuti and his team for ensuring that communities that participated in the project have a deeper appreciation of the need to conserve forests as a mechanism for reducing carbon emissions.

“Uganda’s population is expected to reach 100 million by 2050 and the number of people living in urban areas is expected to hit 22 million by 2040. This unchecked rapid population growth and rural to urban migration will inevitably have a negative impact on our forests and environment in general unless we intervene with timely dissemination of the consequences” warned the Vice Chancellor.

Prof. Nawangwe concluded by thanking the Government of Uganda for supporting Makerere University to undertake research on unfunded priorities critical to national development through the Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF). He added that whereas the impact of Mak-RIF was beginning to be seen within a year, a lot of good research ideas from the immense capacity at Makerere had to be left out due limited resource envelope. The Vice Chancellor nevertheless expressed hope that outputs from projects like REDD-EA would be able to attract additional funding from the Government and support from development partners.

The keynote address at the research dissemination on “Uganda’s REDD+ Readiness Process: Achievements and Developments” was delivered by Mrs. Mwebesa Margaret Athieno. She assured her audience that Uganda meets all four requirements necessary to implement REDD+. These include a; REDD+ National Strategy or Action Plan, National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS), Safeguards and Safeguards Information System (SIS) and Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL).

Mrs. Mwebesa nevertheless pointed out that her Ministry still has work to do in terms of building in-country capacity for REDD+ requirements such as expertise for collecting and analyzing data for carbon reporting purposes among others. She also noted the need to promote Public-Private-Partnerships, particularly those that promote commodity value chains, especially since 70% of Uganda’s forest cover is under privately-owned land.

The Minister in his remarks read by Mrs. Mwebesa noted that the Ministry of Water and Environment with the support of partners intends to increase Uganda’s forest cover from the current 12% to 15% by the end of the Third National Development Plan (NDPIII) 2020/21 – 2024/25. Under Forest Investment Planning, the Minister shared that it was important for Uganda as the third largest refugee hosting country in the world to reduce carbon emissions caused by environmental degradation around settlements by investing in reforestation programmes.

He noted that Uganda has prepared two emission reduction project proposals for the Albertine and Kyoga Water Management Zones, which will be supported by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. The Minister concluded his remarks by commending the Norwegian Government for supporting the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) and other REDD+ initiatives in Uganda. He reiterated the Government’s commitment to promote programmes such as the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) as an incentive for communities to continue preserving indigenous tree species such as the Shea nut tree and Prunus Africana.

The Research Dissemination Workshop which was moderated by Principal Public Relations Officer, Ms. Ritah Namisango also featured breakaway sessions where students presented their research findings. The sessions were on Forest Land Use and Land Cover Change (LULCC) and On Farm Tree Planting and Climate Smart Agriculture.

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Unmasking the Gendered Impact of COVID-19 Guidelines on Market Vendors

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The Research Team: PI-Dr. Losira Nasirumbi Sanya (2nd L), Co-PI-Prof. Johnny Mugisha (R) and EPRC Research Analyst-Ms. Florence Nakazi (L) chat with Ag. DVCAA and Principal CoBAMS-Assoc. Prof. Eria Hisali (2nd R) after the Dissemination on 18th November 2020, Conference Room, SFEGS, CAES, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

Over 100 participants from academia, business, private sector, research and Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies convened physically and virtually to discuss the findings of the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) Special  study on the gendered impact of  COVID-19  on market vendors of the perishable goods in urban and peri-urban areas of Uganda.

The workshop held on Wednesday 18th November 2020 attracted 40 participants physically at the Conference Room, School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences while over 60 participants  attended via zoom.

The School of Agricultural Sciences (SAS), College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University conducted a study on food markets following the distortions caused by COVID-19 pandemic. The study titled “The Gendered Impact of COVID-19 Guidelines on Market Vendors of Perishable goods in Urban and Peri-Urban areas of Uganda” was funded by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund (Mak-RIF) COVID-19 Special Grant.

The research team comprised Dr. Losira Nasirumbi Sanya, Principal Investigator (PI) and Lecturer, Department of Extension and Innovation Studies (DEIS); Professor Johnny Mugisha, Co-PI and Dean, School of Agricultural Sciences and; Ms. Florence Nakazi, a Research Analyst, Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC).

The dissemination workshop was officially opened by the Deputy Principal CAES who is also  a gender expert-Assoc. Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga as Guest Speaker. It was closed by  Makerere University Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs (DVC AA) represented by Assoc. Prof. Eria Hisali, who is also the Principal, College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS).

The function was also graced by officials from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives led by Dr. Joshua Mutambi, Commissioner in charge of Processing and Marketing; representatives from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and  Kampala City Capital Authority (KCCA).

Other invited guests were the Makerere University Director, Directorate of Graduate Research and Training Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, the Principal CAES-Professor Bernard Bashaasha. Dr. Hellen N. Nkabala representing the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee also, doubling as Council member, Mrs. Phoebe Lutaya, Deputy Coordinator Mak-RIF and Ms. Carol Kamugira from the Mak-RIF Secretariat. Other special guest were representatives of  market vendors, members from civil society organizations and the private sector.

The Head, Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe welcomed the virtual and physical participants describing the project dissemination workshop as timely.

He said, in March 2020 markets and businesses in Uganda were closed and guidelines put in place to ensure that market vendors operate safely. Some of the guidelines included instruction of market vendors to sleep in markets while others commuted and followed the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These, the professor said, did not go well with especially vendors trading in vegetables and other perishable goods.

Much as this guidelines were put in place, Prof. Turyahabwe asserted that their impact was not evaluated and thus, when a call for the Special Mak-RIF COVID-19 funding was made, a team of researchers led by Dr. Losira Nasirumbi Sanya in collaboration with other researchers from the School of Agricultural Sciences tendered in the proposal that was accepted and funded by the Government of Uganda.

“Today they are here to share with us some of the findings on how the COVID-19 SOPs impacted on the men, women and youth that are involved in marketing of vegetables. They are here to share with us the innovations that were put in place and how the guidelines have impacted on their livelihoods.” Prof. Turyahabwe said.

He appreciated the participants for honoring the invitation saying, their presence was of great importance given that they are practitioners, academics, vendors and policy makers  whose input into the study findings will find possible solutions to challenges of vegetable vending and also inform policy on better strategies in case  a similar pandemic occurs.

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