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In the last 100 years Uganda’s forests have faced severe pressures mainly from agricultural conversion as a result of population increase, urban demand for charcoal, over grazing, uncontrolled timber harvesting and policy failures. The forestry cover has shrunk from 45% in 1890 to the present 20.3 % of the total land area in Uganda. Currently, the rate of deforestation is estimated to be about 1% per annum (Kigenyi, 1995). Today, forest and woodland cover in Uganda stands at 49,000 km² or 24% of the total land area. Of these 9,242.08 km² is tropical rain forest, 350.60 km² are forest plantations and 39,741.02 km² is woodland. 30% of these areas are protected as national parks, wildlife reserves or central forest reserves.

In 1994, the wetland coverage was 15.5% of Uganda’s land cover, but by 2016, wetland coverage had reduced to only 8.9% and it is projected to be only 8.4% by 2019. Statistics show that countrywide wetland coverage has dropped from 37,346.3 Sq.Km in 1994 (15.5%) to 21,526.3 Sq.Km (8.9%) of the total national surface area and this coverage could be depleted by 2040 if concerted efforts to mitigate degradation of wetlands is not accelerated. ( ). The planet is struggling to keep up with increases in the average global temperature, and the frequency of extreme weather events are transforming ecosystems around the world and threatening entire species of plants and animals. Forests are drying up because there is less rainfall and thus more fires, and the glaciers of both the North and South Poles are shrinking. Uganda in particular is struggling hard to keep the habitats in which different species thrive and contribute to nature’s wellbeing.

GWEFODE acknowledges that Women play a critical role in managing natural resources on family and community levels and are most affected by environmental degradation. In communities, women manage water, sources for fuel, and food, as well as both forests and agricultural terrain. Women produce 80 percent of food in Uganda, while inheritance laws and local customs often prevent them from owning or leasing land and securing loans or insurance. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) became the first multilateral environmental agreement to have a Gender Plan of Action, which was adopted by Parties in 2008 and laid out actions to support the promotion of gender equality in measures to implement the Convention.

Men and women have different needs, interests, knowledge, and behaviour that shape conservation initiatives. However, due to widespread traditional gender discrimination, women’s experiences have been excluded from decision making and most representational venues. Accordingly, women’s knowledge and skills in managing natural resources and biodiversity are poorly considered and represented in the public domain / in democratic processes.

GWEFODE believes that gender roles of women and men in relation to environmental conservation include different labour responsibilities, priorities, decision-making power, and knowledge, which affect how women and men use and manage biodiversity resources. For instance, due to gender differences in roles and responsibilities, women in Uganda are usually the main collectors of fuel wood and wild plant food, while men tend to focus on harvesting timber and wild meat. As a result, women and men develop different knowledge about different species, their uses as well as how to manage them. The gendered division of labour influences the way resources are used and where the benefits of these resources flow. Men’s and women’s different roles in family and community in terms of labour, property rights and decision-making processes generate different knowledge and skills in relation to biodiversity and ecosystems. Rural populations living in poverty in the Global South depend on natural resources to meet 90% of their needs. Further, about 80% of the world’s population depends upon traditional medicine to meet basic health needs.

In many places, women’s traditional role as household managers relies on biodiversity. Women’s responsibilities in relation to food and medicine, housing material and livestock are dependent on local natural resources. Women collect plants and animals to feed their families, provide medical treatment and supplement the family income. This requires specific knowledge about natural resources – for example, information about which species of plants and animals are edible, what they can be used for, how they should be prepared, and where and when to find them.  Thus, women can be particularly affected when biodiversity is destabilized as a result of climate change.

Unlike the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, the Convention on Biological Diversity mentions women’s roles. Nevertheless, its implementation requires a greater focus on gender. GWEFODE believes that greater recognition must be given to the role of women in natural resource use, management and conservation, the importance of knowledge possessed by women, including their right to use local plants and other natural resources, must be recognised. GWEFODE is involved in all efforts to include women in conservation of biodiversity and climate change adaptation as women’s biodiversity knowledge is more vital to adaptation and survival. GWEFODE raises awareness about the potential wealth of women’s contributions in all forums and institutions dealing with biodiversity through Conservation efforts drawing on the principles of social justice, equity and equality.

In Uganda, Biodiversity loss has greatly hindered access to the benefits of nature. Threats to natural resources sector continue to exist affecting their productivity and sustainability. Many areas that have been gazetted as protected areas continue to be encroached for human activity, either due to poor enforcement of bye laws, or due to poor community attitude towards conservation. Whereas the various acts and national policies spell out the need for community involvement in management of Uganda’s natural resources, i.e. wetlands, wildlife, forestry and others, there is limited progress in practice. The practice is constrained by lack of capacity by the lead agencies to implement collaborative management initiatives and in wetlands, the challenge is further compounded by understaffing in the local governments with recruitment priorities put on other sectors rather than the ENR.

Ecosystems in Uganda are increasingly being threatened by various human activities, even those that are protected by government acts. Wetland and forest losses are higher in the lake basin area than national averages that are high in any case – 75% of wetlands are considered significantly damaged already, while loss of forest cover is running at 1.7% annually. 200 species of fish are already extinct and others, critically endangered, survive only along lake margins and in peripheral lakes. The progressive, systematic and induced unsustainable management of fragile ecosystems has caused declining resource productivity and resilience, resource scarcities, inequitable access that breeds conflicts, population displacements and worsen human vulnerability. As such, ecosystem management and restoration is key for enhancing land productivity, reducing poverty and enhancing the quality of life or resource-dependent farmers, pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and fisher-folk.

GWEFODE promotes women empowerment and resilience to climate change through restoration and conservation of nature and biodiversity, promoting sustainable management of forests and wetlands resources, supporting women to reforest and implement Biodiversity conventions, treaties and agreements, improving their awareness, technical skills and knowledge on sustainability of Forest and wetlands resources by reducing local demand for products through agroforestry, adoption of alternative energy sources, Nature Based Enterprises (NBE’s) and Climate Smart Agro ecological techniques and practices to improve livelihoods and reduce pressure on the forests and wetlands.

GWEFODE in its work, is also campaigning against the destruction of nature to conserve and restore biodiversity. Our interventions are also aimed at stopping destruction of natural forests, wetlands, stop the use of inorganic chemicals but rather opt for organic chemicals that do not compromise, the survival of pollinators and life in the soil.   All this work is done seeking climate justice in this era of climate crisis.

Through Climate Change and Biodiversity Management, GWEFODE aims to

  • Strengthen the capacity of women, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC’s) to safeguard and conserve natural resources. This includes the preparation of tree nurseries, the planting of multi-purpose trees and training of farmers on the consequences of deforestation

  • Empower women to conserve and restore Biodiversity through Sustainable Forest Land Scape Restoration (FLR), climate change adaptation and mitigation and Implementation of interventions for alternative sources of livelihood for communities in Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) such as facilitating communities around the KBA with biodiversity-friendly enterprise development and value addition, to encourage a business approach to conservation and hence reducing the pressure on natural resources like forests and wetlands. The Business Enterprises that we develop in communities enable co-existence with wildlife, thus minimizing Human-Wildlife-Conflict.

  • Train Women Environmental Defenders (WED’s) to restore tropical forests and damaged landscapes to avoid extinctions and combat climate change. Through the act of growing indigenous tree species, WED’s establish links across fragmented forests, enabling species to escape the adverse effects of climate change, navigate landscapes with less confrontation, and safeguard biodiversity.