Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the president of Uganda has attacked investors encroaching on wetlands and forests accusing them of contributing to climate change at its negative impacts.
While presiding over the 2019 High Level Uganda Responsible Investment Summit and award ceremony that was held at Equatorial Hotel on 22nd November, the president expressed concern over some irresponsible investors who have degraded forests and wetlands thinking they are promoting sustainable development saying he will not tolerate them.
“As I was walking around, I found people degrading forests and wetlands. I will not tolerate them. I am coming for them,” the president said.
He further told the private sector companies that, “it is useless and shallow thinking when you think of going to degrade forests and wetlands and then you want to think about sustainable development.”
At the ceremony that was organised by Public Opinions and Office of the Minister of State for Privatization and Investment, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) won the Uganda Responsible Investment (URI) award as the best environmental protection organization.
The NAPE Executive Director, Frank Muramuzi who was franked by the NAPE team received the award.
Mr. Muramuzi said expressed excitement saying it manifests the achievements that are seen by anybody especially in areas of environment protection and human rights.
“Now that the government can recognize NAPE, it means it has hit its target and goals as an environmental organization,” Muramuzi said.
Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of Projects at NAPE said receiving the award means that NAPE has excelled in environmental protection.
He said that all that NAPE wants is constructive engagement with private sectors so that as they produce and manufacture their products and offer their services, they should give the environment the first priority.
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) has been awarded as the best environmental protection organization in Uganda.
NAPE was recognized and appreciated for its contribution towards attainment of Uganda Vision 2040 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SGDs) through promoting and upholding international best practices and standards.
The certificate of award was received by the NAPE Executive Director, Mr. Frank Muramuzi on 22nd November during the 2019 High Level Uganda Responsible Investment Summit and award ceremony that was presided over by Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The ceremony that was held at Equatorial Hotel in Kampala was organized by Public Opinions and Office of the Minister of State for Privatization and Investment.
Addressing the investors, President Museveni expressed concern over massive degradation of wetlands and forests which he said he will not tolerate. He attacked irresponsible investors who have degraded forests and wetlands thinking they are promoting sustainable development yet they are greatly contributing to climate change.
Mr. Muramuzi said the award manifests the visible achievements by the organization especially in areas of environment protection and human rights.
“Now that the government can recognize NAPE, it means it (NAPE) has hit its target and goals as an environmental organization,” Muramuzi said while addressing staff.
Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of Projects at NAPE said receiving the award means that NAPE has excelled in environmental protection.
“NAPE has been criticizing big environmental polluters and degraders, manufacturing industries, mining companies, oil companies, companies producing consumer products using chemicals and others. So being awarded as the best environmental organization in the presence of sector players is an indicator that we have done our part to ensure that these private sector companies observe the laws, guidelines and best practices for environmental protection,” Mr. Bwengye said.
Mr. Bwengye added that all that NAPE wants is constructive engagement with private sectors so that as they produce and manufacture their products and offer their services, they should give the environment the first priority.
NAPE was also recognized by Buliisa district local government for being a key partner towards the development of the district. The certificate was handed over to Ms.Sostine Namanya, the NAPE officer in charge of gender and food security by the District Community Development Officer, Bernard Barugahara on 13th November.
NAPE has been at the forefront of campaigns against environmental degradation among which includes campaign to save Mabira Forest, campaign against Bujagali dam and save Bugoma Forest.
In 2007, NAPE disputed the giveaway of around 27 square kilometers of Mabira forest to Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) owned by Mehta Group of Companies for sugarcane plantations. The government in collaboration with SCOUL had proposed to de-gazette this part of the forested land and transfer its ownership to the sugar company. NAPE in conjunction with other civil society groups formed a pressure group codenamed ‘Save Mabira Crusade’ which mobilized Ugandans across the country and beyond to protest the forest de-gazettement plan. The government bowed to pressure and abandoned the plan to de-gazette the forest. However, in 2011, the government again attempted to resurrect the de-gazettement plan but NAPE and other civil society met the president who suggested a joint research between the activists and State House on economic values of the forest which would inform the government on their next step. Since then, the government has kept silent on the Mabira forest issues.
NAPE was also against the construction of Bujagali power dam saying it would not benefit Ugandans and it presented numerous social, economic and environmental problems. However, the Government and World Bank did not listen to the concerns of environmental activists and went ahead to approve the dam project in 2001. Today the dam that was expected to add 250 MW to the national grid is unable to produce 180 MW and electricity demand continues to rise in the country. NAPE warned that Bujagali would not generate the projected megawatts.
In Albertine Region, NAPE has campaigns against Bugoma forest give-away for Sugar cane plantation, campaign on food security and seed sovereignty and protection of sacred natural sites.
Women in Hoima and Kikuube districts have called on government to come up with stringent measures of protecting Bugoma Central Forest Reserve against massive destruction.
The forest is currently threatened by massive encroachment for cultivation, timber cutting, charcoal burning and lumbering. This contributes to about 100,000 hectares of forest cover that Uganda loses every year.
While appearing in Nyinabwenge – Women’s show at Ugandan Community Green Radio in Kiboga district, Beatrice Rukayanga, the National Steering Committee member of Rural Women’s Movement and the Chairperson of Kwataniza women’s group in Hoima said continued destruction and change of use of the forest will affect the climate and water sources. She notes that this will largely affect women since most of them heavily depend on natural resources for their livelihood.
“The forest is important to everyone but most importantly to rural women who are farmers and derive their livelihood from agriculture,” she said.
Rukanyanga notes that continued destruction of the forest when Uganda is heading towards production phase of the oil in the region is uncalled for since it would be crucial in absorbing the toxic gases that will be originating from oil waste.
Mbabazi Aidah, Member of Kaseeta Collaborative Forest Management group says communities adjacent to the forest have for long protected and supported the conservation due to its benefits. She expresses concern that letting it away to encroachers frustrates the conservation efforts by the local communities.
“We have for long taken part in protecting the forest against timber cutters by acting as whistleblowers. We are also taking part in massive tree planting around the forest. We are frustrated by the government officials who offer land titles in the forest and also allow sugarcane growers to frustrate it,” she decried.
Mbabazi said women are already faced with climate change challenges like drought and change of seasons which have affected them economically and further destruction means women will continue to suffer.
The women are calling on government leaders to support the conservation efforts by the local communities and also put up strong measures to conserve it for good.
Rukanyanga said it’s high time women teamed up to fight against climate injustices which are leaving women in untold suffering and force government to take action on protecting the forests.
“ As rural women’s movement we are coming up to fight injustices such climate and land injustices, that’s why we need more women to join us in the struggle,” she noted .
Responding to some of issues raised, Stuart Maniraguha, the Director for Plantation Development in the National Forestry Authority says NFA is already partnering with development partners to restore part of Bugoma forest. He says he supports women organizing to fight against forest destruction; which is one of the core objectives of NFA.
“We are working hard to ensure that the forest is protected. We have already partnered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHR to restore about 100 of the 150 hectares of the degraded forest land,” he said.
The Nyinabwenge show which was held on 17th August was looking at “How Bugoma Forest Giveaway to pave way for sugarcane growing affects women and how women can take part in protecting the forests”.
The show was also being filmed by Thomas Lenta, a journalist from Mongaby Media Services.
Lenta said he was interested in the show due to its unique nature of giving a platform to women express themselves and to talk about the issues affecting them.
Nyinabwenge show that runs every Saturday from 17:00 to 19:00 is a gender program which gives women platform to discuss issues affecting them and also contribute towards development of the society.
Members of Community Green Radio listener’s clubs in Bunyoro oil-rich districts have been urged to lead by example in raising their voices against human rights violations by government and oil-companies as they intensify oil developments in the region.
During their visit to learn how sustainability school and radio listeners clubs work in promoting the rights of communities in Bunyoro region, Malcom Mpamizo from Civic Source Africa and the Greg Regagnon from Wellspring, who are also friends to National Association of Professional Environmentalists, said communities have a right to prior and fair compensation, prior informed consent and right to a clean and health environment.
During their visit to Kigaaga listeners’ club in Buseruka Sub County Hoima district and Butimba sustainability school in Kikuube district, Greg said the members need to work as a team and stay strong in engaging and challenging government on human rights violations.
“These oil companies do not have the right to profit from communities’ human rights violations. You have a right to say no and you should not bow to poor compensation,” Greg noted
His comments followed concerns that were raised by members of poor and delayed compensation to residents affected by pipeline and road projects in the districts.
“We have challenges as a result of oil developments but as empowered members of community, we are mobilizing others to ensure that these issues are solved. We have already prepared our petition on poor compensation on road project and it awaiting hand over to our member of parliament,” Rev. Fred Musimenta, a chairperson of Butimba sustainability Conservation Association noted.
Musimenta said NAPE has greatly empowered them to stand up and fight against injustices, resist land grabbers and lead the environmental protection campaign and restoring indigenous seeds.
“Before NAPE came, we could not stand up and oppose any government leader. But they have trained us to act; it has been so good to us. Now we are on the campaign against Bugoma forest giveaway to sugarcane growers, promoting indigenous seeds and fighting against human rights violations by oil companies,” he said.
Greg commended NAPE for supporting communities and urged it to continue advocating for the rights of communities.
Kigaaga sustainability school has stepped up efforts to plant indigenous trees to conserve the environment and ensure sustainable agriculture ahead of oil boom.
Joram Basiima, one of the Community Educators says Kigaaga village- which is adjacent to the future oil refinery and Hoima International airport in oil-rich Hoima district- has been massively affected by high rate of deforestation as a result of oil developments and influx of displaced people in area.
He says the school also known as Kigaaga Oil Refinery Women Development Association (KORECWODA) has partnered with SBC- a company that is constructing the airport ,to distribute indigenous tree seedlings to communities and also monitor and supervise those who receive the seedlings so that they can be planted.
“Because we are known for planting and nurturing tree seedlings of indigenous seeds, we were selected by SBC to be in charge of distributing indigenous tree seeds, supervising those who receive them,” he says.
He explains that over 2,000 indigenous trees have so far been planted and distributed.
“So far 1842Musizi and 910 Musisa trees seedlings have already been distributed to community members,” he adds
Basiima who is also the chairperson of Kigaaga Community Radio listeners club says they are reinforcing lessons from the radio to ensure natural resource management by increasing forest cover and sustainable agriculture by planting indigenous trees which encourage agro-forestry.
“Community Green radio has also contributed a lot in creating awareness about environmental issues which has prompted communities to practice activities like tree planting,” he says
Peninah Ruhindi, the chairperson of KORECWODA says they have also started a campaign to plant trees along river lines and protected water sources.
“We are encouraging more people to plant trees as we lead by example. We have planted along Kanywabarogo river line and also on two protected springs,” she explains.
With support from National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), community members are raising indigenous tree seedlings to conserve the environment.