Today, JOSEPH SSEMUTOOKE revisits the archives and narrates the achievements of Edward Rugumayo.
To mark 50 years of Uganda’s independence, New Vision will, until October 9, 2012, be publishing highlights of events and profiling personalities who have shaped the history of this country. Today, JOSEPH SSEMUTOOKE revisits the archives and narrates the achievements of Edward Rugumayo.
Prof Edward Rugumayo’s service to Uganda is more known to be along political lines beginning with the early 1970s. He has been a cabinet minister several times, has chaired Parliament and has also served as a diplomat, representing the country in foreign lands.
But aside from politics, one other area where Rugumayo’s contribution has been outstanding is the environmental cause. Although his contribution has always remained in the shadows of his shining political repute, it is a great contribution that transcends Uganda’s borders.
Rugumayo’s involvement with Uganda’s environmental sustainability campaign dates back to 1968, when he was appointed one of the13 African researchers to attend a year long residence in Ghana. The aim was to give researchers skills of environmental protection.
When he returned to Uganda, Rugumayo was appointed Senior inspector of schools, while teaching at Institute of Teacher Education, Kyambogo. In this position, he made efforts to ensure the teaching of environmental concerns across the education system. He informed the policy makers the need to involve environmental issues in the study courses and showed them how it could be done and by the 1970s these concerns had been included in the curriculum.
However, Rugumayo confesses that he was not yet fully immersed in the environmental cause.
When in 1981 Rugumayo went into exile, he found himself taking up the global environmental cause full-time and becoming an international environmental activist. He was appointed a senior consultant on Environmental Education; Training and Project Design for UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO, World Bank and many NGOs based in Nairobi.
He served in this position until 1989, offering advice and technical support and also serving as visiting professor of environment at Oklahoma State University and Moscow State University.
In 1989, he was appointed leader of a team of 12 consultants which was tasked to establish the School of environmental Studies at Moi University in Kenya.
After the school had been set up, he was appointed Visiting UNDP/UNEP Prof of Environment at the University. He also oversaw the establishment of UNEP’s environmental Centres of excellence across Africa. Between June 1992 and May 1995 he was a senior programme coordinator of environment liaison centre International, a global coalition of environment NGOs based in Nairobi.
Rugumayo helped EarthCare Africa, an environment NGO to secure funding for activities to improve living conditions in slum areas of Nairobi. This was mainly for research in cosmetic and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Senegal and Zambia.
From July 1995 to July 1996, he was deployed by the United Nations Development Programme as Chief Technical Advisor on Environment to with the Government of Lesotho.
In this capacity, Rugumayo put in place an environmental policy framework, a legal framework and implemented a capacity-building programme, which enabled several Basotho to undertake post-graduate studies in environment.
These comprised a team that carried out environmental impact assessment of Katse Dam, a multi-million dollar dam financed by many international corporations to supply water to South Africa. Outside his terms of contract, he spearheaded the establishment of Lesotho Botanical Gardens, securing funding from the German government under GTZ programmes.
Rugumayo’s efforts over the years saw him publish several research papers on various issues regarding Africa’s environmental cause. He also edited several publications regarding African environmental protection, went on many missions as a consultant for several multilateral organisations and made several evaluation reports.
On environmental protection
While at UNEP, Rugumayo pushed Uganda’s environmental cause so that the country could benefit from having her own son so highly placed at the UN body.His crowning effort was his making sure the assessment of Uganda’s environmental needs was carried out and presented to UNEP for action.
Rugumayo identified the technical person to lead the team that carried out the survey, bringing on board his former zoology lecturer called Prof David Wasawo.
The result was a 120-page volume that effectively stated Uganda’s environmental position and subsequently international bodies (UNEP, World Bank, UNESCO, IMF) supported the activities that were recommended as necessary.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) which was set up later was one of the recommendations made by Wasawo’s team in an earlier report.
Uganda Wildfire Authority
When he was appointed Uganda’s First High Commissioner to South Africa in 1996, Rugumayo took some time away from mainstream environmental activism as he concentrated on diplomatic duties. But when he returned home in 1999, he took up the environmental cause once again, particularly when he served as minister of tourism, trade and industry between 2000 and 2005.
The crowning achievement was passing laws for protection of environmental and ecological prime sports in 2001. The Uganda Wildlife Authority was also strengthened during Rugumayo’s tenure at the Ministry of Tourism trade and industry, with the transition of Entebbe Zoo to Uganda Wildlife Education Centre.
Rugumayo continues to be a campaigner for environmental concerns, the most recent being his call for proper environmental management by the companies set to extract oil in the Albertine graben region.
Recently, Rugumayo set up Uganda’s first-ever privately-owned Botanical Gardens besides the state-owned Entebbe Botanical Gardens. The Tooro Botanical Gardens located near Fort Portal, is a 40 hectares forest reserve which Rugumayo has developed into botanical gardens and made into a home for the Albertine region’s endangered plant species and medicinal plants.
Currently the gardens hold over 150 species of such plants, including Prunus Africana, a tree whose properties are known to be a cure for prostate cancer. The gardens also supply seedlings of indigenous trees for reforestation programmes, are an educational research centre, a recreational area and he has plans to raise funds to establish a herbarium, a library, a canteen and special areas to grow endangered plants.
Rugumayo planting a tree during Hima Open day celebrations in Kasese in 2004