UNDP, Government of Uganda convene first public dialogue on Climate Change in Mbale region

Jul 14, 2015

Many households in the Mbale region in Eastern Uganda, are increasingly adopting the use of Lorena cookstoves for domestic use. Lorena stoves are fuel-efficient and use about half as much wood as the regular type of stoves used in most rural parts of Uganda. Mbale is a forested mountainous region and these stoves, if widely used, could significantly decrease the need to cut trees for domestic use (Photo credit: EBA Project/UNDP).

MBALE-Janet Nabuduwa, 32, a mother of six knows all too well about environmental exploitation. Three years ago, her household was heavily dependent on firewood for cooking which the family would gather daily from the Mt. Elgon National park conservation forest.

“I would use 7 to 10 pieces of firewood to prepare a meal for my family using the traditional three stone cook stoves but with the Lorena cook stoves, I only need three pieces to have our meal ready. This has helped me to save firewood and also reduce pressure on the forest,” says Janet, who lives in Nabuzo village in Sironko district, Eastern Uganda.

Janet, who is a member of Nabuzo environmental conservation group, is one of several community members who shared their experiences at a UNDP-organised public dialogue on climate change, held on Tuesday July 14 in Mbale. Their stories provided important lessons on what communities can do to utilize natural resources more sustainably in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the degradation of the environment.

Lorena stoves are made from locally made materials such as mud and water which are easily available within the community. The stoves are designed to enclose the heat produced by burning wood. By enclosing the stove, smoke is drawn into the chimney pipes and then expelled from the kitchen. The burning of fuel generates not only carbon dioxide, but also air pollutants which cause acute respiratory and eye infections, according to the World Health Organization. Smoke is also one of the main contributors to global warming which causes climate change.

From an environmental perspective, Lorena stoves are fuel-efficient and use about half as much wood as the regular type of stoves used in most rural parts of Uganda. Mbale is a forested mountainous region and these stoves, if widely used, could significantly decrease the need to cut trees for domestic use.  

 “We have made sure that each household constructs a Lorena cook stove in their kitchen which has reduced fuel consumption by 60% in this community. This way, we have been able to reduce over dependence on the forest for fuel,” explains Robert Wolibwa, chairperson of Nabuzo Environmental Conservation Group.

Founded in 2012, the group of 76 members (45 are women) originally focused on small scale farming on the Mountain Elgon slopes. However, after receiving a small grant of Shs.12,385,000 from UNDP through the Uganda Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) in Mountains Project, the group started engaging in activities that are environmentally friendly such as tree planting, bee keeping and construction of energy saving stoves. EbA is part of a global programme partnership between UNDP, UNEP and IUCN, with funding from the German Government (BMUB)’s International Climate Initiative.

The public dialogue is the first of its kind in Uganda focusing on climate change in the Mbale region. It aimed at sharing lessons learnt over time with the leaders in the region and various other stakeholders to enable them come up with solutions to promote climate change mitigation. Additionally, it was an opportunity for UNDP to review the performance of its various projects in the region that relate to environment, and plan a way forward for the next country programme, slated to begin in January 2016. The projects under review included: Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Mountainous Ecosystems (EBA); Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems project for Climate Resilient Development and Adaptation to Climate Change in Uganda (SCIEWS); Low Emissions Capacity Building Project (LECB); Pilot Initiatives; Improving Policies and Strategies for Environment, Natural Resource and Climate Risk Management.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to protect the environment in this region. I call upon all people in the Mt. Elgon region to engage in environmentally friendly activities such as bee keeping which are friendly to the environment so that we can reduce pressure on our land and prevent anymore disasters,” Ms Pamela Matuwa, Deputy Resident District Commissioner for Mbale, said in her opening remarks.

The Uganda National Adaptation Programmes for Action (NAPA) report of 2007 placed Uganda as vulnerable to climate change effects, especially in the forms of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and heavy rainfall, landslides and heat waves.

“We all know that Uganda is a hotspot for advance effects of climate change. Therefore in this dialogue, we need to discuss ways to build capacities in the Mt. Elgon region so that these effects are minimized,” said Mr. Chebet Maikut, Commissioner Climate Change Department, Ministry of Water and Environment

“This dialogue gives each one of us an opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned, identify areas of synergy and avoid duplication of resources, amongst different projects,” said Ms Patience Lily Alidri, Assistant Country Director, United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) in her remarks during the dialogue.

Mr. Onesimus Muhwezi, Team Leader, Energy and Environment Unit at UNDP, described the event also as an opportunity to localise the roadmap to the Conference of Parties (COP21) that will take place in Paris, France in December. COP21 is expected to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

As part of the dialogue’s activities, participants visited beneficiaries of various UNDP-funded projects within the region in Sironko, Bududa and Manafwa.

The public dialogue and its side events are part of UNDP’s efforts to develop and implement interventions designed to support vulnerable communities cope and adapt to the effects of climate change without compromising their livelihoods.

UNDP has for long partnered with the Government of Uganda particularly the Ministry of Water and Environment and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), to incorporate environment issues into national and sub-national plans and policies. These have been additionally incorporated and implemented by local governments through District Environment Action Plans.

The public dialogue was attended by participants from various Government Ministries, Non-Governmental Organisations and the media, who all contributed to discussions on how to ensure that environmental protection measures in the region are adopted and practised.

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

For more information, please contact:

Onesimus Muhwezi, Team Leader, Energy and Environment, UNDP Uganda. Tel: +256 417 112100 Ext. 139. Cellphone: 0772 289139. Email: onesimus.muhwezi@undp.org

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