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Water depletion looming in Elgon region




The natural world as we know, it is certainly unimaginably more useful to us than we are to it. Aware of this, our ancestors nobly bequeathed to us a natural world good enough to live in.

Whether the current generation shall ably do the same for posterity elicits monumental doubt considering the damage human activity has exacted on key environmental features such as Wanale ridge.

Breathtakingly beheld from all areas in Mbale and neighbouring districts, the 6,864 ft ridge has for years unceasingly mothered Bugisu region and a greater part of the country’s eastern swath with water that gushes from its stony hills, and calmly flows through materially poor, but food-secure rural communities, into River Manafwa.

Part of River Shambe’s course that dried up

River Manafwa then involuntarily flows through rice-cultivating communities in Butaleja, Kibuku and Budaka districts, into Mpologoma River which drains into Lake Kyoga, leaving in their wake incredibly fertile soils that have for generations enabled locals to enjoy economic sustenance and guaranteed food security through irrigation, animal husbandry and cultivation of crops such as bananas, maize, millet, rice, sorghum, beans, rice, among others.

The aforesaid sustenance agricultural activities, however, are gradually diminishing for lack of environmentally sustainable and acceptable farming methods.

This has resulted in soil erosion and decreasing water levels at the Wanale river resource, subsequently affecting several other rivers in the region.

The shrinking water levels are attributed to siltation, triggered by poor farming methods, sand mining, eucalyptus tree growing, water diversion into individual gardens and poor waste disposal.

This has turned, for example, the once serene flowing Manafwa, Nabuyonga, Namatala, Khala, Tsume and Nambale, Nabinjo rivers in Elgon region into dirty streams, pushing the communities into the inconvenient search for clean water.

The rivers have shrunk leaving locals with fond memories of the gone days, considering 67-year-old Yahaya Wamakale’s nostalgic recollection of River Tsume’s thunderous nature as the water for years negotiated past the boulders in its path.

“That has ceased. You cannot know there was once a river unless told,” he sombrely notes, recalling: “The rainy seasons worried our parents the most – not even adults would risk cross it.”

River Tsume, arguably one of the biggest after Manafwa in the region, is now suffocating under the weight of extinction.

In Bubilabi Mbale district, River Khala which was also one of the biggest in the area is also suffocating.

What remains of it are huge boulders, negligible water flow and gardens that have consumed part of its path, according to 65-year-old Francis Wambuto, a resident of Bubilabi village, Mbale district.

“The water has dried up. Even when there is a heavy down power, no one can reorganize that Khala exists,” he observes, recalling that the river banks had indigenous trees that no one was allowed to cut. Although this justifiably aimed at river preservation and protection, none of these trees exists today.

Children bathing in River Manafwa. Other Families use the river’s water for home consumption. (Photo by Richard Wetaya)

“They were selfishly cut and replaced with commercial trees,” he reports, complaining: “Commercial trees such as eucalyptus do not preserve water. They consume it.” This has, he notes, affected crop production.

Again, in Mbale district, Nambitsi, Ndokhwe and Nashirumba rivers are almost no more – people have built permanent houses at their banks and established gardens in their passage.

Julius Wamuyale, an LC 1 chairman notes, for example, that the various water channels that used to feed river Ndokwe, which he avers was massive, have since dried up notwithstanding the community sensitisation on river bank conservation.

“I have tried my best to sensitise the public, but they claim that since the government is giving away big wetlands to investors, local leaders have no authority to intervene,” he resignedly notes.

Thinking of the cleanest and coldest water in the area, Nashirumba was the river to talk about. “Its water,” states Mary Masawi, “was always cold even in the dry seasons and was not contaminated by human activity”.

River Namatsyo

This, she says, was so because upon leaving Wanale hill and reaching the lower levels, the water flowed underground, later surfacing under a huge Ficus natalensis tree where it burst out into a wide stream.

What is fuelling the problem?

Yonasani Bululu, the Bududa district vice-chairperson and secretary natural resource and production contends that a big problem exists and attributes it to human behaviour.

“There is a lot of destruction of natural trees and other plants that used to protect the water, leaving the water bare which in the results in evaporation,” he notes.

Similarly, Yosia Kule, an environmentalist, adds rapid population growth, urbanization, poverty levels in rural and peri-urban areas, to the list of factors exacerbating serious depletion and degradation of the available water resources,

“The overall impact of global warming implies that volumes of water in the form of rain and underground have to reduce,” he observes, adding: “As people struggle to survive, they clear out vegetation, encroach on water banks to irrigate their crops, and carry out bricklaying to construct houses, among others.”

Kule warns that rivers are drying up portends inevitable future difficulties such as lack of water for use, the disappearance of breezes, mist and fog, and increases water evaporation.

What needs to be done

The major solution to anything, argues Joanita Babirye a climate campaigner, is having a political will and warns that once politicians and other leaders do not take treat climate change and environmental protection seriously, a dire situation awaits us.

“Communities too, need to be involved in all the drives aimed at restoring the environment,” she advises, arguing that this certainly enables communities to own up the environment and work towards protecting it.

A water fall in Manafwa district

The affected communities, she says, must not sit back on their laurels and look on – they must stand up and demand from their leader’s reliable solutions. “If the communities are united, they can never sit and look on as leaders continue to give away natural resources to certain individuals,” she avers.

Additionally, she opines that new alternatives and lifestyles need to be adopted, for example, embracing environmentally friendly forms of energy such as solar and electricity compared to firewood and charcoal.

What government says

According to Albert Orijabo, the assistant commissioner of the directorate of water resources management in the water and environment ministry, the challenges bedevilling Wanale region are within the ministry’s knowledge.

“Although we want to stop this problem, there are challenges that are hampering us such as meagre human resource to enforce or support in protecting these water resources. Also, the finances to support conservation are meagre,” says Orijabo.

According to the ministry’s national water policy 1999, Uganda’s freshwater is a key strategic resource vital for sustaining life, promoting development and maintaining the environment

It is perhaps for this reason that not all is grim considering that as a solution to the many challenges of water scarcity and depletion, the ministry, reports Orijabo is promoting an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) that is aimed at de-concentration of water resources management to the Water Management Zone (WMZ) and catchment levels.

In the same sense, he adds, the ministry is promoting a Catchment-based Water Resources Management (CbWRM) to not only ensure equitable access to and use of water resources but also safeguard key natural resources for sustainable socio-economic development of the country.

Mutwalib Mafwabi Zandya, Mayor Mbale municipal says that several rivers and other small water channels that were coming from Wanale hill have either dried up or reduced in the past five to ten years.

According to Zandaya, in Mbale town, you would see big falls on the hill, but today they are becoming streams.

“All are as a result of bad human activities such as encroachment on the water sources, cutting down of traditional trees and also diversion of the water to people’s gardens.

He, however, revealed that as a council they are working with environment officers to sensitize the public on why they need to conserve the water bodies.

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National Coffee Forum Petitions Parliament Over UCDA Merger



Coffee stakeholders through National Coffee Forum say UCDA merger will disrupt the coffee sub-sector. Coffee is one of the leading sources of foreign exchange for Uganda

Coffee stakeholders through the National Coffee Forum – Uganda (NCF – UG) has petitioned Parliament through the Speaker over the proposed mainstreaming of Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) into Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF)

The government plans to merge a number of Agencies to the line Ministries in a move aimed at saving about Shs1 trillion annually. If the move succeeds, UCDA will be taken to MAAIF.

However, coffee stakeholders through NCF – UG say that they find the proposal to take UCDA to MAAIF untenable and detrimental to the coffee sub-sector.

NCF-UG is a private foundation whose membership includes farmers, processors, exporters, roasters, brewers and researchers, among others.

The Forum Chairperson Francis Wakabi says that mainstreaming the entity will negatively affect the achievements Uganda has attained in coffee production and export.

“This decision will negatively affect our access to the international market and will stunt Uganda’s economic growth opportunities by distorting the functions of UCDA that have stabilized the industry over the years,” said Wakabi in a petition dated February 21, 2024. The petition was copied in to the Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries as well as all MPs.

He adds that Uganda should not risk its achievements by tampering with UDCA that is the main contributor to our coffee success story.

“Mainstreaming it would therefore disrupt the many livelihoods that depend on the industry and adversely affect the badly needed foreign exchange for the country,” the petition reads in part.

As a result of UCDA coffee regulation, Wakabi says that Uganda’s competitiveness was elevated on the global market, ensuring high quality Uganda coffee and enabling Uganda’s coffee to displace that of Brazil and India in Italy and UK coffee markets.

“… World over, coffee is supervised and regulated by a specialized body like UCDA for purposes of institutional memory and specialized focus. Experience from Ethiopia and Kenya who disbanded their specialized coffee authorities and mainstreamed them back into the relevant ministries had to reverse their decisions after registering negative outcomes,” said Wakabi.

The Forum further says that the European Union (EU) buys over 60% of Uganda coffee, making it the biggest market for Uganda.

“The EU has introduced a new regulation called the EU deforestation regulations (EUDR) which bans export of coffee from deforested land, taking effect from 2025. This calls for farmer traceability and the EU commission in Uganda is already working with UCDA to implement the said regulations. They require a country to constantly monitor deforested areas and map all the farmers for purposes of implementation of the farmer traceability program to maintain a high standard of quality. It was reported that Uganda has achieved most of the requirements under the EUDR and required a few steps to be declared compliant. Monitoring and implementing the scheme for the millions of farmers is a tedious activity which requires a specialized unit that can be best implemented using the already established structures of UCDA. Disrupting the current UCDA structure will not only halt the progress made in achieving compliance, but also risk reversing the gains made,” added Wakabi.

He avers that UCDA has been able to greatly contribute to Uganda’s improved Coffee quality through implementation of programs such as certification of Coffee nurseries to ensure quality of planting materials, Provision of Coffee specific extension services and agronomy to improve production and productivity, Provision of technical expertise in Coffee rehabilitation, post-harvest handling practices and pest and disease management and provision of coffee processing equipment like wet mills to farmers and cooperatives to improve quality and promote value addition. The coffee stakeholders are worried that once UCDA is taken to MAAIF which is loaded with many crops and projects, coffee, a key source of foreign exchange for Uganda may not get the necessary priority. Coffee stakeholders argue that if indeed Parliament is a people-centred institution, it should listen to the views of farmers and other stakeholders and retain UCDA as a semi-autonomous agency.

“Given the above position with the attendant reasons, the NCF advises that the proposed mainstreaming of UCDA into MAAIF should not be implemented and that the proposed Bill No. 30 (part VII) be dropped in order not to disrupt the industry and the progress made under the stewardship of UCDA. All coffee stakeholders are unanimously in agreement with this position,” reads the petition in part.


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Govt to import 10 million vaccines to control cattle disease



Entebbe, Uganda.  Government is set to import 10 million doses of vaccines to enable scaling up of ring vaccination as the fight to eradicate Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Ugandan cattle enters a new phase.

Cabinet chaired by President Yoweri Museveni on Monday also proposed that once ring vaccination is complete, farmers start paying for the FMD vaccines in a compulsory vaccination scheme, and thereafter, trade in animal products, will be restricted to those adhering to the plan.

Minister of Agriculture, Animal industry and Fishers Frank Tumwebazwe on Monday shared the resolutions after Cabinet laid out strategies to contain the disease that has hit 36 districts.

Cabinet agreed to create a revolving fund to enable procurement of sufficient FMD vaccines to facilitate compulsory bi-annual vaccination of the susceptible domestic animal population. It also approved a plan for farmers to pay for the vaccines while government covers other costs.

“Vaccination is to be made compulsory. Proof of vaccination will be a precondition for any farmer to sell any animal products,” said Minister Tumwebazwe.

“I appeal to fellow livestock farmers and stakeholders to understand and appreciate these effort as we steadily move to eradicate FMD in Uganda just like other animal diesases like rinderpest wre eradicated.”

Ntoroko veterinary disease surveillance team conducting FMD surveillance and sample collection

The 36 districts currently affected and under quarantine are Budaka, Bukedea, Bukomansimbi, Bunyangabu, Butaleja, Fortportal City, Gomba, Ibanda, Isingiro, Kabarole, Kasanda, Kayunga, Kazo, Kiboga, Kibuku, Kiruhura, Kumi, Kyankwanzi, Kyegegwa, Kyotera, Luuka, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Mbarara, Mbarara City, Mityana, Mpigi, Mubende, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Namisindwa, Ngora, Ntungamo, Rakai, Rwampara and Sembabule.

All districts neighboring the affected districts are at high risk, under strict surveillance, and the authorities have been advised to remain vigilant.

These include Apac, Amolatar, Bugiri, Bushenyi, Butaleja, Hoima, Iganga, Jinja, Kabale, Kaberamaido, Kaliro, Kamuli, Kamwenge, Katakwi, Kasese, Kibaale, Kiboga, Kyenjojo, Mbale, Masindi, Mayuge, Mukono, Namalemba, Nakapiripirit,
Palisa, Rukungiri, Sironko, Wakiso and Soroti.

Tumwebaze assured farmers that in the next one or two months, his Ministry expects to receive and dispatch 2.3 million doses of the FMD vaccine to the affected and susceptible districts for ring vaccination scale-up.

He told parliament earlier that as a way of increasing availability of Foot and Mouth Disease vaccines in the country,
Uganda’s National Agiculture Research Organisation (NARO) has started the process of formulating and developing an FMD vaccine for Uganda.

Source: The independent

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Farmers losing Shs4 trillion due to livestock diseases



ScienceDirect has revealed that farmers in Uganda lose more than $1.1b (Shs4.1 trillion) in aggregated annual direct and indirect loss due to the rising spread of tick-borne animal challenges, with the commonest and economically damaging tick-borne disease being the East Coast Fever.

The livestock industry in Uganda and its productivity continue to be threatened by a number of diseases many of which are tick-borne related.

This, Dr Anna Rose Ademun, the Ministry of Agriculture commissioner animal health, said results from arcaricides that have become resistant, thus the need to ensure collaboration and get solutions to the problem.

“There are ongoing efforts by the Agriculture Ministry, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation to support diagnosis of tick resistance to acaricides at regional laboratory centres but this is not enough,” she said during the livestock industry key stakeholders meeting in Kampala, which had been convened to discuss and prioritise areas for tick control.

The stakeholders included veterinarians, extension staff, farmers, processors and government representatives.

Ministry of Agriculture is already working on the Managing Animal Health and Acaricides for a Better Africa Initiative, which seeks to, among others, provide sustainable solutions to enable small-scale farmers maximise the potential of their cattle by developing and practicing methods that can successfully manage tick infections in cattle.

During the meeting, the TickAcademy App, which will support farmers in managing tick infestations was also pre-launched.

By the end of January, farmers and extension workers will be able to access the app’s educational content, which includes simple-to-watch films, to help them become knowledgeable about tick control.

Mr Enrique Hernández Pando, the GALVmed head of commercial development and impact, said the Managing Animal Health and Acaricides for a Better Africa Initiative will be important in tackling acaricide resistance challenges as well as help farmers and animal health officers to access creative methods of addressing the problem of acaricide resistance.

During the meeting, stakeholders jointly agree to train and sensitise field staff and farmers about tick management strategies that work, as well as strengthen the diagnostic infrastructure and testing capabilities for tick resistance and other animal health-related concerns.

Others will involve making it easier for farmers to obtain credit from savings institutions run by farmer groups at a reasonable cost so they may purchase specialized equipment for applying pesticides.

Mr Nishal Gunpath, the Elanco Animal Health country director south and sub-Saharan Africa, said they will support the Initiative to drive livestock in a better direction, noting that it will also help small-scale livestock farmers to maximise their potential.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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