Uganda Commits to Protecting Wetlands

February 23, 2024

Hon. Justine Kasule Lumumba who represented the President, officially launches the Uganda Gazette on wetlands during World Wetlands Day 2024 in Gulu

The Government of Uganda has officially gazetted all wetlands in the country, recognizing their critical role in protecting communities from climate change and providing essential benefits for millions. This landmark decision is aligned to the Ramsar Convention and comes after years of collaboration between the Government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and partners on restoration of wetlands and associated catchments. 

The Uganda Gazette on wetlands, officially titled "The National Environment (Declaration of Wetlands) Notice, 2023", is a legal document issued by the Government of Uganda in September 2023. This notice was officially launched on World Wetlands Day 2024 and serves as a crucial step toward wetland protection in the country through:

1. Declaring all 8,613 wetlands in Uganda officially protected: This means that these wetlands are now legally recognized as critical ecosystems and any activities like encroachment, drainage, or pollution within them are prohibited.

2. Providing detailed information about each wetland: The notice includes the names, locations, maps with boundaries, and total area coverage of each wetland. This transparency enhances awareness and facilitates enforcement of protection measures.

3. Offering legal backing for conservation and wise use: The gazette provides a legal basis for the government to act against wetland degradation and promote sustainable management practices. This could involve activities like restoration, education, and regulation of permitted activities.

4. Contributing to climate resilience and community benefits: By protecting wetlands, Uganda enhances its ability to cope with climate change impacts like floods and droughts. Wetlands also provide vital services like water purification, flood control, and habitat for biodiversity, ultimately benefiting communities living near them.

On behalf of the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, during the World Wetlands Day 2024 celebrations in Gulu, Hon. Kasule Lumumba who is the Minister for General Duties and focal point minister for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) called upon all leaders at all levels in the country especially the local councils to wake up and protect all wetlands.

“Wetlands deliver a wide range of ecosystem services that contribute to human well-being, such as fish, fiber, water supply, water purification, climate regulation, flood regulation and recreational opportunities, and increasingly tourism,” she added.

Map of Uganda showing wetland areas

Source: Google Earth Images

The Uganda Gazette on wetlands marks a significant step towards securing global environmental benefits. By officially recognizing and documenting all her wetlands, Uganda joins a handful of nations committed to comprehensive wetland conservation. This empowers the government to secure resources and partnerships, bolstering its capacity to enforce protections and foster sustainable management practices.

Government, UNDP and GCF work on Wetland Restoration

Through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) funded project titled "Building Resilient Communities, Wetland Ecosystems and Associated Catchments in Uganda", UNDP has played a pivotal role in revitalizing these fragile ecosystems. The project has empowered communities surrounding the wetlands especially women, girls and youth with alternative livelihood and economic opportunities, while simultaneously enhancing the technical capacity of relevant institutions under the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE), the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and selected District Local Governments. Below are a few highlights of the project’s achievements so far;

  1. Restoring wetlands: Over 47,000 hectares of degraded wetlands and catchments have been restored, improving their ability to regulate water flow and protect communities. 

  2. Supporting communities: 13,100 households have benefited from improved agricultural practices, alternative livelihoods, and access to climate information, increasing their resilience and incomes. 

  3. Strengthening institutions: The project has helped document and map all Ugandan wetlands, providing the foundation for their legal protection and wise use.

GCF project women beneficiaries showcasing handmade crafts made from raw materials in Nyakumbu wetland in Sheema district

Voices from the field

“Local farmers in the Mpologoma catchment have the opportunity to harvest their agricultural products 5 to 6 times in a year, that means if a farmer used to earn 100 dollars for one season, she/he can now earn 600 dollars in a year.” – Alfred Okot Okiidi, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment

“This project has really caused a difference in my life; I can now have water throughout the year from the water retention facility to irrigate my farms and feed my family throughout the year. I am happy that the wetland is no longer being encroached upon." Irene Nanyonjo Kawanguzi, Farmer in Namutumba District.

“The community of Mazuba subcounty in Namutumba district is extremely grateful for this project, which has greatly changed the lives of our people. Through the project we have been able to get an irrigation system which supplies water from the wetland for our crops throughout the year.” – Alfonse Wankya, Chairperson Mazuba Subcounty, Namutumba District

“Uganda is experiencing climate change, and her weather patterns are changing, farmers are experiencing a lot of dry spells and extreme weather conditions but thanks to this project farmers now have water throughout the year and can grow food. When wetlands are restored, the overall biodiversity is restored, I am happy to hear birds singing again” – Vanessa Nakate, Climate Change Activist

“It brings joy to my heart hearing directly from local farmers in Uganda about the issues that affect them, I am also happy to hear about all the nature-based solutions that have been provided to farmers through this project like the solar driven irrigation schemes, the fishponds and the restored wetlands.” – HE. Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders

Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi (top right-feeding fish), Ms. Sheila Ngatia (top right- in a boat touring fish cages), H.E Mary Robinson and Vanessa Nakate (bottom right - at a weather station in Namutumba district) all during a field visit to project sites in eastern Uganda.

UNDP Uganda/Joel Akena

This project's success embodies the spirit of the SDGs, particularly SDG 15: Life on Land, and SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. Empowering Ugandan communities to conserve wetlands goes beyond protecting their livelihoods and well-being; it contributes to global efforts to halt biodiversity loss, ensure sustainable water management, and combat climate change. By prioritizing wetland conservation, Uganda exemplifies SDG 13: Climate Action, demonstrating that environmental protection and economic prosperity can indeed go together. This project paves the way for a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable future for all Ugandans, aligned with SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities.

However, the journey doesn't end here. We echo the call for broader collaboration among development partners, the private sector, and communities to support the Ugandan government's ambitious goal of bringing all wetlands under sustainable management. Achieving this goal will not only benefit Uganda but also contribute to achieving the SDGs on a global scale, leaving a legacy for generations to come.


By Joel Akena (Communications) and Kingsley Bekoe (Programme Analyst)