David Duli – Country Director, WWF Uganda Country Office
The degradation of the environment in this country cannot be under estimated. For some of us in our age, the time when we were students, the whole of western Uganda was completely a different environment. I studied Forestry. So, in the first year of Forestry, we used to have what we call a 4th term where you go out and visit the forests and stay there the whole term and go back. I come from Northern Uganda, where it is averagely hot, so when we traveled to Fort Portal that term the temperature was awful.
From about 10 o’clock, that is when you would see the sun and stop. For the rest of the day you wouldn’t see any sun and it would be very cold. We were working in Oruha Forestry reserve and I thought I should go and change course, I could never manage this kind of a thing. But thank God I remained in Forestry and finished my Forestry degree.
The whole of Mubende district, all the way to Matiri, and Kyenjonjo district was full of forests on either side of the road. What you see now is not what used to be there 20 years plus ago. It is completely degraded. We lose up to 122 hectares of forests annually and the report given to us by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) says that at this rate, by 2050 there will be no forests left in this country. What does that tell us? And what does it mean for us?
We are at cross roads at the moment. The world is experiencing one of the most threatening calamity that is not going to disappear in a short time. We are going to live with it and that is climate change. Even when we talk about its impacts on our lives, on our security, on our livelihoods, on our natural capital we still face a challenge that some of the world leaders of powerful countries think that climate change is a hoax. Faced with that challenge, especially from communities that exist or live in poor countries, we still have to fight and fight very hard to make sure we address the issue of climate change.
WWF did a report 5 years ago that shows that in the last half a century nearly half of the world’s biodiversity had been lost. The 2014 Living Planet Report gives an index that tracks the numbers of animals in selected populations of vertebrates—mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish—across the globe. Much of the loss came from the marine Eco – systems, in the oceans and a lot of it also came from the terrestrial Eco – systems, forests, the wetlands, and the other Eco – systems that we really know are fragile The same report also says that if this trend is not changed, by 2050, the remaining diversity of life will be lost by a quarter or even more. So what we are seeing here is not a joke, it is a reality.
Talk about the extinction of species; early in March 2018, the last remaining northern white rhino which was taken from Southern Sudan and was being kept in Kenya died. It died of old age and bad health and left two female rhinos. Hopefully scientists are now beginning to think how they can do In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The white rhino disappeared from Uganda more than 40 years ago. It may not have been entirely caused by climate change but other factors including poaching. But what drives a person who is happily living and enjoying his life to go and kill a white rhino? Many factors do exist. While celebrating the World Wildlife day celebration in Kasese, we had the Prime Minister, Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda deliver a speech from H.E the President of Uganda and he was very clear that the lions, cheetahs and the leopards which are the wild cats are being threatened in Uganda. We are barely left with about 400 lions remaining in Uganda. Recently we saw in the news that 11 lions had been poisoned in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
We have a responsibility to protect nature and change this trend. We need to raise awareness in a bold and courageous way to say that each of us can make a change.