Setting the Standard for Environmental Conservation

By on October 11, 2021

A few weeks ago, Uganda agreed to a United States request to host about 2000 Afghan refugees temporarily as their applications to live in the United States are processed. This follows a long history of Uganda as one of the most welcoming countries in the world in regards to refugees. This country is so kind and inviting to refugees that we are now looked at as a model country world over. 

Anyone who knows the history of Uganda knows that hosting refugees is not something new for this country. As far back as the 1940s, Uganda was already hosting refugees from Poland at Nyabyeya in Masindi district as well as Koja in Mukono District. In the mid-1950s Uganda hosted nearly 80,000 Sudanese Refugees and towards the 1960s there were several thousands of refugees from Congo and Rwanda streaming into the country. Basically, we have opened our doors and welcome stranded people from all over the world. Uganda has hosted refugees from several countries including Somalia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Senegal, Burundi, South Africa, Ethiopia, SIerra-Leone, Congo, Mozambique, Eritrea, and Sudan among others.

Quite naturally the presence of these refugees creates the need for settlement camps and refugee communities. And as a result, this has several effects and results. It has become apparent that the Ugandan districts that are hosting refugees are beginning to have a lot of pressure in terms of environmental degradation because of the many refugees who are not well clued about how to look after the environment.

Chilling by River Nile – One of Uganda’s environmental gems

As a result of this unfortunate trend of events, the European Union has stepped in and funded a program to deal with this problem exactly. The “Response to Increased Environmental and Natural Resources Degradation in the Refugee Hosting Districts of Uganda” (RED) is a European Union Action that focuses on addressing the impacts of displaced populations on the environment, natural resources, and the livelihoods of the refugee-hosting districts. Basically, it seeks to right the wrong of environmental degradation happening in the hosting districts.

Implementation of the RED Action is to ensure that there is an increase in environmental and natural resources protection through restoration and conservation of degraded natural resources like forests, wetlands, and woodlands, and improving livelihoods through sustainable land management and sustainable energy use by displaced populations and their host communities in the refugee-hosting districts. 

Uganda Biodiversity Trust Fund and Save the Children are the two parties that are involved in making sure the RED Action plan kicks into full gear. As the RED Project was being launched on 5th October 2021 at Sheraton Hotel, several stakeholders and partners were part of the event. The idea was to make sure that as many institutions and individuals can be a part of this drive to improve the appreciation and conservation of the environment throughout the refugee-hosting districts.

Partners pledging their commitment by signing

As a person who travels around the country a lot, I notice that a good number of the refugee hosting districts are swarming with people, both native and otherwise, who are struggling to survive. This inevitably piles pressure on the environment. As a result, there are many people in these communities who end up engaged in environmental degradation either knowingly or unknowingly. The purpose of this project, therefore, is to create awareness and let the people in the communities see the benefits of keeping the environment in good shape.

The commitment to restore and conserve the environment in refugee-hosting districts is one that Uganda Biodiversity Fund embraces in full. It is the kind of commitment that is born out of the strong desire by the fund to maintain the wonderful biodiversity of this country. 

Uganda, known as the Pearl of Africa, is one of Africa’s wealthiest countries when it comes to biodiversity. Uganda ranks 8th of the 54 countries in Africa in regards to Biodiversity. According to the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan II (2015-2025), Uganda’s flora and fauna stand at a whopping figure of over 18,783. The country boasts 380 mammals as well as 1,016 birds, accounting for nearly 10% of the world’s total bird population. With these facts at their fingertips, the Uganda Biodiversity Fund is taking the lead in this project to get the refugee hosting districts to understand and appreciate the value of environmental conservation and preservation. 

Apart from Save the Children which together with the Uganda Biodiversity fund will execute this project, there are several other partners and stakeholders that have pledged to be a part of this project. Some of these institutions include Enabel, the Wildlife Conservation Society of Uganda, Ecological Christian Organisation, Nature Uganda, and the Office of the Prime Minister among others. The idea is that all these partners will work together to change the narrative and create more sustainable and long term achievements with the environment in the Refugee hosting districts; 

Representatives from some of the partners.

Hon. Beatrice Anwar who represented Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja the Prime Minister at the launch did mention that the presence of Refugees does not only affect the districts that host them but rather all surrounding areas because naturally, refugees tend to get incorporated into society and move beyond the boundaries originally set. 

Even with this effort to redeem the situation in Refugee hosting districts, it is still imperative that every Ugandan plays their part in being part of the drive to increase awareness about environmental and natural resources degradation wherever they may be.

The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” -Lady Bird Johnson

Bernard
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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