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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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Kigezi In Famine Scare After Drought Hits The Region



Farmers in Rubanda district are living in fear that they may be hit by famine due to the prolonged drought that has greatly affected the area. This comes after the area was hit by heavy rains in the month of May 2023, which left most of the gardens washed away, and since then the dry season has started up to date.

This is the first of its kind for Rubanda district and Kigezi at large to undergo such a prolonged drought.

According to farmers, this is the first of its kind for Rubanda to go through a long drought, adding that they are in fear that they may be hit by famine since they were used to receiving rains at the beginning of August, which is not the case this year. They add that even the seedlings that they had planted excepting that the rains would come have all dried up by the long spell.

Farmers also say that they don’t know what could be the cause that has stopped the rains,adding that the government should come up with a program that provides them with seedlings.

Akampurira Prossy Mbabazi, a woman Member of Parliament for Rubanda District, says that the issue of drought is not only in Rubanda District; however, this is the first of its kind. She adds that the drought comes after the area was hit by heavy rains, which caused a lot of challenges, adding that now it is the drought that may affect the farmers.

Akampurira further says that, as a leader,she will continue to educate farmers on better methods of farming depending on climate change.

Kikafunda Evelyne, founder of Green Environment Promotion (GEP), says it’s sad that farmers in Rubanda district and Kigezi at large are experiencing a long drought. She attributes it to problems of environmental degradation that include swamps being reclaimed, deforestation, and plastic pollution, adding that this is an indication that people don’t mind about the environment.

Kikafunda calls upon all people to take part in protecting the environment, adding that environmentalists should devise means on how to protect the environment.

It’s now been four months since it last rained in the districts of greater Kabale, that is, Rubanda, Kabale, and Rukiga districts, as well as other parts of the Kigezi Subregion.


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Ban GMOs in Africa, farmers urge govts



A cross section of residents from the oil-rich Albertine Region have petitioned African heads of state to ban genetically modified organism (GMOs) and crops across the continent to save Africa’s indigenous crops and animal species from extinction.

The August 26, petition addressed to President William Ruto of Kenya, the Chairperson of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, asks African heads of states who are meeting this week for Africa Climate Dialogue to pass strong resolutions to ban GMOs.

Africa Climate Dialogue kicks off today in Nairobi, Kenya under the theme “Driving green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the World.”

Co-hosted by the Kenya and the African Union Commission, it brings together heads of state and Government, policymakers, civil society organisations, the private sector, multilateral institutions and the youth to design and catalyse actions and solutions for climate change in Africa.

The petitioners under the Uganda Oil Refinery Residents, have made a raft of recommendations including passing a strong resolution to immediately ban the use and promotion of GMO products in African countries, a resolution for promotion of indigenous species of plant seeds and animals in all African states and another resolution to increase budget allocation for agriculture with focus on research in preservation and conservation of indigenous species of plants and animals in Africa.

“This will contribute to knowledge sharing and awareness creation on the relevance of indigenous species as a response to climate change,” the petition recommends, adding: “Lastly, pass resolution to integrate indigenous agriculture practices in education curriculum in some relevant subjects like agriculture and biology in all African countries. This will enable preservation and increased knowledge among the young people on the need to preserve and promote indigenous species.”

The petitioners, drawn from Kabaale and Busheruka sub-counties in Hoima District Uganda where there are planned oil refineries and other infrastructure, say GMOs present a number of risks and their introduction onto the continent could have a huge negative impact on food security, indigenous crops and organisms, health risks and associated problems.

The petitioners say while different African states have made a number of policies, laws and commitments regarding climate change, including integrating the aspect of climate justice into their different state legislations, as a grass root community whose livelihood entirely depends on agriculture, they still believe that leaders have not done enough to respond to these calamities.

“The major concern is about the use and promotion of genetically modified organisms [for both plants and animals] in Africa.

Uganda, whose backbone is agriculture, once known for its indigenous plants and animals now faces many difficulties in dealing with these invasive species. Maintenance and management strategies of these species require a lot of capital in terms of purchasing inputs such as fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, among others,” the petition reads in part.

The petitioners say with the worsening climate change, the introduction of one season fast maturing plants has made it difficult for farmers to plan. They argue that GMOs, which they claim are invasive species onto the continent, cannot withstand climate change and weather vagaries and therefore increase food insecurity on the continent.

“As earlier stated, these species require many inputs in terms of chemicals like fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, processed feeds, and vaccines, among others that are all expensive for the ordinary African farmers,” they add in the petition.

The petitioners also contend that in Africa, more than 85 percent of grass root communities heavily rely on rain-fed agriculture and that the ‘invasive species’ are not resistant and not compatible with the local environmental conditions.

“As such, they require effective irrigation as an alternative, which is extremely expensive for grass root communities. Whereas these GMOs were initially introduced as a solution to enhance agricultural productivity and food security, there has been a concerning trend of a financial strain on communities due to the high costs associated with these invasive species,” the petition states.

“Buying seasonal seeds for planting and agricultural inputs to manage these species among others is not sustainable and oftentimes leads to significant drain of limited financial resources within the communities. The local farmers are often compelled to divert funds from other essential needs such as education, healthcare and basic infrastructure development,” the petition adds.

They also say there is an increased outbreak of pests and disease, which is attributed to the increase in temperatures caused by the changing climate. Unfortunately, they say, GMOs are prone to attack by these pests and diseases.

They also say the GMOs present huge health risks to the local communities, who are illiterate and do not understand the precautions to follow while using these pesticides and herbicides.

This, according to the petition, exposes the users to high risks of contracting diseases through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact that can lead to acute and chronic health related issues.

“These include respiratory diseases, skin irritations, neurological disorders, and even certain types of cancers in the end. Most grass root women are also worried about the consumption of these genetically modified organisms since they are mainly treated with chemicals; others are injected with hormones to increase their shelf-life spans,” the petition states.

Source: Daily Monitor

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NEBBI: Livestock disease kills 14,000 goats



Nebbi, Uganda. The Nebbi district veterinary department is struggling to contain an outbreak of the Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), a disease which is highly fatal in cattle and other hoofed animals.

At least 14,650 goats have died and 53,397 goats have been infected following the outbreak of the disease which was first reported in 2022.

According to the local authorities, the disease has since spread to a cross all the sub counties like Erussi, Nebbi ,Alala Jupangira Atego ,Ndhew and Kucwiny as well as Nebbi Municipality.

Moreen Awekonimungu, a livestock farmer in Nebbi Municipality says that she has so far lost three goats since the outbreak was reported a year ago. She further notes that an infected animal dies within two weeks after presenting with signs and symptoms of the disease.

The Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP) is an infectious disease caused by mycoplasmas and it mostly affects ruminants.

The diseases are transmitted through direct contact and inhalation of droplets from infected animals. Symptoms include fever, nasal discharge, coughing, difficult respiration, edema, and lung tissue abnormalities.

Emmauel Ongeitho, the Nebbi Municipality assistant veterinary officer blames the persistence of the diseases on the poor attitude of farmers against vaccination of their livestock. According to Ongeitho several farmers shunned the mass vaccination exercise which resulted in a spike in livestock deaths.

According to Dr. William Abedkane, the principal veterinary Officer for Nebbi district, the outbreak which started last year has been killing goats silently since farmers are hesitant to report the cases to the veterinary officers in their respective sub counties.

Abedkane further appealed to farmers to pay attention to animal health just like they do with their own health.

According to information from the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the outbreak of Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP disease was first confirmed in Uganda in 1995 in Karamoja region.

Original Source: URA Via The Independent.

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