Minister Calls for the Restoration of Wetlands and Other Degraded Systems

As UNDP, the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) and the Ministry of Water and Environment monitor ‘Restoration of Wetlands and Associated Catchments in Eastern Uganda Project’.

June 9, 2023

ADC, UNDP officials, Kibuku district leaders and project beneficiaries

UNDP Uganda

Wetlands play vital roles in supporting biodiversity, regulating water flow and conserving plant and animal species that use wetlands as their habitat. Wetlands also serve as natural water filtration systems, removing pollutants and excess nutrients from water before it enters lakes, rivers and other water bodies. They also mitigate the effects of climate change and support subsistence livelihoods for millions of people who rely on them for fishing, farming, hunting and grazing.

Despite their importance, wetlands are disappearing faster than forests owing to human activities like agriculture, pollution from industrial and domestic wastes, and over-harvesting of resources. An estimated 35% of the world's wetlands have been lost since 1970. Around 87% of global wetland loss occurred in the 20th century, and the rate of loss continues.

Uganda had approximately 30,000km² of wetlands by 2000 but this area has since reduced to around 22,500km² implying a 25% loss in the past two decades. In 2015, the Ministry of Water and Environment estimated that Uganda was losing an average of 5,000 hectares of wetlands per year. This rate of wetland degradation and loss is of great concern, with many ecosystems facing rapid and irreversible changes. Urgent action is thus needed to halt the loss and to promote conservation and restoration efforts.

UNDP in partnership with the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) and the Ministry of Water and Environment are implementing a three-year ‘Restoration of Wetlands and Associated Catchments in Eastern Uganda Project’ in the districts of Kibuku, Butaleja, Budaka, Namutumba and Kaliro. The project supports the restoration of wetlands and associated catchments by promoting catchment-based integrated, equitable and sustainable management of water and related resources.

This initiative is on track to demarcate the targeted 154km² while restoring approximately 3,000 ha of degraded wetlands. On completion, the project seeks to directly benefit over 580 groups with an average of 15 households per group in the 10 sub-counties of the target areas. With an average household size of 12 people in the target districts, the project is set to directly benefit 104,400 people and ensure sustainable use of wetland systems and their associated catchments.

In a bid to establish the progress and early achievements of the project, highlight the impact it has had on the local communities and seek further support and collaboration, a team from UNDP, ADC and the Ministry of Water and Environment held a joint field mission. The monitoring team comprised the Minister of State for Environment Hon. Beatrice Anywar Atim, ADC’s Head of Development Cooperation Dr. Roswitha Kremser, and the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Sheila Ngatia accompanied by the Butaleja and Kibuku district leaders.

Hon. Beatrice Anywar Atim, ADC’s Dr. Roswitha Kremser, and UNDP’s Ms. Sheila Ngatia with district leaders and project beneficiaries

UNDP Uganda

During the project visit, Hon. Anywar urged the populace to play an active role in the fight against climate change, and in the restoration of degraded wetlands and other ecosystems in their communities.                                            

“Become change agents; go out and preach the word of climate change. We need to use the wetlands in a more sustainable way given their vast benefits to the communities,” she said.

On her part, Dr. Roswitha Kremser urged the project beneficiaries to harness the opportunities the project presents.

Beneficiaries demonstrate to the visiting team how water is pumped from the water source to the fishponds

UNDP Uganda

The UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Sheila Ngatia called for a harmonious co-existence between people and the environment for sustainable development to be attained. “You cannot achieve sustainable development without paying attention to the issues of the environment. We must join efforts and address issues around the environment. We must co-exist with the wetlands and people must be at the heart of wetlands restoration,” Ms. Ngatia said.

For each cropping season, the project in partnership with the district and sub-county leadership establishes farming learning centers of excellence for the target beneficiaries to learn and adopt the agricultural best practices on their own farms. The demo-gardens are equipped with solar-powered mini-irrigation systems to demonstrate all year-round crop cultivation, hence ensuring the sustainability of their agriculture-based livelihoods.

Ms. Margaret Madangu

UNDP Uganda

Ms. Margaret Madangu, a project beneficiary from Mulisia village, Busaba sub-county, Butaleja district, said demonstration gardens and the fishponds have equipped them with vital skills on managing such investments. She also called for the extension of irrigation schemes to other communities to improve livelihoods and household incomes for the affected farmers who were using wetlands.

Initial achievements

A fishing landing site at a restored wetland in Nandere sub-county, Kibuku district

UNDP Uganda

The project has demarcated 89km2 (57.8%) of wetlands in Butaleja, Namutumba and Kibuku while those in Budaka and Kaliro are planned for the near future. In the process, the project has so far directly restored approximately 1,580ha of degraded wetlands in addition to protecting the four intact wetlands through demarcation. 

Tree planting was identified as a key activity in the restoration of the surrounding catchments. The project has established over 500ha of different species of fruit trees and other trees for ecosystem services. These include mangoes, avocado, jackfruit, Maesopsis eminii, eucalyptus and bathdavia.

Additionally, two community markets have been constructed in Kibuku and Budaka while plans are underway to construct additional markets in Kaliro and Namutumba.