By Francis Kagolo
A total of nine districts and 45 community-based organisations (CBOs) are to receive sh6b from a World Bank project managed by the ministry of water and environment to save Lake Victoria.
Beneficiaries include Mubende, Rakai, Masaka, Namayingo, Mityana, Mpigi, Gomba, Kalangala, and Kalungu districts.
Simon Akwetaireho, the community development specialist for the Lake Victoria Environmental Management (LVEMPII) project, said the districts are expected to implement strategic interventions like reforestation to reduce pollution of the lake.
The 45 CBOs are also based in the nine districts and will implement projects in communities that conserve biodiversity and restore reclaimed ecosystems.
Other interventions are to create alternative sources of livelihood like poultry and apiculture for people living on landing sites to reduce stress on the lake.
Among them is Naama United, a Mityana-based organisation, which is to receive about sh36m to start poultry, piggery and diary projects as baits to seduce encroachers to move from wetlands and forest reserves.
Akwetaireho made the disclosure at a workshop organised at Hotel Triangle in Kampala by the Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development (UCSD), a local NGO that monitors implementation of LVEMPII project.
He said 50% of the funds would be disbursed next week and the ministry expects the beneficiaries to utilise it in nine months.
“The remaining balance will be released upon satisfactory utilisation and accounting for the first disbursement,” he said.
The World Bank in 2009 earmarked $114.8m (about sh294.5b) for the five-year LVEMPII project to conserve biodiversity to reverse environmental degradation and stabilise the lake ecosystem.
The money was to be shared among five states in the Lake Victoria catchment area including, with Uganda taking $27.5m (about sh70.5b).
However, the project suffered setbacks in Uganda when the World Bank halted it in 2012 following audit queries from the first tranche of $9.8m (about sh25.1b) disbursed to the water ministry.
Vincent Kinene, the natural resources officer for Mubende district, said then that the project had turned out to be an embarrassment.
Harriet Nankya, the district forestry officer for Wakiso district, was unhappy after learning that her district was excluded from the project yet it is facing severe environmental degradation.
But Akwetaireho explained that they focused on the most highly degraded areas.
Mubende is ranked third among the top deforested districts in Uganda, having lost over 75% of its forest cover in just 10 years. Consequently, the district is to receive about sh150m to plant 69 hectares of trees to restore Kiryandongo forest reserve that has been depleted by encroachers.
They will also restore wetlands around Lake Wamala as well as Kibimba, Nabakazi and Katonga rivers that are threatened by heavy silting.
“District environment departments are ill-funded. We lack funds to fight pollution and restore degraded wetlands and forest reserves,” Kinene said. “We are optimistic that restoring these wetlands and forest cover will help to save Lake Victoria.”
Augustine Kabogoza, 70, the coordinator of Naama United in Mityana, noted that delayed implementation of the LVEMP II project had left group members indebted and the lake vulnerable to pollution.
“The poor members of our group borrowed over sh0.5m which we spent on drafting proposals to the World Bank. We are yet to pay back this money yet more people continue cultivating in wetlands because the project had failed to take off,” Kabogoza said.
“It is pleasing to hear that the ministry and the World Bank will finally release the funds because many we have a lot to do to save Lake Victoria.”
However, UCSD coordinator David Mwayafu noted a need to offers members of the different CBOs more training to harmonise financial reporting methods for better transparency and accountability.
There has been excessive pollution of Lake Victoria resulting into diminishing fish stocks especially Nile Perch, which is the most commercially viable specie.