Policy makers from the Mt. Elgon region trained in Ecosystem Based Disaster Risk Reduction

Sep 14, 2015

District planning officials from the Mt. Elgon region districts bring shown the bare mountain ranges which lead to landslides during heavy rainy seasons. Inset (yellow box) is the landslide spot where one community member, Grace Nekesa’s home once stood. (Photo Credit: Monica Aturinda- UNDP Uganda).

Mbale - When you speak to Grace Nekesa, you immediately sense fear in her voice.

“I am always moving from one home to another looking for food and shelter, my family and I now depend on handouts day in and day out, I am no longer sure of how our future will turn out,” Nekesa a victim of a landslide in Bududa district laments.

Nekesa and her six children are among the ten families that suffered losses during the 2012 landslide that hit Bunamulembe village Bulucheke sub-county in Bududa district where close to 10 lives were lost and about 70 people including children were displaced from their homes.

Although she was fortunate not to lose any of her children, Nekesa lost all her property including her family’s home which was buried under the rubble of soil that came down from the mountain.

Nekesa’s testimony is one of the many that participants of the Ecosystem-Based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) training heard in a field trip around the Bukucheke Sub-county.

The field visit was part of the training geared at helping local and national policy makers understand the communities which they plan for. In hearing these experiences, planners would be able to formulate realistic approaches to mitigate and prevent such disasters.

The five days training course held from the 7th – 11th September 2015 at Mbale Resort Hotel aimed at promoting institutional change and guiding participants towards integrating Ecosystem-Based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) into the planning framework at both local and national levels.
It attracted more than 50 officials from the districts surrounding Mt. Elgon districts and also national level policy makers from the central government.

“This training was intended to increase awareness and capacity at both local and national levels to undertake application of environmental tools for DRR. This is so that they can be mainstreamed into national and local development planning,” Mr. Paul Mafabi, Director Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Water and Environment said in his opening remarks.

Mr. Mafabi added that the training also provided an overview of the current pressures on the Mt. Elgon ecosystems including the underlying drivers of disaster risk but also examined areas of synergy, highlighting how sustainable ecosystems management approaches would help to facilitate DRR and adoption mechanisms.

Mr. Paul Nteza, National Coordinator, Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) Project called on participants to ensure that significant progress is made to reduce disaster in the Elgon region though ensuring that communities are resilient to future disasters.

“This,” he said, “would be done through having communities adopt EBA approaches to protect themselves and their assets.”

The International Climate Risk Report identifies Uganda as one of the least prepared and most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change such as frequent drought, famine, floods and landslides and their effects on natural resources ,agriculture, food security and livelihoods.

With current average temperatures expected to increase by between 0.70c and 1.50c by 2020, the frequency and severity of these hazards will increase, and will inevitably have serious socio-economic consequences with regards to food security, health and economic development.

The Mt. Elgon region is one of the most fragile and vulnerable ecosystems in Uganda, as evidenced by the 2010 floods and landslides in Buteleja and Bududa. This is largely caused by poor land uses, climate change and high population pressure. In such cases, the poor and vulnerable are hit the hardest given their limited capacities to put in place measures to overcome these impacts.

“Many times we respond when disasters have occurred and communities have already suffered severe losses. With such trainings, we will be able to prepare our communities to minimise the impact of such disasters once they happen,” said Mr. Solomon Elungat Senior Disaster Preparedness Officer, Office of the Prime Minister.

The trained officers will be expected to integrate DRR into their district development plans ensuring that they are able to mitigate the risks that come with climate change and avert disaster within their communities before they occur.

“We are now better prepared for disasters, the knowledge and skills we have received during this training will enable us to come up with more realist action plans that are practical and applicable in our communities to mitigate disaster,” Ms. Hellen Madanda, the Bulambuli district District Natural Resources Officer who was among those trained said.

The training was carried out with support from the EBA programme for Mountain Ecosystems which aims to strengthen the capacity of Uganda, to build ecosystem resilience for promoting ecosystem-based adaptation option and reduce the vulnerability of communities, with particular emphasis on mountain ecosystem.

The four year programme which ends in 2015, is implemented through a partnership of the United Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the districts of Bulambuli, Sironko Kapchorwa and Kween.

Article by: Monicah Aturinda-Kyeyune, Communications Assistant, UNDP-Ecosystem Based Adaptation Project.

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