TACOMA, Washington — Biodiversity, the ecological diversity of an ecosystem, is essential to the success of all living things. Countries around the world have begun to recognize this and have prioritized biodiversity as a chief concern. Uganda is one such nation, as activists, community members, government officials and scientists come together to work toward increasing biodiversity in Uganda
Preserving Biodiversity in Uganda
Uganda is home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world, including 10% of all bird species on earth. Because of this, conservationists have long been at work in the country trying to bring awareness to this issue. Their main obstacle is the growing industrialization of the country, which often demands land and natural resources. Specifically, large scale agriculture and oil production have consumed much of the country, leading to the decline and even extinction of species. As a result, new alternatives that preserve biodiversity have been proposed and implemented throughout the country, benefiting the ecosystem and the human population.
Policies to Protect Biodiversity
In 1995, Uganda asserted the importance of biodiversity in its National Constitution. Following this, the government of Uganda implemented specific policies that protect biodiversity, such as the National Environment Policy (1994), the Uganda Wildlife Policy (2014), the National Forestry Policy (2001), the National Wetlands Policy (1995) and the National Agriculture Policy (2013). In addition, the government has conducted multiple studies on how biodiversity benefits the human population, such as a report which detailed how pollinators are necessary to the success of agriculture. The report found that bees alone were responsible for 62% of the profit for the banana and coffee crops, two of Uganda’s most lucrative crops.
Multilateral initiatives have also been a large part of the conservation effort, specifically UNDP’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN), which is a collection of multiple nations who work together to financially support attempts to preserve biodiversity. In Uganda, this organization works to fund projects dedicated to biodiversity, and it has also committed to furthering education on conservation. Across the general population, there is a lack of knowledge about how biodiversity is protected and how it affects the human population. By producing reports and studies on this subject that are accessible to all, BIOFIN has helped to be a part of changing public attitudes on this topic.
Populations Working to Aid Uganda’s Plant and Animal Biodiversity
Indigenous tribal populations have also been a large part of the push for biodiversity, mainly because the relationship between humanity and the land is of utmost importance. For example, the Bagungu people are stewards of multiple sacred sites throughout the country, and many of these sites are havens for wildlife. Many of these tribes utilize sustainable farming in their agriculture or practice giving back to the land. To bring their message to a broader audience, the Bagungu people have held intergenerational dialogues about the importance of biodiversity, and their story reached many in the documentary, “Custodians of Life: reviving culture and nature in Uganda’s Great Lakes.” As the efforts of indigenous populations to protect their sacred land have become globally recognized, efforts in conservation have become more commonplace.
Local farmers have also found innovative ways to protect biodiversity and increase crop yields, which have been sponsored by the African Wildlife Foundation and the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. Farmers located around Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Park found that elephants were destroying their crops, but rather than exterminate their population, conservationists proposed planting a type of indigenous chili, which is a natural repellent to the elephants. This initiative led to a new crop economy in the region, which has been lucrative for local families. Because of this industry, these families have been able to purchase assets and even provide school fees for their children, all while protecting the local animal population.
Biodiversity has proven to increase crop yields and is a reason why many tourists to visit the country. Both of these effects benefit Uganda’s local and national economies while preserving the diverse plant and animal species in the country. As such, it is necessary to continue conservation efforts to protect biodiversity not only in Uganda but worldwide as well. Uganda holds multiple examples of how this can be properly implemented, and other nations can use its model as inspiration for their own biodiversity initiatives.