Experts: Do not compromise human rights in conserving environment

A flooded area in  Wakiso as a result of heavy rains. Flooding is one of then effects of Climate Change. PHOTO | GABRIEL BUULE

What you need to know:

  • Environmentalists argue that the implementation of Nature Based Solutions (NbS) results in compromises that impact on various stakeholders including the community and indigenous people, which if not addressed compromises the successful delivery of the desired long-term NbS outcomes,  writes Caesar K. Abangirah.

All actions to implement Nature-based Solutions for climate action to protect, and restore the environment across the country, should not violet the human rights of community and indigenous peoples, conservation experts have warned.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural ecosystems that address social, economic and environmental challenges effectively and adaptively while simultaneously providing human-wellbeing, ecosystem services, resilience as well as biodiversity benefits which are essential for climate action.

The Environmentalists argue that the implementation of NbS results in compromises that impact on various stakeholders including the community and indigenous people, which if not addressed compromises the successful delivery of the desired long-term NbS outcomes.

These NbS include; reducing the destruction of forests and other ecosystems, restoration of forest and improving the management of working lands, such as farms.

“Therefore, the design of NbS implementation should recognize these tradeoffs and pursue a fair and transparent negotiation of tradeoffs and compensation among potentially affected parties or damages to local opportunities and livelihoods,” they said.

According to the conservationists, the implementation of NbS in some parts of the country violate some rights. For instance the Batwa Indigenous People lost their land rights, food and cultural rights as a result of forceful evictions in 1999 from the forests to pave way for gazettment of central forest reserve  in Echuya forest and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Dr Joshua Zaake, a Natural Resources Management expert says that NbS support restoration, conservation, protection and sustainable management of the environment and natural resources as well as solving a society problem thereby  enhancing climate resilience.

“The practices above provide a number of other important benefits such as cleaner air and water, flood and erosion control, increased biodiversity, enhanced resilience and ability to adapt to climate change impacts and even economic benefits borne from a cleaner environment like reductions in healthcare costs associated with cleaner drinking water,” says Dr Zaake.

He says the existing safeguards for implementation of NbS are inadequate; for they were developed as projects in general hence they are weak on application of some criteria and indicators as per the international standards for Nature-based Solutions.

While citing the Batwa communities among those affected by the implementation of NbS, Dr Zaake says that the barriers to best practices for people not able to apply the NBS and rights include landless people, others living on small pieces of land and that even with the minimal support that is coming through, people apply the NbS in a hard way.   

Dr Zaake was presenting findings on knowledge and gaps around NbS and rights at the just concluded Roundtable debate on Climate Change and NbS in Rubirizi District.

Environmentalists under Environmental Management for Livelihood improvement (EMLI) – Bwaise Facility with partners organized the debate to develop key messages as well as launching the Advocacy for integration of NbS in local climate actions across the country.

Dr Zaake appealed that there is need for actors to continue engaging in the climate change process and promote solutions to deliver a win-win unlike in the case of the Batwa who were evicted from the forest with the interest of biodiversity conservation.

“Why Batwa, they make a good case for NbS and rights in the case that they once made a livelihood and may be owned property and had these rights but as they were moved out as part of the process to fight climate change, even where they are now, they are faced with similar challenges,” says  Dr Zaake.

Kisoro District Senior Environment Officer, Judith Muja described NBS as a new strategy which the district is implementing in terms of livelihood support like piggery and goats rearing depending on where the people are; “and for us here we have been mainly looking at wetlands. People were asked to move out of the wetlands as part of the restoration and in return we provide them with livelihood support like goats.”

She says restoration is not enough but because the law does not allow compensation in monetary terms, they end up giving something to the people.

“As a lesson learnt, these (NbS) strategies come from the center and they say we are coming with supplies for the community and they are not prepared but you know there are 1000 people using an area and they would all benefit but you are giving like 25 members of the group. When you are giving to the few members and you do not even prepare like the revolving way for all to expect to benefit, so you realize it has not helped a lot. This causes a lot of conflict between us and the community because we are unable to meet the interest of everybody,” Muja says.

Muja laments that the resources are inadequate but if NbS are well planned at the beginning for the people to know that this has come but not for individuals, let it also go to the next generations; “this part of wetlands on building resilience.”

Plan accordingly 

“If you want communities to take up a certain action, then you have to make a plan with them on how you are going to implement the programme. We have community plans where we engage them to tell you their priorities and the management actions base on what they have said so that funding is also based on community priorities.”

According to Muja, much as the legal framework like the Local Government Act and the Climate Change Act provide for structures like committees, these remain nonfunctioning due to lack of facilitation.

She said: “Community natural resources groups if applied in promoting the implementation of NBS as an alternative to committees which are not functional, it works because we have a lake where there is a user group that protects it against bad fishing. Once you empower the community to know that the resource is theirs, they are more effective.”

“We have a timber dealers’ cooperative and we were giving them tree seedlings and beehives under a project and this reminds me that some technologies that come up and people think they can work everywhere, but after a year the modern beehives (KTBs) have never been colonized. This means we have to be conscious of the technologies we apply,” she added.   

Beatrice Kabihogo, the team leader of Uplift the Rural Poor, Uganda Limited in Kisoro District says that they are piloting NbS through working with the Batwa community by providing clean water harvesting tanks to the houses constructed for the Batwa and support their interventions for livelihood.

“We have been working the community holistically with the Batwa inclusive but we encourage the community to involve them into the activities so that we work with them as one community. The Batwa face the challenge of inferiority complex and fearing to speak in public,” she added.

Semambo Muhammad Kasagazi, Principal Climate Change Officer in the Ministry of Water and Environment defines NbS as a complementary approach required to deepen gross emissions cuts principally made through decarbonizing economies by switching to renewable sources of energy with additional removals made through technological solutions which all countries and economic sectors need to achieve.

He says that well-designed NbS can play a powerful role in reducing temperatures over the remainder of the century.

Priority Adaptation Actions

Semambo says there is need to enhanced ecosystems resilience by way of increased wetlands management and restore Peat lands, riverbanks and lake shores, protect and restore mountain ecosystem, manage and restore rangelands.

“We need a climate-resilient water and sanitation sector to ensure resilient access to water supply for domestic and productive purposes, promote sustainable water harvesting and storage, increase to sanitation and waste-water treatment infrastructure and services as well as scale-up integrated water resources management approach and use efficiency,” he adds.

He says that there is need for a climate-resilient transport and sustainable agricultural sector, a climate-resilient energy sector, increased forest cover as well as a transformed green and resilient Tourism sector.

“We need promote afforestation and reforestation to reduce vulnerability of people and ecosystems, encourage agroforestry to enhance nutrient cycling and integrated pest management. We should also encourage sustainable forest management to enhance forest ecosystem function,” says Semambo calling for promotion for the use of non-timber forest products to diversify livelihoods and improve resilience of communities.

Jaliah Namubiru, the programmes Coordinator at EMLI explains that Climate change is a big challenge affecting both people and nature and as such NbS are among the effective solutions for combating the negative effects.

“NbS have gained tractions world over but these are actions to address Climate change and they should benefit people, nature and the climate. NbS should not be implemented at the expense of people like sending away people in guise of conservation,” she says.

According to Namubiru, EMLI is implementing a project that seeks to integrate NbS in action planning whilst safeguarding the rights of the ethnic minorities like the Batwa people and local communities to avoid commoditization for both people and nature.

“From experience, for instance were left landless, their social livelihood were affected after being evicted from the forest reserves, they have no social services, no cultivation which makes their survival very difficult. Basing on this and may other experiences, we want to lobby duty bearers to consider human rights while promoting conservation,” she says.

What next

Nature-Based Solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa for Climate and Water Resilience

Communities in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are predicted to experience some of the most intense impacts from climate change that will severely impact lives and livelihoods, economic growth, and human and environmental health. Nature-based solutions (NBS) can play a vital role in building community resilience and mitigating the impacts of climate change. To scale up NBS investments in SSA, there is an urgent need to track, monitor, and understand the current status of where and how NBS projects are implemented.

This technical note outlines the methodology used to create a region-wide dataset of projects that have implemented NBS for climate- and water-resilience objectives in two multilateral development bank (MDB) portfolios — the World Bank and the African Development Bank. The resulting dataset includes 85 projects led by these MDBS over a 10-year period (2012-21), including 46 projects from the World Bank and 39 projects from the African Development Bank. Total budgets for World Bank projects were $7.9 billion (including $2.5 billion for components with NBS), and total budgets for African Development projects $4.2 billion (including $2 billion for components with NBS). The countries with the largest number of projects were Ethiopia (10), Ghana (7), Malawi (7), Tanzania (6), Uganda (6), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (5).

The technical note also demonstrates how these projects are leveraging NBS to address urgent challenges faced by communities in SSA, including urban flooding, coastal flooding, and water security. Additionally, the note illustrates numerous types of co-benefits that NBS are generating, including biodiversity, livelihoods, and opportunities for carbon sequestration.

While these projects demonstrate that MDBs have an established history of funding and are leading NBS projects in the region, scaled-up applications of NBS are urgently needed across the region to achieve a resilient future. Subsequent stages of research will use this methodology to conduct a broader scan of NBS projects across SSA, including projects led by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector. Findings from this research will be complemented by interviews and case studies to uncover enabling conditions and strategies to scale up NBS applications across the region.

World Resources Institute