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Uganda’s Bugoma Forest must not be destroyed for private gain

A scrutiny of the ESIA report shows the proposed activities will cause irreversible damage to the forest ecosystem

By Nancy Ogonje, EAWLS Executive Director

Some 5,770 hectares of Bugoma Forest Reserve in western Uganda have reportedly been leased to Hoima Sugar Ltd who will clear the woodland to make way for a sugar plantation. The process of converting forestland into farmland is being carried out in blatant disregard of laws on environmental protection.

Some sources say that a Kenyan company, the Rai Group, is a shareholder in Hoima Sugar and is providing the necessary management expertise.

According to Uganda’s National Forest Authority (NFA), remote sensing surveys show that 190ha of the forest have already been degraded despite an injunction issued by the Uganda Cabinet stopping any clearing of woodland until the boundaries have been demarcated.

Bugoma Forest Reserve is a tropical natural forest that is rich in biodiversity, including endangered chimpanzees. It is also a water catchment for Lake Albert and a migratory corridor for wildlife. It was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932 and placed under the management of NFA. The forest covers a total of 41,144ha.

The spectre of encroachment was unleashed in August 2016 when the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development issued a title deed for 5,770ha (about 22 square miles) of Bugoma Forest to Bunyoro-Kitara tribal kingdom without following the legal process of degazettement.

On August 14, 2020, Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) issued a certificate of approval to the Hoima Sugar Limited project. The permit was granted without the legally required involvement of the public in the Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report. It is unfortunate that a state regulatory body mandated to protect the environment would endorse the destruction of a public forest to make way for a sugar plantation that benefits a private entity.

The Rai Group has a large footprint in the manufacture of wood products in East Africa, including Kenya, and has also been implicated in the destruction of the Mau Forest in Kenya through logging, according to press reports. Mau Forest is a key water tower. It is a catchment for crucial rivers such as the Ewaso Nyiro and the Mara rivers, whose volumes have been in decline, largely due to deforestation.

Allowing Hoima Sugar Limited to convert Bugoma Forest Reserve to a sugar plantation means a double gain for the shareholders of Hoima Sugar. Besides growing sugar, they will benefit from the sale of the mature timber in the cleared area. At an estimated value of $65,000 per hectare, Hoima Sugar will make a windfall gain of US $37.5 million from clearing the Bugoma Forest for sugar cultivation.

A scrutiny of the ESIA report shows that the proposed activities will cause great damage to the forest ecosystem. It does not make sense to destroy a natural forest and then seek to plant trees in the “buffer zones” as suggested in the ESIA report. Governments cannot purport to support ecosystem restoration and reverse biodiversity loss while  destroying the environment for private profit.

The NFA has severally sued the Bunyoro Kingdom for aiding and abetting the encroachment of Bugoma Forest but lost both cases. The Commissioner of land registration even cancelled the title deed issued to the Kingdom in 2016 but the High Court reinstated the document on legal technicalities.

Handing back tracts of land to tribal kingdoms in Uganda does not allow them to lay claim to natural resources which still belong to the central government, but this is what is happening in Bugoma Forest.

The NFA is seeking a fresh hearing at the Court of Appeal and the East African Court of Justice and intends to submit new evidence. In the meantime, the contested forest area is being cleared with workers and equipment guarded by armed police, soldiers and private security guards, according to environmental activists who have visited the area.

An advocacy campaign “#SaveBugomaForest” has been initiated by local civil society organisations that have the support of several European Union envoys. To complement that effort, the East African Wild Life Society has developed a petition that seeks to compel Hoima Sugar Limited to stop converting Bugoma Forest to a sugar plantation.


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THE EAST AFRICAN WILD LIFE SOCIETY EXHIBITS AT A UK-KENYA EVENT

The British High Commission invited the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) to exhibit at the launch of the Year of Climate Action (YoCA). The event was held on 3rd November, 2020 at Amani Grounds in Karura Forest.

In the run up to 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), UK and Kenya are jointly carrying out activities to inspire positive action and engagement on climate change across Kenya.

The UK co-hosted the public launch of the YoCA with the Government of Kenya (Ministry of Environment and Forestry). They jointly urged the private sector, civil society and the youth to undertake concerted efforts to combat climate change. Using the YoCa platform, both the UK and Kenya’s institutions will have an opportunity to develop a robust narrative on what a clean, resilient post COVID-19 recovery will look like in Kenya. The success of the recovery will be gauged through an analysis of implications in terms of investment required and jobs created in key sectors — clean energy, green affordable housing, decarbonised manufacturing and sustainable forestry.

The purpose of the Year of Climate Action is to set the narrative for the 12 months before CoP26 in Glasgow, UK, in November 2021, highlighting the importance of a clean and resilient recovery from COVID-19, creating lasting jobs, and a focus on long-term sustainability rather than just quick recovery regardless of cost to the environment. It will entail collaborating with relevant stakeholders to scale up actions that will raise awareness on climate change and showcase innovative solutions to address climate challenges.

Key Attendees were:      
a) Senior UK and Kenya Government Officials (Principal Secretary, Ministry of Environment Dr. Chris Kiptoo and Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya Dr. Patrick Njoroge); Green Businesses; Youth Climate Leaders & Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

b) Eight organisations showcasing their work (Globeleq, Azuri Technologies, Diageo, Acorn, Ceriops, Takataka Solutions, East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) and Daraja – Kounkuey Design Initiative)

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Global Push for Net Zero Recovery From Covid-19

Global push for net zero recovery from Covid-19:

155 companies — with a combined market capitalization of over US$ 2.4 trillion and representing over 5 million employees — have signed a statement urging governments around the world to align their COVID-19 economic aid and recovery efforts with the latest climate science.

As debates on recovery packages around the world ramp up in the coming weeks, the companies, which are all part of the Science Based Targets initiative, are calling for policies that will build resilience against future shocks by supporting efforts to hold global temperature rise to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with reaching net-zero emissions well before 2050. The signatories span 34 sectors and have headquarters in 33 countries.

They include: AstraZeneca, Bayer, Coca-Cola, Colgate Palmolive Company, Inter IKEA Group, Nestlé, Schneider Electric. Unilever, Vodafone Group, amongst others.

The statement comes as governments around the world are preparing trillions of dollars worth of stimulus packages to help economies recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and as they prepare to submit enhanced national climate plans under the Paris Agreement. In the coming weeks, several major economies will take key decisions in their recovery efforts, including the European Union Recovery Plan, new stimulus packages from the United States of America and India, and the G7 Heads of State summit in June.

The 155 companies have already set, or committed to set, science-based emissions reduction targets. By signing the statement, they are reaffirming that their own decisions and actions remain grounded in science, while calling on governments to “prioritize a faster and fairer transition from a grey to a green economy.” Policy and spending that incorporates climate targets will reduce vulnerability to future shocks and disasters, create good jobs, reduce emissions and ensure clean air, according to a study from Oxford University.

“Saving lives and livelihoods, and building a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future, are at the heart of our efforts to recover from COVID-19,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “We can beat the virus, address climate change and create new jobs through actions that move us from the grey to green economy. Many companies are showing us that it is indeed possible and profitable, to adopt sustainable, emission-reducing plans even during difficult times like this. I warmly welcome the ambitious, science-based actions we are seeing from leading companies who are demonstrating to policy-makers that green growth remains the best growth strategy.”

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Today is World Environment Day – a day for raising worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment.

This year’s theme, “Time for nature” is a call for urgent action to protect biodiversity.

Over the years, World Environment Day has grown into one of the largest global platforms for environmental public outreach and is observed in over 150 countries. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the day will be celebrated and commemorated through its first – ever online – only campaign.

In honour of World Environment Day, the East African Wild Life Society has partnered with the Mpala Research Centre to host a special reading of Executive Director Dino J. Martins children’s book on entomology. Kids of all ages are welcome to learn what means what it means to explore the world around us.

For more information and to register for this event, visit: https://mpala.org/kids-corner/

 

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Designing Sustainable Linear Infrastructure Models to Protect Biodiversity

As a follow up to  a workshop held in South Africa on designing linear infrastructure, the  African Conservation Centre, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Ewaso Lions, Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Power Africa and Endangered Wildlife Trust organised a three-day workshop  on February 12-14 whose theme was “Designing Linear Infrastructure for Sustainable Outcomes.”

The forum, held in the Karen suburb of Nairobi brought together a diversity of voices from governments, technical experts, managers, the private sector and civil society to deliberate on the best practices for linear infrastructure development in East Africa.

Other participants included representatives from Kenya’s Rural Electrification Authority, IUCN, WWF International, the World Bank; the African Development Bank, York University, Montana State University, BirdLife International and the East African Wild Life Society.

The need to incorporate the protection of nature or biodiversity in the planning and design of infrastructure project from the onset was made clear in the discussions. Stakeholders and experts from different agencies need to be engaged from the beginning, it was agreed.

A resolution was passed at the workshop calling for the convening of a conference in 2021 to take the discussion further.

Government representatives acknowledged the need for sustainable infrastructural projects.

There was unanimity that if development projects must encroach on conservation areas then data must be sought to help implementers understand animal behaviour to ensure designs incorporate animal crossing points at appropriate migration areas, taking into account the various animal physical sizes.

Participants visited two wildlife conservancies in Kenya’s Athi-Kapiti plains, south of Nairobi, that serve as dispersal areas for the Nairobi National Park. The aim was to gain some perspective on the impact of the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway on Kenya’s wildlife.

In the Kenyan context, big infrastructural projects have been implemented in the recent past. One of the most notable ones has been the Standard Gauge Railway. Others include roads cutting through the Tsavo National Park, Nairobi National Park and Oloolua Forest, as well as high voltage transmission lines from Ethiopia and the Turkana wind farms through Suswa to Nairobi that traversed wildlife conservancies. In addition, another high voltage line – whose environmental impact has yet been assessed – is being developed to provide power to Konza City, which is under construction in Machakos County.

Designs for high voltage transmission lines in Kenya should also incorporate models that reduce bird strikes. Locations for wind farms can also be chosen carefully in areas with less or no migratory routes for birds to minimize detrimental impact. This will ensure sound development and protection of many species in the long run.

 

 

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WORLD WILDLIFE DAY 2020

Did you know that today is World Wildlife Day? A day to raise awareness on sustainable use of the world’s wild fauna and flora.

For environment champions like us, it’s an opportunity to recognize the value of biodiversity and remind ourselves of our responsibility to protect it.

Many indigenous East African species, from Maasai Giraffes,Rhinos to the African Lion have joined the list of the most threatened wildlife species on our planet. Among many other threats, illegal trade, habitat encroachment and pollution pose a serious threat to their survival.

From advocating for land mark environment management policies and undertaking biodiversity protection projects, to voicing our concerns and demanding urgent science-based conservation measures, we’re serious about wise use of our natural resources.

World Wildlife Day 2020 celebrates the special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms as a component of the world’s biological diversity. This year’s theme – Sustaining all life on Earth – aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1, 12, 14 and 15, and their wide-ranging commitments on alleviating poverty, ensuring sustainable use of resources, and on conserving life both on land and below water to halt biodiversity loss.

 

Join us in celebrating World Wildlife Day 2020 and make the pledge to build a world that can truly sustain all life on earth: http://chng.it/rZWRKpg4

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Bomet County’s Pioneering Forest & Conservation Management Bill

Kenya’s 2010 Constitution mandated the central and county governments to jointly manage the country’s Kenya’s forests. The central government assumed the responsibility of providing technical support, policy leadership and capacity building, while the counties took charge of the management of their respective forest resources, giving them the authority to ensure community rights and to redress long-standing land tenure and benefit sharing disputes.

The Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG), an autonomous civil society watchdog hosted by the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), has been working closely with the Kenya Forest Service and county governments to implement the Gazette Supplement No. 116 issued on 9th of August 2014 that provides for the devolution of forestry functions to county governments, including farm forestry extension services, forests and game reserves.

In June 2018, KFWG, working with various county governments, conducted a preliminary public consultation meeting in Bomet County on the formulation of a Bomet County Forest Conservation & Management Bill and Policy. This was necessitated by the need to provide county governments with a benchmark legal framework to execute their devolved forest management functions.

The drafting, validation and adoption of the Bomet County Forest Bill took place in two phases. Phase I involved the drafting the bill in consultation with the county legal team and other relevant stakeholders and the creation of a technical team for the Bomet County Forest Conservation and Management Bill.

Phase II involved further engagement with stakeholders and the creation of an effective policy brief. EAWLS/KFWG, the Bomet County Environment Department and the technical team of the Bomet County Forest Conservation and Management Bill organised a stakeholders’ workshop to scrutinize and enrich the bill and policy in readiness for its presentation to the county cabinet and public consultation.

The Bomet County Forest Conservation & Management Bill draft has since been presented to the public and is now being debated by the Bomet County assembly.

KFWG hopes that the ratification of this pioneering county forest bill will streamline the forest product value chain, provide a platform for communities to get involved in natural resource management and pave the way for more counties to adopt laws necessary for the execution of their forest management mandate.

 

 

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The Fight for Kenya’s Forests

In 2018, the Kenyan government  imposed a moratorium on timber harvesting in all public and community forests ‘to allow for the recovery and audit of forest resources in Kenya,’ a knee jerk response to an alarming drop of water levels in all major rivers in the country.

This flailing attempt to ban logging in order to save Kenya’s water towers has had a number of implications: swathes of mature trees planted for commercial use in the Baringo, Marakwet, Keiyo, Kericho counties and the Mount Kenya region – valued at about Ksh 30 Billion –  are rotting in the plantations.  This significant loss of revenue to the Ministry of Environment and the Kenya Forest Service has led to serious budget cuts and compromised the agencies’ capacity to deliver critical environment management projects including the Nairobi River Cleanup exercise.

Illegal logging and charcoal burning are threatening to wipe out expansive areas of the region’s forests.

Additionally, the gap in local supply of timber forced the market to respond in an unnatural way; leading to over exploitation of farm trees and harvesting of immature trees in neighboring countries of Congo and Tanzania; essentially contributing to degradation of other forest ecosystems in the region.

Fortunately, the timber moratorium lapses this November and the Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG) – an independent government watchdog for sound forest practices in Kenya, proposes that it be dispensed with altogether. Instead, KFWG proposes strengthening of local enforcement agencies and local governance units to curb illegal and unchecked logging.

Additionally, KFWG suggests that the ‘Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme’ (PELIS) currently under threat of being scraped, instead be reviewed and improved and that issues of corruption within government agencies be dealt with firmly.

If you would like more information about the Kenya Forest Working Group, please visit https://www.kenyaforests.org/

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A case for Community Based Conservation: Lake Ol Bolossat Community conservation group

At one of Kenya’s most endangered lakes, community control over the natural resource offers residents new income, infrastructure and dignity.

Aerial View of Lake Ol’ Bolossat

Lake Ol’ Bolossat, Central Province’s only natural lake, is home to a wealth of bird species including the endangered grey crowned crane, attracting tourists and researchers interested in different migratory birds coming from as far as Europe and Asia.

As a source of Ewaso Nyiro River, Lake Ol’ Bolossat also supports a large population of people, livestock and wildlife that live downstream in the northern Kenyan arid and semi-arid areas of Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Garissa.

Before intervention by the East African Wild Life Society, the beauty and economic benefits of Lake Ol’ Bolossat were at stake due to overgrazing, quarrying and encroachment on riparian areas.

Locals received little benefit from tourism that was controlled by a private minority group, thus only a handful were incentivized to conserve the natural resource. Lake Ol Bolossat’s wildlife populations plummeted as pollution and droughts increased, with doubts arising on whether the lake would survive the next 15 years.

Previously, discussions on community-led natural resource management in Lake Ol’ Bolossat area had been limited or non-existent. In response, the East African Wild Life Society, with funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) came onboard to assist the community establish the Lake Ol’ Bolossat Community Conservation Group; going a step further to undertake a comprehensive community capacity building program that would see residents of Nyandarua County trained on climate-smart agricultural practices and supported in initiation of said initiatives.

Representatives of the Lake Ol’ Bolossat Community Conservation Group visting Kipsaina Cranes & Wetlands Conservation Group

In order to ensure effectiveness and sustainability of the conservation group, the East African Wild Life Society had the Lake Ol’ Bolossat Community Conservation Group registered and licensed; successfully lobbying for the creation of a legal framework by the Nyandarua County Government to enhance coordination and collaboration between the County Government, National Government and residents of Lake Ol’ Bolossat in a benefit sharing scheme.

Now, the Lake Ol’ Bolossat community and wider Nyandarua area residents are assured of improved access to clean and safe water, regular water supply for their farming activities and diversified means of earning a livelihood.

If you would like to be part of EAWLS’ success stories, please visit  https://eawildlife.org/membership/  to view our membership categories.

 

 

 

 

 

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