Environmental Economists from the Environment for Development-Makerere University (EfD-Mak) Centre on 20th February 2020 conducted a policy tour of Mukono District Local Government headquarters where they a had a dialogue with councilors on how Natural resources were being managed in the district.
The purpose was to discuss the status of the environment and natural resources in the district and debate how to accelerate economic growth while preserving the environment
Over 80 participants including the Resident District Commissioner, LC5 Chairman, Chief Administrative Officers, District Natural resources’ officers and officials from the Environmental Police unit converged at the District Administrative Hall where they deliberated on the status, challenges in the management of Natural resources and possible solutions to mitigate degradation.
While opening the dialogue, the Secretary for Production, Environment and Natural Resources Mr. Faisal Kigongo Luggya thanked Makerere University for championing the move to protect the environment and conducting research on Natural resources to guide policy formulation.
Kigongo described the university initiative to dialogue with local councilors as a healthy move in cementing the relationship with communities and raising awareness on the collective responsibility to protecting natural resources.
He observed that despite the fact that many policies in Africa are based on evidence based research, there was continuing depletion of the environment and natural resources calling on researchers to engage policy makers on the consequences, law enforcement and alternative livelihood options.
“Policy makers should come up to enforce the law and that is the assurance people need. The ozone layer is affected by the people for instance it is in Uganda where old motor vehicles are imported and substandard factories built.
In Uganda 60% of the developments are based in wetlands and forests. We talk of protecting the forests but how affordable is solar or electricity.? Researchers should offer technologies for alternative sources of energy if the environment is to be conserved”, Faisal Kigongo noted.
Mukono Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Fred Bamwine noted that although a lot is known about environmental protection, very little is practiced. Bamwine hailed Makerere University for being a hub of knowledge for good practices.
The RDC asked Makerere University to engage policy makers to prioritize the environment noting that the pollution levels arising from old imported vehicles should be a matter of concern.
Bamwine was critical of Democracy and Human Rights in the development of a country especially where the two are cherished rather than guided, adding that they, aid environmental degradation.
“You have democratized everything. Someone is building in a wetland and cutting trees, you talk of human rights, protection of people and our voters. Democracy and human rights should not be absolute. China and Malaysia were once poor like Uganda. How did they bypass us? We can copy and paste certain practices,” said the RDC
He said all stakeholders must focus on protecting environment on grounds that agriculture, education, churches and other aspects of life thrive on it. He thanked the university for choosing Mukono district for the dialogue pledging the districts’ support in research and related activities. He also asked the university to provide feedback on the research output.
“Count on me as an ardent ally on this move. We are fully committed to support Makerere University to do research because the President and the Constitution of Uganda is clear on this. As Makerere University you should help and lead the struggle to protect the environment. Research and report findings that without deterrent punishments the country is heading for disaster” The RDC stated.
The District Chairman Local Council V Andrew Ssenyonga said Mukono is one of the historically privileged districts of Uganda where Sir Winston Churhill after observing her green environment named Uganda, – “the Pearl of Africa”. The green and beautiful environment he said, was no longer the case.
Ssenyonga blamed the massive destruction of the environment and other natural resources in the district to the governance system where natural resources were centralized to be overseen by national authorities.
“Unlike olden days when management of natural resources were decentralized and overseen by Local governments, natural resources were given to authorities like NFA and NEMA to hold them in trust and these authorities have become agents of depletion for personal benefits.
NFA and NEMA compared to Local governments lack adequate personnel to service and protect natural resoursces. 6.8 SQM of Namyoyo Forest reserve has been destroyed”, Senyonga stated.
The Chairman expressed worry of the impending calamities in the district especially at Mbalala where wetlands and hills have been invaded for construction and stone quarrying.
“I’m worried of Tyang Tyang factory, Seeta High where 4m of the trees are sunk in water. Time will come when the whole Mbalala is sunk in water. Stone quarrying in the same area is worrying” He added.
The Chairman also noted that Mukono which had admirable environment was no more but experiencing erratic rains that come with destruction.
He also said much of the central government budget is channeled to authorities instead of the District Natural Resources Office yet this can do a lot in protecting the environment as they themselves know and derive their livelihoods on these resources.
“Lake Victoria was a responsibility of Local governments but was taken to the centre and has been mismanaged. Local governments had an LC system that would monitor activities on the lake at different levels.
University experts help us to assess whether the centralization of the management of natural resources has led to more good than harm and whether it is worth to compensate for any loss”, Ssenyonga implored.
In his key note address, Mujuni said the vision of the department is to have an ecologically stable district and economically prosperous population while the Mission is to ensure sustainable management and utilization of the district natural resources.
He said the objective of the department is to ensure sustainable utilization/management of wetlands for ecological/health services and economic functions; maintain and safeguard enough forestland and manage it effectively so as to optimize economic and environmental benefits to the district and the country at large.
Highlighting the land cover change in the district, Mujuni reported increasing pressure on land cover over the years with broad-leaved tree plantations increasing from 4.22 SQKM in 1995 to 20.10 SQKM in 2015 while the coniferous forests which occupied on 0.18 SQKM in 1995 occupied 3.34 SQKM in 2015.Mujuni also reported an increase of the built-up area (of 8.63 SQKM in 1995 to 81.11 SQKM in 2015.
The Natural Resources officer also said between 1995 and 2015 the district had recorded a depletion of Tropical High Forest (from 160 to 50 SQKM), Grasslands (142-83sqkm), Tropical high forests well stocked 9261-127sqkm) among other land cover changes.
He however highlighted some of the achievements recorded by the district including sensitization of the local community; participatory lower level planning (SEAPs, SWAPs); demarcation of 13km of Lwajjalli wetland by the Ministry of Environment, and, supporting and promoting tree planting in Schools and household.
Other achievements according to Mr. Mujuni were promotion and support of energy saving stoves in schools; promotion of biogas and minimum tillage under the ATAAS project; strengthened linkages with CSOs like JEEP; Enforcement of Environment policies and related laws and regulations (eg compliance monitoring); partnership with EPF for law enforcement and prosecutions and Mentoring of Local Environment and Natural Resource Committees.
Among the gaps and challenges faced, Mujuni said the district was constrained by inadequate funding with a current annual budget of UGX 68m instead of UGX 1bn annually; Inadequate staffing especially at lower local governments currently having 3 staff as per government ceiling who are in addition inadequately facilitated but more 17 staff needed.
Mujuni also said that the district was grappling with Unsustainable agricultural practices; Over reliance on Natural Resources by rural communities (more than 90%); Lack of baseline data to ensure proper planning and Lack of Data collection, Analysis equipment (GPS/GIS, Noise meters, air quality meters, water quality meters.
Other challenges faced according to Mr. Mujuni include; Poor solid waste disposal; Unregulated Sand mining and brick making; Air pollution and Un-treated effluent discharge.
“In addition to enforcing the environment policies, increased awareness, strengthening of Local Environment and Natural Resources Committees and key stakeholders, provision of alternative livelihoods to rural communities will significantly reduce the rate of degradation of the natural resources in the District”, Mujuni proposed.
He emphasized the need for Multi-sectoral and landscape approach to combating environmental degradation with focus on alternative livelihoods; Promotion of among others, Green house farming, Alternative sources of energy like biogas, solar, energy saving stoves, briquettes and SLM technologies.
Other proposed interventions were the Management of waste (sorting at source, re use, recycle, process); Introduction of environment management curriculum in schools; Creation of functional partnerships with key stakeholders like CSOs, Academia like Makerere University, private sector, cultural institutions, EPF and Operationalization of an Environment and Tree Fund.
Mr. Mujuni also proposed regular resource mapping and re-tooling of staff; Strengthening of Natural Resource committees, Creation of a functional Climate Change Task Force, Water for production management-catchment management, Naming and shaming environment degraders and Deterrent Penalties for degraders of environment.
Presenting on the “Evolution of Natural Resource Governance in Uganda: Implications on Sustainability”, Dr. Patrick Byakagaba, from the Department of Environmental Management Makerere University said that Uganda is endowed with several natural resources that prompted Sir Winston Churchill to declare Uganda as, “the Pearl of Africa.”
Dr. Byakagaba highlighted Uganda’s five discernible periods with unique approaches to natural resource governance from the pre-colonial, colonial, post – independence, President Idi Amin and 1995 – to date noting that, the governance of these natural resources has been defined by the socio- economic trends.
The don said the contemporary natural resource governance challenges include inadequate capacity to enforce legal and policy frameworks; asymmetrical power relations; inadequate support of lower level actors from higher level actors; poorly defined rights on natural resources and lack of clear and fair mechanisms for benefit sharing of natural resources held in trust.
Other challenges Byakagaba said are political corruption; politicized public service; failure to integrate natural capital in national accounting systems; increased pressure due to national and global economic forces and failure to fully internalize the cost of using natural resources and, fragmented nature of environmental governance.
The scale (institutional, jurisdictional, spatial and temporal, knowledge) blindness of environmental policies and laws resulting into limited cross- scale linkages, resigned citizenry and disempowered civil society, patronage relationships between the state and non-state actors, lack of enforceable regulations on natural resources on privately-owned land and Volatile Geo-political environment, resulting into influx of refugees are also to blame according to Dr. Byakagaba.
“Most challenges are residual impacts of failure to espouse the basic principles of good environmental governance, scale blindness and institutional and legislative fragmentation. Integrated decision- making can address most these of challenges.The focus should be to have substantive integration to ensure that every decision includes a social, economic and environmental goal. This requires legal and institutional reforms that promote integrated decision-making”, Dr. Byakagaba proposed.
Dr. Byakagaba’s proposed policy actions included the promotion of inter-sectoral linkages and alignment of priorities, plans, budgets; recognition of the value of natural resources in National Accounting Systems and internalizing the full cost of using natural resources.
He expressed the need to incentivize private sector investment in sustainable practices; providing fiscal incentives to promote adoption of energy efficiency and conservation practices; regulating conversion of natural ecosystems on privately-owned land, addressing lawlessness and political corruption and to ensure that policies, laws, guidelines are scale-sensitive.
The Director EfD-Mak Centre Dr. Edward Bbaale said the centers vision is to become a hub for quality training, research and policy engagement in environmental economics and development in the Africa region and beyond.
“What we are aiming at is how to accelerate the growth of our economy while preserving or sustainably utilizing the environment. We want our economy to grow very fast but at the same time preserving the environment for the future generations.
We thank the Government of Uganda because it has responded by putting in place the legal framework that is supposed to govern the environment. As you can see, we have a fully fledge ministry in charge of environment and other departments and agencies in charge of the environment like NEMA, NFA, NPA.”. Dr. Bbaale said.
He said as a university and EfD-Mak Center they were out to undertake research that is going to inform central and local government on the best way to undertake economic activities depended on the environment while sustainably utilizing the environment.
Prof. Bbaale explained that the basic principle of EfD-Mak Centre is to maintain a friendly and long term relationship with policy makers.
He said it is in that position that the university will be able to sell her research findings to government on its way as it promotes the different economic activities that are supposed to enhance income generation and growth.
In his closing remarks the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mukono District Mayanja Majwala Badru thanked Makerere University for the initiative to dialogue with the district councilors.
“I want to thank Makerere University for this wonderful dialogue. I had an opportunity to attend the first dialogue at the university but this has been the best, all in a struggle to protect the environment”. The DCAO said.
Mr. Mayanja said Mukono is one of the districts Uganda prides in as one with special green Natural wealth that prompted Sir Winston Churhill to name Uganda the “Pearl of Africa”.
“Prof. Bbaale and Team this dialogue has not been a waste of time. Mukono being a busy place, it is not easy to hold this big number of councilors from morning to evening.
It is good you have given us a chance to air out what is proper and not proper. I hope information from Mukono will go a long way in helping the people appreciate the importance of natural resources in our day to day lives”, The DCAO stated.
Mayanja described the people of Mukono as useful and willing to offer any necessary information needed.
“What is important is to see that we safeguard what we have and fight bad acts. Let us start with collecting bottles and polythene bags (buveera) disposed unnecessarily. Parliament passed a law on irresponsible disposal with a fine of two million shilling or one-year imprisonment in jail or both”. He said.
He thanked the University the Knowledge shared and choosing Mukono district as a collaborative associate.