The vice-president of Uganda launches the Uganda Sustainable Mountain Development Strategy

During the closing ceremony of the World Mountain Forum 2016 that was held in Mbale, Uganda on 17-20 October 2016, His Excellence Edward Ssekandi, the Vice-President of Uganda launched the Uganda Sustainable Mountain Development Strategy.
The strategy was developed by the Ministry of Water and Environment of Uganda, in collaboration with different stakeholders on Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD), including Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) and the Uganda Mountain Stakeholders Forum (UMSF).
The goal of this strategy is to provide guidance on the management interventions for Uganda’s mountain ecosystems that result in SMD in the country and outside. The provisions in the document will stir the action taken by different SMD stakeholders in Uganda to ensure that mountains best fulfill their role as pillars of sustainable development.
Speaking on behalf of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, His Excellence Edward Ssekandi noted that mountains constitute a cornerstone of humanity and of sustainable development. He said: “mountains are a cornerstone of humanity and of sustainable development. Uganda has put in place mechanisms and policies for sustainable mountain development and today we are launching National Sustainable Mountain Development Strategy. we pledged to continue supporting SMD initiatives in Uganda and we call on other mountainous countries to integrate SMD into their national development agenda.”
Indeed, mountains in Uganda are food baskets for the country providing rich food products both to mountain and lowland population in the country and beyond. Mountainous regions such Mont Elgon are famous for their fertile soils and in sites such as Wanale in Budwale sub-county (Mbale District), it is a common sight to observe hordes of trucks that are carrying horticulture products that supply all the towns in the eastern Uganda up to Kampala itself.
Apart from their role in food security, mountains are also water towers. The breath-taking beauty of water falls in mountain Elgon such as the Sipi falls are only a testimony of a much bigger role played by mountains in providing water to lowland populations for different purposes ranging from domestic use, to irrigation, to urban water supply. In fact, the designation of “water towers” here is to be taken literally. Given their elevated topography, mountains act as a barrier to moisture-laden winds which are force aloft. While climbing, the vapour condenses and precipitates in different forms (rain, snow) and through the influence of gravity, this precipitated freshwater starts its long journey to the ocean through surface streams, subterranean rivers, and aquifers. These are the source of freshwater that are thus taped by different users to satisfy their water needs.
Despite this huge importance of mountains and their key role in achieving sustainable development, mountains continue to get abused and their services and resources gets misused, over-exploited and depleted. As an example, the current study by a team led by UNEP Grid Arendal shows that mountains’ natural ecosystems everywhere are grappling with the problem of waste from the thriving mountain tourism. Moreover, mountains are also facing many other challenges linked to global changes such as climate change which affects them very disproportionately.
In view of this, appropriate coordinated action by all stakeholders (government, communities, civil society, private sector actors, researchers, etc.) is needed to understand and sustainably address these challenges that face mountains thus making them fulfill their role as pillars of sustainable development. This strategy is an attempt towards such coordination since it provides a framework for interventions in mountains and lowlands aimed at achievement sustainable development and helping people and ecosystems adapt to current global changes.
The strategy document provides for the Ministry of Water and Environment of Uganda (Directorate of Environment Affairs) to convene and coordinate stakeholders under the umbrella of Uganda Mountain Stakeholder’s Forum (UMSF) in implementing this strategy until a formal arrangement has been developed and is nationally agreed upon.
The support for the development of this strategy by ARCOS has been provided under the framework of a programme called “Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change – SMD4GC), a programme supported the Swiss Agency for the Development and Cooperation – SDC. In Africa, Uganda is the second country to be endowed of such a national strategic document on mountains and SMD in general after Madagascar that has developed a similar strategy in year 2015.
Speaking on the importance of such guidance document, Dr Sam Kanyamibwa, ARCOS’ Executive Director said “Uganda is at the forefront of promoting Sustainable Mountain Development in Africa. The development of a national SMD strategy is another feather on the cap in the country’s effort to ensure mountains become and remains true pillars of sustainable development. We are very glad to work with Uganda and committed to play our role in the implementation of this strategy”. You can access the full document here

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