I am not a doomster, but believe me, we are not going to achieve the sustainable goal 15 if we continue to undermine the indigenous knowledge including that of the Batwa.
By Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
ENVIRONMENT | CLIMATE CHANGE
In October 2015, Uganda submitted her Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) way ahead of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that took place in Paris, December 2015.
NDCs is a term used under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that all countries that signed the UNFCCC were asked to publish in the lead up to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris, France in December 2015.
As an environment journalist, I have been looking keenly at our NDCs and they include crosscutting respect for human rights, gender-responsive climate change actions and the protection of vulnerable groups, including women.
The document asserts that ‘Uganda has the overarching objective of ensuring that all stakeholders address climate change impacts and their causes through appropriate measures, while promoting sustainable development and green growth.
The country will continue to work on reducing vulnerability in the following priority sectors: agriculture and livestock, forestry, infrastructure (with emphasis on human settlements, social infrastructure and transport), water, energy and health’
Last year, the director of environment in the Ministry of Water and Environment, Paul Mafabi, said Uganda has lost 1 million hectares of forest cover over the last 10 years, yet the Government has planted less than 150,000 hectares, creating a deficit.
Speaking at a national policy dialogue to discuss proposed Uganda’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)+ strategy/ action plan at Imperial Royale Hotel, in Kampala, Mafabi said the country loses about 100,000 hectares of forest cover every year, a condition that is aggravating the effect of climate change.
However, in the priority adaptation actions about forestry in our NDCs, there is an action that caught my eye; encouraging agroforestry.
It caught my eye because of my personal interest in that farming system. As a young man growing up in rural Uganda, I used to see my father and relatives practice agroforestry.
And as an environment journalist, I later came to learn that agroforestry is crucial in the fight against climate change because agroforestry practices are essential due to their role in sequestering carbon and other greenhouse gases.
I also know the importance that the planting of trees in lands that people cultivate reduces insect pests and disease infestation. Our local communities also know local types of trees which are good at nitrogen fixing (as a young man, I used to see my father and other senior relatives preferring to grow particular trees in nearby gardens that I came to learn later in my environmental health lessons at university as nitrogen fixing plants) that is essential for agricultural production.
I am, therefore, challenging policy makers and all stakeholders in the fight against climate change to harness this local indigenous knowledge in the climate change fight.
Indigenous knowledge is crucial. For example, some minority groups like the Batwa possess impeccable climate change adaptation skills that would be critical in the climate change fight. Unfortunately, they are sidelined and their human rights violated, yet one of the important actions in our NDCs is crosscutting respect for human rights.
I am not a doomster, but believe me, we are not going to achieve the sustainable goal 15 if we continue to undermine the indigenous knowledge including that of the Batwa and other indigenous communities of Uganda and the world at large. We need to walk the talk.