Uganda is exceptionally rich in biodiversity with surveys reporting occurrence of over 18,783 species of flora and fauna. The country’s immense biological diversity is important both nationally and internationally, and offers good opportunities for cost-effective multiple species conservation. Uganda ‘s endemic species are primarily associated with high mountains, forests, and the major Pleistocene refugium of the Albertine Rift Valley. Among the larger mammalian species, Uganda is endowed with relatively stable populations of among others, Elephant, Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Eland, Zebra, Hartebeest, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, and Uganda Kob. The country is also home to Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards, Hunting Dog and Hyenas among others. Uganda therefore has all the big five animals! Currently Uganda has 159 species listed in the IUCN Red List, 2008; which includes 38 plants, 21 mammals, 18 birds, 6 amphibians, 54 fishes, 10 molluscs and 12 being other invertebrates (NBSAPII-2015).
Uganda is undergoing rapid development across all sectors and this depends on the availability of its infrastructural facilities, like roads, power dams, transmission lines, Industrial agriculture, oil and gas related infrastructure. The development interventions envisaged by the Vision 2040 and the aspiration of agenda 2030 is to build resilient infrastructure. These developments would invariably result in residual impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, impacting Key Biodiversity areas (KBAs). Important to note that Uganda’s population already exerts a high demand on natural resources, including charcoal, fisheries and bushmeat, and the population is growing at a rate of >3% per annum. The development has and will impact critical habitats; habitat fragmentation and loss of connectivity as well increase the consumption of park resources (e.g. biomass, bushmeat, and construction materials). Some of these impacts result from in-migration from surrounding districts in search for job opportunities.
The government is seeking better ways to address biodiversity loss and has made strides to address the concerns through strengthening of policy, legal and institutional frameworks, such as the National Environment Act (No.5 of 2019) and the NBSAP II. The existence of the National Biodiversity and Social Offset strategy (MWE 2019), that gives strategic direction and foundation for effective management of biodiversity and social offsets in the face of development initiatives in Uganda. The National Biodiversity and Social Offset guidelines (NEMA 2021) is to provide a framework to guide the developers, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders in determining whether or not biodiversity offsets are an appropriate measure to ensure the mitigation of significant negative residual impacts so as to achieve measurable conservation outcomes that guarantee no net loss and preferably a net gain of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the attendant social benefits.
The COMBO facility is supporting governments in the establishment of appropriate governance systems and policies, develop tools, and guidance for spatial planning and offset implementation to avoid, mitigate and offset impacts on priority biodiversity. Build capacity of governments, civil society, financial institutions and businesses to understand effective implementation of the mitigation hierarchy and its importance for achieving national biodiversity targets, develop innovative models and operational protocols to implement the mitigation hierarchy, including offsets.
This will be achieved through; Support Government of Uganda in developing regulations to operationalize relevant laws related to the mitigation hierarchy, Support Multi Sectoral planning which avoids impacts on priority biodiversity, Support National Biodiversity Committee to review and monitor implementation of offset projects in Uganda.
To develop tools and guidance for spatial planning, the project will fill data gaps in existing collated data, establish working relationship with institutions hosting platforms for data dissemination, develop ecosystem based metrics for assessing loss and gain and apply them in at least one landscape and Support NEMA to develop and operationalize a national offsets registry to support effective implementation and monitoring and permanence of outcomes from offsets.
Building national capacity will involve designing a national capacity-building program, Train local government staff and other key Ministries Departments, private sector and ESIA practitioners in understanding opportunities and practice for mitigation of impacts and the use of the metrics, strengthen civil society platforms and train financial institutions, including private sector and development banks, in environment and social impact appraisals for projects submitted to lenders for financing.
The project will identify operational models for successful conservation or restoration actions funded by private and public-sector projects" for finance and implementation and document best practice and lessons learnt from implementing the mitigation hierarchy at country level.
During the first phase of the COMBO project a gap analysis of the legal and policy framework for the delivery of No Net loss/ Net Gain (NNL/NG) of biodiversity was conducted. This revealed that there was no provision in the existing policies and national legislation that explicitly required project developers to meet the NNL/NG following the application of the mitigation hierarchy. Coincidentally, the COMBO project started when the review of the National Environment Act of 1995 was in progress. COMBO significantly contributed to the review of the Act and provided technical language for provisions in the National Environment Act No. 5 of 2019 on mitigation hierarchy for ensuring No Net Loss of biodiversity. COMBO also supported the Ministry of Water and Environment to develop the National Biodiversity and Social Offset Strategy. In addition, COMBO created awareness among partners and government institutions about NNL/NG.
During the COMBO project, we also assessed data availability to inform the NNL/NG policy development and implementation, including land use planning with respect to biodiversity conservation. The COMBO project was instrumental in identifying the ‘minimum set’ of required datasets, which can now be used to establish baseline information and establish reference frames for new projects. These data have been used by the key stakeholders such as the private sector companies to improve project design and implementation, the government of Uganda to enforce the application of mitigation hierarchy in the Murchison – Semliki demonstration landscape where varied development projects such as the oil and gas pipeline, construction of the Central Processing Facility, oil roads, and airport among other are being implemented. It is also being used by the CSOs to monitor project developer’s compliance with the environmental laws and assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures.
The National Coordination Group (NCG) on Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) held its fifth National Consultative Meeting on 10th November 2020 at Fairway Hotel in Kampala. The meeting aimed to share updates and discuss mechanisms of supporting government to institutionalize the KBA mechanism in the national development planning process as well as secure high-level political support for including KBAs in the national Post2020 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agenda.
Dr. Simon Nampindo
Wildlife Conservation Society
Plot 802, Kiwufu Road, Kansanga
P.O. Box 7487, Kampala - Uganda Tel: +256 (039) 200-0381