Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Migration of Land degradation in Uganda using community initiatives

GEF Press Release;

Uganda is in an enviable position for having a relatively large percentage of arable land (about 30%), much of which has not been cultivated yet. However, rising land degradation is drawing environmental concern as well as speculation over a potential 3-10% loss in GNP. 

A prolonged period of war and conflict, animal grazing in the dry season, and the expansion of cultivation areas as a result of wetland conversion for agriculture, have led to a loss of biodiversity and a reduction in agricultural yields in the Serere District of Uganda, along the Lake Kyoga basin. 

On the other hand, the high rate of environmental degradation in the Soroti District- located in the dryland belt of Uganda – is the result of shrinking of the woodlands, bushlands, forest stock, and wetlands due to the excessive cutting of trees in order to satisfy the demand for fuel. This has contributed to a loss of the biomass, which is destabilizing the biodiversity in the region. 

Uganda’s comparative advantage in climate and soils position it to potentially become a significant producer of agricultural products, if sustainable land-use practices and alternative income-generating activities are implemented. 

As a result, Soroti Environment Concern (SEC)- a registered non-profit organization operating in the Teso sub region in Eastern Uganada- identified the need to improve the livelihood of the communities, by supporting their household income-generating activities, in order to achieve sustainable conservation and development of the rich natural resources along the Kyoga basin. 

In order to achieve these goals, the GEF Small Grants Programme, implemented by UNDP, supported this project with $40,000. SEC employed the funds to conduct training workshops, procure and distribute seedlings, establish demonstration sites, construct energy-efficient cook stoves, purchase shear butter extraction equipment and facilitate usage training, install modern beehives and honey-extraction machines, and finally, create awareness through radio talks, film shows, and project calendars, brochures, and pamphlets.

The project’s interventions yielded environmental enhancements in three categories: physical, biological and socio-economic. 
With respect to physical enhancements, planting of citrus trees increased the tree cover in the area, allowing for better absorption of greenhouse gases, an improvement of the microclimate, and an increase in biodiversity.

Training farmers on sustainable agricultural practices such as mulching, compost manure application, crop rotation and water harvesting improved soil conditions; the introduction of upland rice cultivation shifted the focus away from the inefficient rice cultivation in the wetlands; training farmers on water management techniques, such as pot water drip, enhanced the water-holding capacity of plants and decreased crop failures; and facilitating the planting of trees around wells helped halt any running water from contaminating the wells.

As for the biological enhancements, introducing energy-saving stoves reduced fuel wood consumption; educating and sensitizing the community on sustainable utilization of papyrus along the swamps and lakeshores reduced the waste in wetland vegetation; training women groups on conservation techniques raised awareness on the threats of overexploiting the Tamarindus indica and Vitellaria paradoxa species for charcoal burning, leading to a remarkable reduction in tree-cutting and bush-burning activities; and 40% of the commonly used tree species in the project area have had their environmental values enhanced through conservation, protection, expansion, or improved variety.

Regarding the socio-economic enhancements, providing alternative livelihood options like bee keeping, shear nut oil production, livestock rearing, and improved milk production processes diverted the economic attention away from charcoal burning and firewood sales; improving the efficiency of cook stoves reduced the amount of firewood required for cooking; rising local production of rice, orange varieties, shear butter oil, tamarind juice, and processed and packed honey increased exports by 50%; finally, strong sensitization and awareness reduced environmentally-degrading activities by 15% and increased environmentally-enhancing activities by 25%;.

In 2005, based on an evaluation that revealed the remarkable successes of the project, the GEF SGP approved a second grant for an additional USD 40,000 to build on the accomplishments of the first phase. 

By the end of the second phase, the most notable results of the project included the increase in milk production by 170 folds; the installation of 40 energy-efficient cooking stoves, which cut down 80% of the biomass previously utilized by the traditional cooking method; the generation of new income amounting to UGx 49,500/bag (equivalent to USD 21) by shear nut oil extraction; and the increase in annual rice production by 3 to 4 tonnes as a result of the shift towards upland rice cultivation.

The partnership between SEC and the GEF Small Grants Programme strived to build local capacity by empowering the communities in both Serere and Soroti Districts to take ownership of the project. This in turn achieved lasting advancements in land management practices and natural resource utilization, as well as created sustainable income-generating activities, alleviating poverty levels in both districts.

Background for editors

About the GEF
The GEF unites 182 countries in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment. An independently operating financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.

Since 1991, GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing USD 10 billion in grants and leveraging USD 47 billion in co-financing for over 2,800 projects in over 168 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP), the GEF has also made more than 13,000 small grants directly to civil society and community based organizations, totalling USD 634 million. For more information, visit

About the GEF Small Grants Programme

Launched in 1992, SGP supports activities of nongovernmental and community-based organizations in developing countries towards climate change abatement, conservation of biodiversity, protection of international waters, reduction of the impact of persistent organic pollutants and prevention of land degradation while generating sustainable livelihoods.

Since its creation SGP has provided grants to 13,000 communities in 122 developing countries. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as a corporate programme, SGP is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of the GEF partnership, and is executed by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

Media contacts:
Ana Maria Currea, Knowledge Management Facilitator, GEF SGP,, 646-781-4353

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