By Moses Walubiri & David Lumu
KAMPALA - A four-day summit in Kampala by countries under the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) came to a close Thursday, with its leadership reaffirming the region’s commitment to turn a page on the phenomenon of droughts degenerating into emergencies.
The closure was graced by the top leadership of the member countries and a multiplicity of stakeholders as the bloc seeks to mitigate effects of drought on its citizens.
The current ambitious initiative on drought was informed by a devastating drought in 2010 that nearly decimated animals in Northern Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti, affecting over 13 million people.
According to IGAD Executive Secretary, Eng. Mahboub Maalim, close to 70% of the IGAD region is either arid or semi-arid, with an estimated 76 million people routinely bearing the brunt of intermittent droughts whose frequency and severity is becoming alarming.
Highlighting the challenges the region is facing as a result of drought, Museveni called for a concerted regional effort for a robust response to mitigating the effects of drought through a holistic approach tailored to improving the lives of ordinary people.
The four-day summit ended on Thursday in Kampala. PHOTO/PPU
Museveni rooted for industrialization, noting that desertification in the region is mainly due to “expansion of primitive agriculture, reliance on fossil fuel and encroachment on wetlands, swamps and forests.”
The president highlighted decimation of ice caps on Mt. Rwenzori as a harbinger of an environmental catastrophe, while at the same time throwing barbs at the west for their new form of “aggression against Africa” manifested by “climate change.”
“We should find ways of reclaiming forests, wetlands and swamps from encroachers even if it means setting up a forest to buy these people out,” Museveni said in a tacit admission of the dangers a receding water catchment area poses to the region.
The initiative which is expected to be implemented over the next 15 years has been funded to the tune of $700m as IGAD countries, according to Mahboub” seek to make “droughts as normal as winters are to Europe and North America.”
IGAD has seven member countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, South Sudan, Sudan and Rwanda – with an estimated population of 214 million people.