World Wetlands Day and youth involvement
What you need to know:
- It is vital for our policy makers and leaders to understand the role this huge youth population has in conservation of wetlands and thus cushion the country against the advance impacts of climate change like landslides, flooding, prolonged droughts among others.
Every year on February 2, the world celebrates World Wetlands Day in an effort to increase awareness of the importance of wetlands for both people and the environment. Additionally, this day commemorates the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, at Ramsar, Iran.
Wetlands are disappearing three times more quickly than forests, and since the 1700s, about 90 percent of the world’s wetlands have been damaged. In Uganda, wetlands coverage reduced from 15.6 percent of the country’s total surface area in 1994 to 8.9 percent currently as stated in the State of wetlands report, 2019 published by the Ministry of water and environment. Wetlands are essential ecosystems that support biodiversity, climate mitigation and adaptation, freshwater availability, global economies, and more.
In order to stop the rapid loss of wetlands and promote conservation and restoration efforts, it is vital that we increase national and international knowledge of them. The perfect opportunity to promote wetlands is on World Wetlands Day and involvement of youth and women is key in attaining this.
Uganda set a target of restoring these wetlands to 12 percent coverage in the National development Plan III and vision 2040 because of their importance in transforming Uganda from a peasant to monetary economy.
With 77 percent of its people under 25 years of age, Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the entire globe with over 83 percent of these youth unemployed.
This presents a challenge that the country can as well leverage on as an opportunity for conservation of these ecosystems especially wetlands which are now a target for cheap land for agriculture and settlement by the poor youth. Therefore as Uganda commemorates world wetlands day in Gweri sub-county, Soroti district today, it is vital for our policy makers and leaders to understand the role this huge youth population has in conservation of wetlands and thus cushion the country against the advance impacts of climate change like landslides, flooding, prolonged droughts among others.
As we focus on the “decade of ecosystem restoration” set by the United Nations, government and non-government organisations need to develop wetland restoration programs that highly involve youth, wetland education programs in institutions of higher education and primary schools, undertaking Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EbA) projects and provision of alternative sources of livelihoods for the youth that have largely been depending on wetlands for survival.
In a country like Uganda, empowering youth in good environmental governance and natural resources management is the only sustainable solution to economic, political and social development.
Joan Atuha, Executive Chairperson - Guild Presidents Forum on Governance (GPFOG)