While addressing participants at a biodiversity mainstreaming workshop for district stakeholders in February this year in Kisoro district, Mr. Achilles Byaruhanga, ED-NatureUganda said that Uganda is richly blessed with many ecosystem services from all types of environment. But these can only be useful if we only conserve the environment in a more sustainable manner.We are all dependants on natural resources and need to adopt green economies to conserve and sustainably utilize them. Let's not degrade the environment so that we can have maximum benefits, he added.
The workshop was attended by Mr. Abel Bizimana, the Kisoro district Chairman, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) for Kisoro district, Chief Administrative Officer of Rubanda, Chairman LC V- Rubanda district and environment officers from Rubanda, Kabale, and Kisoro districts. Government agencies such as National Forestry Authority (NFA) among others were also represented.
"Why do we talk about mainstreaming, why don't we just plan for our country and conserve our motherland!", said Mr. Abel Bizimana,the Kisoro district Chairman
The workshop provided an opportunity for district representatives to inform members about the on-going efforts to conserve biodiversity at district and national level.
Mainstreaming biodiversity means integrating or including actions related to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in strategies relating to production sectors, such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism and mining. The overall goal of doing this across government and society is to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss as stated by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)..
District leaders of Kisoro and Rubanda also pledged to collaborate with conservation partners, to integrate biodiversity concerns in development plans from the grassroots level and to support policy and guidelines that enhance biodiversity and conservation. For example, effectively conducting Environmental Certification processes of all projects before payments are done.
The CBD vision is that by 2050, biodiversity is valued conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.
NatureUganda's strategy for Strengthening Civil Society Capacity to Advocate for Mainstreaming Biodiversity (CAMB) is build around three pillars which are; Species, Sites and habitats, Sustainability and people. Currently the project is being implemented around Echuya and Kitomi Forest reserves in Rubanda and Rubirizi districts including Kanungu, Kisoro, Rukungiri, Kabala, Ibanda, Bushenyi, Buhweju and Kamwenge Districts.
In Rubanda and Rubirizi districts, NatureUganda participated in district council meetings and the organization's conservation activities have been integrated into District development plans i.e soil and water conservation, tree planting, integration of livelihood enhancement opportunities, wetland restoration and joint forest protection.
In his address, Mr Achillies Byaruhanga emphasized that degradation of environment hits the poor harder as they solely depend on natural resources for livelihood improvement yet while making national budget allocations, natural resources' department rarely gets above 2%.
Before the meeting was concluded, stakeholders present recommended carrying out a baseline study 'Payment for Ecosystem Services' to determine the return of conservation investment, to the value of ecosystem goods and services.
NatureUganda also pledged to spearhead the process of setting up a conservation forum which will be meeting quarterly to support conservation work in the region. Environmental officers for the represented districts were tasked with the role of coming up with the best framework by mid-march, 2018.
The RDC for Kisoro district while closing the meeting urged politicians not to interfere with the work of Local Government conservation technical teams and to support the implementation of our environment laws which are already good enough.