BUKOOLA RIVER PROJECT

Enhancing the adaptability capacity of local communities

River Bukoola found in Rakai District, south of Uganda has for decades served a significant role to the local people as a source of water, fish and pasture for animals. Notably, this river was, and still stands, as a key feature to aid the local population adapt better to the effects of climate change in this semi-arid region.  However in the last three years its water levels have drastically dwindled due to indiscriminate destruction of its banks through tree cutting, uncontrolled grazing, river bank gardening and climate change. The river has therefore suffered the effects of siltation causing some parts to dry up, thus posing a great danger to the local population, Sango Bay-Musambwa-Island Ramsar site and Lake Victoria in general – two internationally important ecosystems also fed by the river.

The over-degradation of River Bukoola and its water catchment areas has also led to a significant change in the course of the river. Today, most of the district teeters on the edge of disaster and no doubt if no serious action is taken, the ruinous wave of climate change could push it over to the edge.

The Integrated Rehabilitation and Management of the Bukoola River Project aims at enhancing the adaptability capacity of local communities and the environmental sustainability of Lake Victoria and Sango Bay, a wetland of international importance, through river banks rehabilitation using a riverbank rehabilitation and food security improvement model. This uses documentation, continuous education and environmental advocacy (through a video documentary,  education and advocacy materials and environment education for sustainable development); and the Clean Up and Fix Up campaigns which are annual events organised for awareness and advocacy on issues to do with environmental protection and climate change, and activities involving physical removal of wastes, filling sand pits and planting trees. (Please see Project 144 which documents the initial stages of this project.)

In this second phase of the project, the aim is to build the adaptation capacity of local communities in the climate-change-prone region while ensuring environmental sustainability in the wider context of enhancing the contribution of Sango Bay Wetland to climate change mitigation. Project activities included awareness-creation about the importance of the wetlands, the impacts of climate change and community adaptation strategies.

Sango Bay Poster: The poster produced in collaboration with other partners, outlines the biodiversity riches of Sango Bay; its potential to contribute to livelihood improvement through eco-tourism and climate change mitigatio and the current threats. Sango Bay has in the past remained a grey area with little information available. The posters have reached an estimated 500,000 readers through the various partners’ networks and displays and many local inhabitants were inspired to seek more information about the Ramsar site status that was accorded to this Wetland resource. The awareness created through the poster campaign is leading to more attention given to Sango Bay by both the Rakai local government and other stakeholders such as those involved in eco-tourism activities. For example EOS Visions (www.eos-visions.com) has expressed interest in exploring opportunities of extending their programmes to Sango Bay.

The Challenge, however, has been that we produced the poster in one language (English) and a section of the local community would understand the messages better in the local language (Luganda).Therefore, translation and promotion of a new poster would be beneficial.

Climate Witness Video: The Climate Witness Video was produced to achieve two objectives: (i) to contribute to APE’s forthcoming Climate Witness programme and (ii) to contribute to raising awareness about the climate change realities already experienced by local communities as one of the project objectives. The video is already creating impact as many viewers have expressed how much they are moved by the way people have been affected by the landslides. An important lesson we learnt is that personal experiences covered by video create a much more effective impact than any other means of communication. It is very easy to effect change among the population after seeing what has happened to others under similar circumstances.

The challenge, however, has been that the outreach is limited to people who can access internet and a few with video equipment to whom we have distributed copies of the DVD, especially community leaders. The wider layer of the grassroots communities have not been reached due to lack of equipment for such an outreach. There is also need for other educative videos such as those covering the causes of environmental catastrophes and coping mechanisms of various communities. The video can also be seen online at http://www.naturepalace.net/media/news/1/107-climate-change-witnesses-video

Ecolife: (http://ecolife.naturepalace.net/) is an interactive web-domain for the generation and sharing of information on Uganda’s wetlands, in order to aid a more convenient avenue to get information about Uganda’s wetlands, especially Wetlands of International Importance known as Ramsar sites. This facility will enable the accumulation and sharing of information about Uganda’s wetlands with different stakeholders who include conservationists, scientists, researchers, students, policymakers, tourists etc. The facility is being updated to be an interactive data base allowing stakeholders to contribute to information about all Ramsar Sites. and other wetlands with scientific and/or cultural values.

Community surveillance and monitoring system : In order to control further encroachment and degradation of the river banks, community surveillance and monitoring teams were established. As a result encroachment has been reduced by an estimated 50% and wetland recolonisation by at least 10% has taken place in three sub-counties.

Agroforestry: Community members have been advised and helped to start agroforestry practices by planning the integration of trees in crop farming. However, the impact of this is yet to be felt since trees are still very small.

Testimonial:

“Have you been in Rakai of late?? Unbelievable. I’ve been at three sites on the Bukola River: one at Kidunde Falls, one at the bridge along Mutukula road and the other at the crossing at Kasensero – and the water levels have increased a lot. The Falls are back and according to the community, they expect more water. The water at the Mutukula bridge is dirty an indicator of mud but at the Kasensero point its clean. The river path is very clear. Most parts of Rakai are water-laden and people are back in the shallow swamps fishing for Clarius and the Buyamba.” – Seguya Henry Kizito, Musambwa Field Officer, NatureUganda:The East African Natural History Society, Uganda branch, (The BirdLife International partner in Uganda.)  

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