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Agriculture & Environment

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

CAES Annual Report 2020

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The Principal CAES, Prof. Bernard Bashaasha makes a presentation during the 56th State of Nation Platform. Photo credit: ACODE

The academic year 2019-2020 was rocked with many challenges following the declaration of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) a global pandemic on 11th March 2020. Countries world over are experiencing and trying to cope with its unprecedented rapid spread that has claimed many lives and devastated the social economic activities. Given the absence of a vaccine, partial and total lockdowns, social distancing, wearing of face masks, hand washing and sanitizing were recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the global remedy to contain the spread of COVID-19.

All institutions of learning were since closed with online delivery as the only option despite the challenges that come with it. However, despite the challenges, the CAES registered some milestones. Eight (8) staff members were awarded projects under the Mak-RIF Special COVID-19 Call to contribute to measures to curb the spread of the pandemic. Over five technologies and innovations under this initiative were unveiled including an Automated Communal Hand Water Pump (MakNAI), Thermal Imaging for detection of COVID-19, Three-Dimensional (3D) printing of biodegradable face shields and components for the Bulamu ventilator and the Touchless Handwashing (TW-20) Kit .

Teaching and learning was disrupted. Academic staff were trained via zoom on uploading content on MUELE and also delivering lectures online. Student’s placement for internship was disrupted by the Pandemic. The college developed different guidelines on how to conduct internship for all programs. E-learning focal coordinators were appointed.

Graduate program supervision, examination and defence resumed after the partial lifting of the lock down. A total of 1,017 undergraduate students were admitted. Of these, of 480 were admitted under the government scholarship while 537 students were admitted under the Private scheme.

The college actively participated in the restructuring of her programs following minimum standards developed by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and the Quality Assurance and Gender Committee (UQAG) of the University Council was tasked to identify programs with duplications to be merged or removed from the curriculum. Pronouncements have been made by the different units as we wait for management decisions.

In our outreach and knowledge transfer efforts, over 250 staff publication in revered journals were recorded for the academic year 2019/2020. College branding materials including banners, tear drops, flyers and brochures were procured and a Book on Agriculture and Ecosystem Resilience in Sub Saharan Africa launched. 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 were inaugurated. The College Strategic Plan (2020-2030) was developed and shared with college stakeholders and the university planning committee. The Climate Change Manual for Eastern Uganda was formulated and a Poultry Training Manual to address key capacity and knowledge gaps within the poultry sector designed. Over 20 research dissemination workshops for Mak-RIF and other projects were held.

On the human resources front, a number of our staff ascended in their academic ranks, a few resigned and some retired after reaching the mandatory retirement age. Six of our staff were nationally and internationally recognized for their outstanding performance.

The college continues to write grant wining proposals to mobilise resources to supplement the university resource envelope. As of now the CAES has over 150 running projects and 8 MoU s signed in the period under review.

On behalf of CAES Management, allow me express our heartfelt gratitude for the support rendered by university management, our development partners and the Government of Uganda towards our research function. I also thank our staff for the commitment and dedication to serve the university despite the challenges. We also thank students and parents/ guardians as our primary key stakeholders. As CAES, we are committed to delivering on our mandate to build for the future.

I thank you.

Prof. Bernard Bashaasha
PRINCIPAL

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Agriculture & Environment

Prof. Bernard Bashaasha leads CAES staff for COVID-19 Vaccination

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The Principal CAES-Prof. Bernard Bashaasha (R) speaks to a Nursing Officer shortly after receiving his first dose of the AtraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Makerere University Hospital on 31st March 2021.

The Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Prof. Bernard Bashaasha has got his first vaccination against COVID-19 at the Makerere University Hospital.

 A significant number of staff from the CAES also got their jabs. The other staff vaccinated were from the College of Education and Extra Mural Studies (CEES).  The vaccinated staff from CAES and CEES are expected to turn up for the next dose on 26th May 2021.

Speaking after getting his jab at the University Hospital, on 31st March, 2021, Prof.  Bashaasha described his experience as good and implored all the college staff to embrace this opportunity and get vaccinated for their safety.

“The experience was good. We came in and we were well-received. We filled the forms, we were ushered in, got the jabs and it was  not painful. Actually, before you know it, the ladies are so good that your already done.

For CAES, I encourage everyone to come and get the vaccination because, the more people we have vaccinated, the safer we are. So, I think for the safety of everyone, let us all embrace this and stick on the guidelines issued and then, we come for the next jab when it is next scheduled”, Prof. Bashaasha advised.

The vaccination of the University community against COVID-19 is being championed by Makerere University Hospital in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In case of any serious adverse reactions, recipients are advised to report the nearest health centre or WhatsApp 0791415555 or 0800101999 (National Drug Authority (NDA).

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Agriculture & Environment

The scholarship from RUFORUM has expanded my research capabilities and network

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Mr. Kusiima Kaheesi Samuel, article author and PhD Candidate at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science (CAES), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda. Photo credit: RUFORUM

My name is Kusiima Kaheesi Samuel studying PhD Environment and Natural Resources at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science (CAES), Makerere University, Uganda. I  received funding from RUFORUM under the Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) Project for my research entitled: Land Use Land Cover Change (LULCC) and its Implications on Ecosystem Services in the Albert Water Management Zone, Uganda. The aim of my project is to unravel the relationship between LULCC and human well-being through alteration of ecosystem service supply in the dynamic landscape famous for being a biodiversity hotspot, oil and gas industry activities, agricultural activities, and an exponential population growth.

The project is great significance because of inter alia reflection of the situation in terms of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2,3,6,7,11,12,13; accounting for land use sector in Nationally Determined Conditions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement; Forest Landscape Restoration opportunity of Uganda; Detect the level of compliance and effectiveness of elaborate environment and natural resources laws; understanding ecosystem services synergies/trade-offs; and explanation to the environmentalists paradox.

My proposal was accepted by the Doctoral Committee and since then I have spent most of the time doing intensive literature review to inform my review paper (yet to be submitted), instrumentation, and working on objective one which is basically GIS and RS thus requiring nominal fieldwork.

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