PRESIDENT MUSEVENI TELLS FELLOW LEADERS IN BRAZAVILLE THAT UGANDA WANTS TO RESTORE 2.5M HECTARES OF DEGRADED FORESTS
Government in collaboration with the private sector and other stakeholders has embarked on an ambitious program of planting 40million indigenous trees annually in its new approach to tackle a looming climate change catastrophe. According to Gen. Yoweri Museveni, this target symbolizes a tree for each Ugandan to be planted per year.
“Since 2021, Uganda has set an annual target to plant 40million indigenous trees (symbolizing a tree for each Ugandan) in collaboration with the private sector, civil society, cultural and religious institutions as a means to secure the participation of the masses in national targets” the president said in his speech read by Vice President Maj. Jessica Alupo to the Three Forest Basins [Amazon, Congo, Borneo Mekong South East Asia] Summit. The Summit which took place in Congo Brazzaville from October 26-28 2023 was themed ‘A Collective Commitment To A Sustainable Future’.
Museveni through Alupo who is also Katakwi woman MP, said that despite having beautiful natural features, Uganda is currently faced with adverse climate change effects including prolonged droughts, extreme temperatures, landslides, and floods among others. He attributed these partly to the massive ecosystem degradation due to human activities.
He said going by the theme of this summit, Uganda just like the rest of the world is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and needs to confront huge challenges, such as putting the economy back on track, reducing poverty and inequalities but at the same time address the impending climate and biodiversity crisis.
“No country can win this battle singlehandedly and therefore the timeliness of this Summit whose objective is to deepen our cooperation around the shared challenges on environment conservation, a deepening climate crisis amidst poverty of our people” he said.
The president said Uganda is fully aware of the significance of international cooperation to address the challenges we face, citing a decision for the country to be a signatory to the Rio Conventions and full compliance to the commitments therein.
Museveni explained that Uganda has so far passed major milestones in an effort to domesticate these multilateral environment frameworks. He named some of the efforts as; Launch of the roadmap for the implementation of the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework on 11thOctober 2023 which he said will see the National Biodiversity and Action Plan updated. Others are a 10-year Environment and Natural Resources Restoration Action Plan and Signing of the Forest Partnership with the European Union as sign of commitment to the shared aspirations in addressing the challenges on biodiversity and climate change.
“Uganda has also pledged to restore 2.5million hectares of degraded forest landscapes as part of global commitment to restore 350million hectares by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge/ New York Declaration” he said.
The president hailed the convener of the summit Denis Sassou N’guesso [Congo Brazzaville] for the call to reignite the cooperation process for the Three Forest Basins and global biodiversity.
Museveni said Uganda’s participation in the summit gave her an opportunity to be part of the launch process for the coordination and cooperation between the three basins.
“Of great significance to this Summit, Uganda is located between the ecological communities of the drier East African savannahs and the moist Central and West African forests, combined with topography and climatic variations, resulting in the country’s unique flora and fauna. Out of the eight bio-geographical zones of Africa, six are represented in Uganda. As a result, there are several distinct vegetation types found in Uganda, in addition to important Afroalpine zones” he noted. The head of state added that despite being only 2% of the world’s total land area, Uganda has exceptional biodiversity with very high endemism: with the country having over 11% of the world’s total known bird species and 7% mammals combing the diversity between the East African coast and the Congo Basin.
REWARDS TO COMMUNITIES
General Museveni observed that as a means to a sustainable future, Uganda emphasizes the incentivizing of biodiversity conservation through financial benefits targeted at local communities whose livelihoods are affected and who are often the stewards of this rich biodiversity.
“The incentives could be monetary benefits provided in the biodiversity fund or the Green Climate Funding form of Payment for Ecosystem Services and Nature Based Solutions or non-monetary benefits through approaches such as technology transfer, in accordance with nationally identified needs and priorities” he explained adding that this can be done through, among other things: training, provision of equipment and infrastructure development.
Museveni said as part of this cooperation, there is need for capacity building through awareness creation of the potential of the utilitarian aspects of our genetic resources that can be brought by current and future technological advancement such as Digital Sequence Information which he said was a very contentious issue during the negotiations for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
“Awareness will ensure that local communities, women and men benefit from the commercialization and use of their genetic resources and their derivatives including technological innovations” he noted.
Museveni however, said that while conservation is key, there is also need to devise means to intrinsically link this to national development. He said this can be done through enhancing value addition in key growth opportunities, reducing environmental degradation and the adverse effects of climate change as well as improving utilization of natural resources for sustainable economic growth and livelihood security.
“Sustainable forest management can provide a common answer to all these issues through generating employment, benefiting livelihoods, providing habitat for threatened species, sequester carbon and mitigate the effects of climate change” he said and reiterated Uganda’s determination towards “a Collective Commitment to Sustainable Future”.