United Nations Development Programme, Resident Representative Speech at the Equator Prize National Award Ceremony for Uganda

Apr 21, 2016

 

I am delighted to welcome you all to this Equator Prize National Award Ceremony to honour a community working on the frontlines of climate change and sustainable development.

Today’s ceremony is special because, we are recognising the work of our own local community – the Kayonza Growers Tea Factory,  from Kanungu District who are advancing local solutions to what has now become a global challenge.

Operating adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, one of Uganda’s oldest rainforests and home to 50 percent of the world’s mountain gorillas, Kayonza Growers Tea Factory is a for-profit community enterprise, 100 percent owned by its 7,205 smallholder tea farmers.

With their community facing deforestation, wetland encroachment, soil degradation and water shortages. This community enterprise has worked to ensure that at least 70 percent of the population is involved in a landscape-scale, community-led climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy that addresses energy efficiency, food and income security and natural resource management.

Through their efforts, over 4,800 smallholders have benefited to date through the introduction of kitchen gardens and new staple or cash crops, such as beans, banana, Irish potato and ground nuts. While more than 4,000 farmers have been trained in conserving wetlands, riverbanks and natural forests. Over 20,000 indigenous trees have been planted on farm borders and degraded hillsides.

This initiative is a model of smallholder-led adaptation to climate change, integrated ecosystem restoration, reforestation and eco-agriculture and is a great example of what we at UNDP describe as “triple win” approaches, where initiatives deliver economic, social, and environmental benefits simultaneously.

Many prizes for environmental conservation are awarded to individuals. The Equator Prize, however, is about collective action and community achievement. It is about people coming together to address common challenges, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity. Community initiatives that win this prize show, through their actions, how the sustainable management of ecosystems is not only good for the environment. It also empowers local people and improves their livelihoods.

The example of Kayonza Growers Tea Factory therefore tells us that decision-making processes around climate change are most effective when they are accountable and responsive to the populations that are most affected. Underpinning local resilience are the rights to adapt in locally relevant ways and the resources to implement local adaptation strategies.

If communities are to sustain and replicate their achievements, they need the support of governments, private sector and development partners among others to maximize the impacts and sustainability of their initiatives. Supporting people-centered sustainable development solutions is central to UNDP’s work.

Local successes must inform global solutions to ensure a sustainable future for all and our experience of working at the local level helps our efforts to address global challenges too.

In December 2015, World Leaders met in Paris and agreed to sign a new climate deal that allows them to work together to reduce emissions and transform the global economy into a zero carbon economy by 2100.

This deal will be signed tomorrow, 22nd April 2016 and while its targets are ambitious, it is important that we recognize the key contributions of local actors to achieve them. Action at the local level is critical for effective mitigation and adaptation to climate change, for building resilience to adverse natural events, and protecting the health of the environment for the benefit of all future generations.

While Kayonza Growers Tea Factory received their Equator Prize at the global award ceremony during the Climate Change Conference in Paris last year, today’s ceremony is important because recognising and celebrating our own is the best way to spread this climate change gospel.

It is ceremonies such as these that remind us of the importance of local communities in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and also Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The kind of innovation which we are celebrating today rarely happens in isolation from the broader context within which these local groups are operating. Where political and legal space to act is opened up, the ability of local groups to innovate increases. And where the enabling conditions are aligned, scaling-up for transformational change becomes possible.

I take this opportunity therefore to thank our partners from government, the development partners, civil society and the media who are playing in working with us to address the development challenges in Uganda. 

I extend special thanks to the Government of Norway who have supported the Equator Initiative to provide a global platform to highlight these and other important grassroots initiatives.

Finally, I would like to reiterate UNDP and the entire UN’s commitment to supporting Uganda achieve its Vision 2040 and reach middle income status through innovations such as these. 

Today’s event is about honouring the great innovation and leadership which is coming from Uganda’s own local communities like Kayonza Growers Tea Factory.   We can all be inspired by their work to make sustainable development a reality – we also hope that many more follow their example so that no one is left behind.

Thank you.

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