Awareness campaign on wetlands and forests protection in Communities along East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)
(Lwengo and Rakai districts) central Uganda.
April-May – 2019
Citizens’ Concern Africa (CICOA) is a Non-Government Organization registered in Uganda with the aim of enabling citizens to exercise their constitutional right of holding government accountable on the social, natural resources and environmental welfare of all citizens. The organization is kin on addressing environmental, social, and climate change issues in Uganda through research, advocacy, and information dissemination.
The world is faced with climate change monster and environment being one of our thematic areas at CICOA, we joined the struggle on how we can contribute towards climate change mitigation by protecting wetlands and forests in areas of where East Africa oil crude pipeline (EACOP) a 1445km heated pipeline will be buried 1.2 meters underground from Buseruka- Hoima Uganda to Tanga in Tanzania. Our campaign is looking at some of the communities where the EACOP is passing and likely to affect many wetlands and forests and disrupt ecosystems.
Uganda joined many countries that are exploiting oil and gas and its oil being in highly sensitive ecological system is likely to have many environmental challenges as it’s extracted in the Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Albert and its related infrastructure passes through forests, wetlands farmlands and homes.
Therefore, protection of wetlands and forests is paramount on our agenda as environmentalists. The campaign held is aimed at creating awareness of the need for protection of wetlands and forests, we were saying no touch, no destruction, no cutting of trees by these oil infrastructure development.
Despite government efforts towards tree planting, the sector continues to experience a declining forest cover loss currently estimated at 200,000ha per year (ministry of water and environment report 2016). We observe that this is attributed to the low budget allocation of the environment and natural resources conditional grant over years thus creating a gap in management and protection of environment resources, particularly forest and wetlands. In the last 20 years, Uganda has lost 570,000 hectares of wetlands in various parts of the county. This is majorly due to wetland encroachment
We further observe that, continued investment in tree planting with less investment in management, protection and enforcement at the district level will not reverse the declining forest cover loss which also hinders attainment of national development plan ii (NDP II) target of restoring the country’s forest cover from 14% in 2012 to 18% in 2020 since 70% of the forest cover loss is happening on private lands under the mandate of district local governments.
The Uganda Wetlands Atlas puts the cost of wetland destruction at nearly Shs2 billion annually, and contamination of water resources, which is partly caused by reduced buffering capacity of wetlands near open water bodies, to nearly Shs38 billion annually.
It’s from this background that Citizens’ Concern Africa (CICOA), has embarked on campaign of protection of wetlands and forests from district level leadership and citizens.
Development of educational materials which included;
- Brochures which contained information on follow link below,
- Legislative framework governing wetlands and forest protection
- The Role of Local Government Leaders, Technocrats and other actors
- The Role of Technocrats
- The role of Local Leaders
- Civil Society and Community Based Organizations
- The Role of Community members
- Local Media
Figure 1 Brochures used for take home and meeting purposes
Figure 2 Pull ups used to emphasize quick points at community meetings
Figure 4 Banners used for community meetings
Developed materials were displayed at the community engagement held at Kyawagonya Village, which was well attended by local leadership personals and community members, more than 250 people attended, among the leaders that attended include;
– Chairman local council V, who is the political of the district Mr. George Mutabazi who was represented by his deputy Mr.Christopher
– Chief Administrative officer (CAO) who is the technical head of the district Mr. Kalule Robert
– Natural resources and environment officer Mr. Mutemba Godfrey
– Total representatives were also in attendance, Total is the lead agency in this oil and gas exploitation in Uganda, therefore, their presence was tactical to see how people are eager to save their wetlands and forests amidst oil pipeline in their area.
– Councilors who represent people at the district council
– Chairpersons of the local areas
– Community members
All these political and technical persons were given a platform to tell people their contribution on protection of wetlands and forests.
Figure 5 Total team explaining their position on wetlands and forests
Some of other pictures in below link
For more engagement with people we used Facebook and launched petition which attracted 1000 signatures, and the engagement reached more than one hundred fifty thousand people (150,000+), the link below affirms that.
However, what next with petition is what is a challenge, we are looking for resources to engage relevant ministries like, of Ministry of water and environment, to rally community members that were evicted from the area for interviews and guidance on what next?
Engagement with media houses
Media houses, Radios (Buddu FM) and Television stations (Bukedde TV station) who graced our meeting to cover it for publication. link for radio news on our engagements
- Lastly, we held a radio Talk show to reach out to many who could not attend our meetings/engagements
Figure 6 Sam Mucunguzi Coordinator Citizens’ Concern Africa in Radio studio
Natural resources and environment officer Mr. Mutemba, he thanked the organizers for the well thought campaign which should have begun long time ago none the less it’s here we have to utilize it.
He mentioned that there are several wetlands and trees in his district, he mentioned that its everyone’s’ role to fight for protection of wetlands and forests, him as a person mandated by law to guard and protect on behalf of government cannot manage alone without everyone’s’ support.
He mentioned that all that activities you do are connected with natural resources and he used an illustration by picking up one lady in the meeting to ask a few questions beginning,
Painting a picture of when she wakes up in the morning what she does first, she said she uses water to wash herself, and asked where she gets the water from, then what else she does after, she goes to the garden which garden is on land a natural resource too, gets food which grows because of rains and natural fertilizers as she does not add any artificial, cooks using fire woods got from the forest, covers her food with banana leaves uses water to cook, wash utensils and drink as she eats, bath. This was a good picture painted by the natural resources to show the communities that all their lives depends on natural resources like water, wetlands and forests.
Figure 7 Natural resources Officer with female participant painting a picture of importance of wetlands and forests
Environment officer also reminded members that climate change will not discriminate on who destroyed it and therefore, everyone has a duty to protect it.
He said we have children and how do you expect them to survive 20 -30 years from now if you destroy wetlands and cut down trees, you are alive because your grandparents protected and conserved environment.
He reminded them that at the district there are laws governing wetlands and the law says, “No person in Uganda has authority over wetlands”. Anyone trying to get land title in the wetland don’t even bother because we shall arrest you, he emphasized.
No any activity will be carried out in wetlands, don’t put plants, trees in the wetlands, and also warned oil companies in passing through wetlands with the oil pipeline.
“Don’t put trenches in wetlands we shall arrest you, I have been arresting and will continue arresting you if you are destroying our environment.”
I implement laws which you politicians make so don’t compromise my job, I call upon you all to stop this wetland destruction.
Oil pipeline was meant to pass through Kenya, somehow God and Government decided it passes through our area, it should not therefore leave you with poor environment, destroyed wetlands, cut down forests.
I am certain you waiting for compensation, but in some areas were this has given people have remained poor so don’t be excited with compensation money, we seen Bunyoro people who first received oil money for their surrender land remain poor.
No one will be compensated if you owning wetlands, wetlands belong to the government.
Figure 8 Attentive community members listening to Natural resources officer deliberation
He concluded by inviting everyone to guard environment as the most treasured thing, but also invited people to start planting trees.
He mentioned that, the pipeline will pass through a large area and as we have talked to a few of you please go spread the messages for those you didn’t come as we also do the same, we still need you when the pipeline is gone make sure you stay alive in clean environment
Sub county chief Mr. Joseph Lubega took to the podium and reechoed the same call to save our wetlands and forests.
He thanked CICOA for this outreach in his area first, he informed the meeting that, now days people cut down trees the way they feel, this was never the case, in fact he reminded people how not long ago one could see the next village hill because canopies of trees would block your sight, but now you stretch your eyes and see bare hills, this is because you have cut down trees and the consequences are the high temperatures we having, this must stop and you have to re plant trees, stop clearing wetlands.
He further said “if I were the member of parliament, I would make laws that empower local chairpersons to implement laws on environment” he mentioned how the neighboring country has a policy compelling people to plant trees why not adopt it here.
He gives a good example of how back then they bused to get dry fire woods from the forests, now today, people cut fresh trees for fire woods, the germs and micro – organisms that used to dry these trees in forests have nowhere to go and have now attacked our coffee plants in our gardens, all this is caused by your actions on forest destruction.
I thank the media for this coverage, this is the news we want but is it the news you like? He also asked people, please when you go back plant two tress and this will conclude the day well.
Put more energy in listening to environment issues than politics.
The chief Administrative officer CAO (District technical head)
As a CAO, we are given experts on the other areas to work with, and hopefully he done his good job.
When the environment officer talked about wetlands saw your frown your faces, you are the people who bribe our officers, corruption kills and you like it. Don’t bribe our officers.
I want thank Citizens’ Concern Africa (CICOA) for this campaign, I want to thank the media and I hope you report good things on environment that will save it.
I want to thank my technical person for the work done on clearing plantations and gardens in wetlands but also urge the oil companies to avoid wetlands and forests.
Allow me go back and write a report that people attended the meeting on forests and wetland protection.
Figure 7 Executive Director CICOA giving remarks at community meeting in Lwengo district
CICOA staff engaged community members on the roles of wetlands and forests and very interesting answers were given, like wetlands help in making rain, cleaning the air we breathe, regulate climatic temperatures, home for endangered species like crested crane, firewood source, fishing area.
On their roles as a people
- Report the environment degraders those that plant trees in wetlands, cut down trees
- Plant more trees
- But also watch oil companies not to destruct our environment
Radio talk show
This was held after the community meeting on Buddu FM for one hour interactive show that covered the following areas:
- About CICOA, who we are?
-What are you doing here in Greater Masaka and why now on wetlands and forests?
- What is the overall over view of wetlands and forest protection in Uganda?
- What are some of the socio -economic benefits of wetlands and forests?
- The likely impacts of East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline on wetlands and forests?
- How can communities and business people in Lwengo, Rakai, Sembabule and other great Masaka benefit from the pipeline and oil and gas opportunities
- What are the different roles of stakeholders (community members, Local leaders, Media etc) in protection of wetlands and forests?
Figure 8 Sam Mucunguzi coordinator CICOA stressing a point at a Radio Talk show in Masaka, follow the link below, though in local language (Luganda)
Action points and recommendations
- Community members to Plant more trees
- Community members to avoid farming in wetlands and cutting trees
- Oil companies do all it takes to avoid wetlands and forests in their ongoing pipeline construction which they pledged.
- Leaders to avoid any compromise in saving our natural resources especially wetlands and forests in this oil exploitation programme.
- Media persons to keep the campaign moving by continuously covering similar actions and also report on them, but run them for public consumption.
- Citizens’ Concern Africa to continue the fire burning on protection of wetlands and forests, this we have already started on it with a petition on save wetlands in Greater Masaka region, this a big wetland that has been degraded by Chinese company which wants to grow rice there, we want to stop this and our petition has reached 150,000+ people and 1000+ have signed.
- Our next move is to petition parliament with these signatures and write to the president for immediate stoppage of this project in the swamp. This will be possible if we get quick funds to support this move, to engage media for intensive on ground coverage, interviewing people that were evicted from the wetlands who were doing little homesteads’ farming under the guise of protection and all of a sudden Chinese investor comes with tractor for clearing the swamp,
Funds are needed to rally communities on updating what next course of action, for engaging line ministries and also visiting the area which is 200 km from our offices for on sight evidence.
We are confident with already gathered public support of 1000+ people and engagements as indicated on our Facebook page and how it has generated discussion we shall win this campaign
Rakai district engagement (Activity two)
Venue: Nabigasa, Kituntu village
This was our second community engagement, it should be noted that same methodology was applied as was in Lwengo district, therefore, this report goes straight to discussions;
Figure 1 Andrew Mafundo – ED Citizens’ Concern Africa giving opening remarks
Mr. Andrew explained to them why their area and why wetlands and forests protection. But most importantly emphasized that oil exploitation should not be done on cost of losing wetlands and forests because of their function and contribution to society and general biodiversity.
All development should be done in accordance with environmental laws stipulated in our constitution, he further highlighted that when all degradation is done, it’s the women and children who suffer most, remember in our societies, its women who lead in household farming, cooking and fetching water for home use with children. So when the forests, and wetlands are destroyed, it means these items will be had to get, so, he called on them to lead this campaign of wetlands and forests protection in their communities.
He ended by welcoming members of the community for attending this meeting and asked them to fully participate.
Mr. Mutumba Godfrey who is a consultant on the very topic being a government custodian of natural resources at the district level had the following remarks:
- He began by asking the congregation, on whether they are moving with development, is it far away, or you need to move with it? This attracted mixed reactions from the audience and majority said they are not since they are not informed of what’s going on in their society.
- He began with the need to have leaders who are pertinent about community issues, this was raised because some community leaders had not reached on time, he emphasized that, once leaders are not aware of what’s going on, you citizens will suffer.
- He gave examples of where oil fields are in Hoima, that communities have been shifted to almost like camps settlements, trees cut down, wetlands destroyed because of leaders who did not mobilize their communities to resist this kind degradation on environment.
- So our role as citizens’ concern Africa is to create this awareness and mobilize you citizens to protect your environment, you wetlands being cleared, he gave an example of the Lwera Swamp which is being cleared by Chinese investors in the neighborhoods, how leaders and people allow such to happen.
- This pipeline is about 297 Km from Hoima to Tanga in Tanzania and will pass through your land, wetlands, gardens, plantations and some forests, it’s going to be 30 m wide and buried in ground meaning a lot of land will be excavated and vegetation and trees cut down, so a lot of biodiversity will be lost. Do you wait and see them destroying your life support materials or you want to be counted as a people who stood their ground to protect their environment.
- World over, research has been done and confirmed that a lot of things are damaged or destroyed by oil and gas activities, things like, Forests which host an endangered species, rivers, wetlands, stones and gardens.
SO, what is our role as leaders and citizens?
- Any oil spill can harm you for more than 100 years, so pipelines in wetlands should be no go area. As custodians of the area, your role is to protect any infiltration in wetlands.
- He cautioned all members of the meeting that all wetlands belong to Government, but due to under staffing some you misuse wetlands. “God created everything and was happy with his creation, and this Greater Masaka has no river, we tap water from wetlands, so any degradation means direct impact on your survival” and God has already shown signs of annoyance, strong winds. In 50 years from now, the world will be 4% hotter than now, and this is because of our actions on degradation of wetlands and forests.
- Some of you women think you don’t need trees but firewood, women nod in agreement, he reminds them of its danger. Mr. Godfrey further emphasizes that, he ran a campaign on Easter for tree planting alongside the roads where around 2000 trees were planted, assuming this is done every holiday you get, how many will be planted, he called on Moslems to do the same on upcoming Eid.
- He warned timber cutters to always seek permission as the laws says, but again he questioned how many do follow the procedure, because the law requires that to cut a tree one has to replace it with five more trees.
- Arial view shows a lot depletion, Lwera you all pass there, it’s almost gone, so these issues if not taken seriously, you generation will suffer as already seen in Hoima district.
- The current heat in your homes, and general environment, all of you can’t use AC to cool down, so let’s work together and protect our environment.
- You realize shallow wells have been replaced with boreholes, this is because of no water, no rains, and all because of wetlands and forests destruction. It should be a warning to you all that even the bore holes, the water table won’t last long, so, time is now to act and plant trees, protect the still existing wetlands if you are to have a conducive environment.
Figure 3 community members listening to environment expert
Question from the audience
- Lwera swamp is being degraded by big guys in government what we can us ordinary people?
There is no one who is above the law, this talk of big people being the ones degrading will not apply when the law catches up with them, am told CICOA wants to petition higher authority over this issue of Lwera and soon you will hear what next.
- You delayed to inform us, our gardens have been slashed by oil companies even before compensation.
Everyone whose gardens have been slashed will be compensated, however, they did not follow the law, the law requires prior consent and compensation before takeover of property, we have already engaged them and soon you will get your compensation
- Who pays the surveyor when we want to verify our land that is taken by these oil companies?
The surveyor will be paid by you, for government brought its own, so if you want to verify, then you have to pay, I know majority of our people cannot afford, and as NGO we don’t have funds to facilitate this process. If we get funds, we will gladly facilitate this to avoid cheating your land, but we cannot promise anything now
- On compensation, if it is to come, which option is good, home construction or cash money?
Like what happened in other areas where they have constructed houses for people who were displaced in Hoima district, they were settled in one area like camp, toilets very close to their houses, houses very small, yet these people were used to living in privacy, so I urge those of you who can receive money and construct on your own, the better, those who cannot like the elderly, they can build for you.
- I do sand mining in a wetland, some people came and took my machines and I took them to court now they forced me to withdraw the case or else they imprison me, what should I do?
Your question seems not clear, but I can say, if you sleep in garage for it does not make you a car, so you being in wetlands sand mining does not make your business legal, so if you went to court they will still win you because all wetlands belong to government by law.
- For us who have been operating in wetlands, why don’t you warn us early?
I am certain every person knows that, wetlands are no go area, but some of you are stubborn because of under staffing at district, there is no man power to supervise wetlands, that’s why most of you have taken that disadvantage, but now you know, tell others to vacate wetlands.
- Who is going to construct this pipeline, old lady asked?
I think, you came late, but we said this pipeline will be constructed by government of Uganda and other Oil companies led by Total
- We have been coerced to sign agreements for our compensation and surrendering our land?
No one should coerce you, this is your land and you have all the right to refuse compensation if not satisfied with the rates given, you should assure them about that.
Figure 5 Environmental expert talking to the gathering on wetlands and forests protection
Kayondo Vicent – councilor of the host sub county
He confirmed that Oil companies have been dodging them as leaders to listen to some of our worries, you here they at the district but they never come to us as local leaders.
I will do a follow up on land measured to see that the right land is taken.
Sub – county chief
This meeting is not for CICOA, but for you as a community for you own benefit, I believe everyone has learnt a thing since this meeting started, I apologize I came late, but also apologize for RDC who has not managed to come.
What you should know is that we can benefit from oil or not, but am optimistic that we shall benefit, countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Libya have had issues because of Oil. Oil and environment can pay you heavily if miss managed.
Some of you are saying we as leaders are not visible, the law was made and you will not see us every day, there is a contact person whom you are supposed to see and forward your issues and we get them.
On issue of payment, everyone will be paid if our land, garden were affected what was delaying is that there are new rates which us a district we don’t have yet, once finalized payment will come.
Everyone should planting trees, I always do and urge you to do the same, I thank the people of this area where we are, who planted these ones we seeing.
Many NGOs are being investigated because of politics, and I want to thank you Citizens’ Concern Africa (CICOA) for this campaign, continue sharing with us updates on this oil project but more so in helping us revamp our environment
Key issues raised
- Coerced to sign agreements by government and oil companies
- Slashed gardens/trees before compensation
- Verification of land measured, need for private surveyors whom cannot manage to pay
- Protection of wetlands and forests from oil projects, this pipeline should not disrupt our water sources and cut down our trees
- Everyone must plant trees in their land
- We must vacate wetlands and stop planting trees in wetlands immediately
- We have a duty to leave behind a clean environment as our fore parents did, we cannot be a generation of destruction
- We shall raise our voices on protection of Lwera swamp, which is under degradation.
The engagements were successful in both districts and met the objectives set out for, community members together with their leadership developed action points to safe guard their wetlands and forests which was our major objective, as it creates sustainability for the campaign. They also learnt a lot from environmental experts who shared with them. We have generated a petition called “lets save Lwera swamp’ and it has got 1000+ signatures, we have reached more than 150,000 people on Facebook on the same issue. We need support to conclude this campaign of saving this important wetland in Great Masaka. We also intend to reach to other remaining districts that will be hosting the EACOP pipeline as soon as possible, as the oil companies won’t wait for us, to spread the message of wetlands and forests protection but also, let oil companies know that communities are saying no touch on their natural resources.
We are very grateful for the financial support offered to facilitate this campaign, but also call upon more support in terms of finances, as we only covered only two districts out of ten districts. We are aware of your policy of no double funding in year but this is an emergency as it has timelines which cannot wait.
Again, a big thank you and we are confident we have done a great job together in saving Mother Nature.
– END –