How Conservation Education and Sustainable use of Ecosystem mitigate Climate change

Implementing Sustainable Goals:

Goal 7- Affordable and clean energy,
Goal 14- Life below water,
Goal 15- Life on Land;
are what Emmanuel Mukisa- a conservation Educator at Entebbe Zoo that is mandated to carry out Wildlife Conservation Education in Uganda, looks at as the only way out to solving climate change challenges

Uganda is naturally endowed with different ecosystems; the Tropical forests, Savannah, Open water bodies and swamps, majority of which are fresh, and mountain ranges with a one snow-capped Mt. Rwenzori.

All these are habitats for a number of wildlife species stretching from the water flies to the biggest land mammals, birds and reptiles.

However, these in one way or the other have tasted on the bitterness of climate change in their different habitats.

As result of global warming, Floods in Kasese sweep infrastructure among other property worth millions of money every year

The ever-increasing human population that exerts pressure on the natural resources; forests, wetlands, river banks and lake shores, amidst other factors like industrialization have gravely contributed to climate change effects.

Uganda’s forest cover that stood at 24% in the 90’s has been reducing up to now 12.9%. There continues to be several efforts to have the forest cover increase to at least 20% by 2030.

The same trend goes to the wetlands whose cover stands at only 8%, with efforts targeting to restore at least 12%.

The disappearing natural green cover is attributed to a need for more land for settlement, farming and industrialization plus energy provision through charcoal burning- all as a result of increased population and human greed.

The river banks have also been extensively tilled for agriculture and the lake shores encroached on making the water resources vulnerable to silting and waste deposits especially plastics.

The rise of Lake Victoria water levels in 2020, was a double tragedy for Ugandans who were also undergoing lock-down among other ripple effects of COVID-19.

The author checking some of the fish that died as a result of global warming in the waters of lake Victoria

Property worth millions of money was destroyed because the wetlands that used to act as buffer, had been destroyed by humans.

Other grave effects of climate change in Uganda are highly felt in the East and Western parts of the country that are periodically hit by mudslides and floods, whereas life-taking drought continue to ravage the North and Karamoja regions.

The country’s capital- Kampala, turns brown whenever it rains. This points to encroachment and environmental degradation.

The sprouting tall building and malls are constructed without sustainable consideration to the environment, neither are any restorations done after a construction project.

Reversing Climate Change Effects

Emmanuel Mukisa, a Conservation Educator at the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC) says reversing the effects of climate change in Uganda, should not have been a big task because the country has good policies in place but certain gaps need to be filled to register success.

“We need to change people’s attitudes towards getting concerned on the reality of climate change and respecting the National Climate Change Act 2021 that was signed on July, 18, 2021,” Mukisa pointed out.

The National Climate Act of 2021 aimed at governing the country’s response to climate change following the Kyoto protocol and the Paris agreement of 2015.

According to Mukisa, UWEC strives to change people’s mindset and attitudes with emphasis on the young generation who are considered to be the next game-changers.

“We are also considering development of different technologies that can assist in the journey of reducing global warming and its effects,” he avers.

In December 2021, UWEC launched the first volume of conservation education books meant for secondary schools in Uganda. The book which teaches about biodiversity and ecosystems targets learners both in lower and upper secondary level.

While launching the book, Dr. James Musinguzi, the UWEC executive director noted that the book is an aid to support the secondary school education curriculum.

“75% of the diseases are Zoonotic, which happen as a result of habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict. By launching this book, we are bridging the knowledge gap through creating massive awareness about environmental conservation in Uganda,” Dr. Musinguzi explained.

He said, COVID-19 which is suspected to have originated from bats, provides another opportunity for people to reexamine how they live and view the environment plus the natural resources which they depend on.

Dr. Musinguzi advocated for sustainable balance between development and conservation. “We must take passion and personal responsibility to be part of the solution.,” he urged.

UWEC also embarked on plans to develop the national education strategy for Uganda which will outline different activities plus the mode of delivery of conservation education in the country.

Educators at the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre setting up a Swamp demo

There have been new innovations at the animal centre such as medicinal garden, a solar heat panel, man-made swamps, recycling of animal waste into papers and reuse of plastics; all acting as teaching aids to learners who visit UWEC.

Community engagement

UWEC also engages communities with programmes related to alternative energies like production of briquettes that can reduce on tree cutting for firewood or charcoal.

Mukisa believes that with continued support from the government and stakeholders especially learning institutions, the conservation message will continue making an impact thus reducing global warming to at least, less by 1.5C by 2050.

There’s no doubt that sustainably used ecosystems can mitigate climate change effects because these play big roles to absorb and store carbon, hence helping to protect the globe from the effects of climate change.

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