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Peatlands at the 7th Uganda Water and Environment Week (UWEWK24) in Kampala, Uganda

Published by: Caroline on May 7, 2024 Author: Mary Namukose (GIZ), Carol Kagaba (Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda), Lorna Kobusingye (Wetlands International)

Uganda is experiencing irregular rainfall patterns causing floods and droughts in some parts of the country. Recognizing the vital role of peatlands in flood retention, water buffering, among other ecological services and functions, Uganda has made significant steps in the management of peatland ecosystems and wetlands in general. However, the current degradation of wetlands for agricultural use, urbanization, and peat extraction, has not spared peatlands. Despite the different strategies from the government of Uganda and development partners to sustainably manage peatlands, there are still gaps on peatlands, their status, uses, monitoring, and their management.

According to the Peatland Atlas 2023, Uganda ranks second in greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands in Africa, estimated at 8.4 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Therefore, urgent action is needed to restore peatlands by enabling ecological and hydrological functions and conserve/safeguard pristine peatlands to prevent degradation and reduce pressure from peat-based sectors. It is important to note that Uganda has set an ambitious mitigation target of reducing emissions by 24.7% by 2030 in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), with peatlands identified as a key resource for emission reduction. However, how this will be achieved is under discussion.

Under the theme Rethinking collective action and innovative solutions to water, environment, and climate change crisis in Uganda, the Ministry of Water and Environment organized the 7th Uganda Water and Environment Week in March 2023, where peatlands featured under the sub-theme of Understanding the role of peatland ecosystems as a nature-based solution to climate change(from 05:04:35 in this recording). The objective of the peatlands dialogue was to provide a global, regional and national overview of peatlands, explore emerging policy, and management issues, share existing knowledge and information on peatlands in Uganda and explore potential areas for collaboration among stakeholders. Considering the policy issues and recommendations developed in a participatory process at a peatlands knowledge exchange event prior to this dialogue, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water and Environment, Mr Alfred Okidi, called for an updated national wetlands and peatlands policy and financing for peatlands management in Uganda.

Reflecting on the vital role of peatlands, the Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Dr Musonda Mumba, delivered a keynote speech at the forum and emphasized the vital role of peatlands in biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and disaster reduction. Reference was made to Resolution 13.13 - adopted at the 13th Conference of the Parties in Dubai that took place in the United Arab Emirates from 21-29 October 2018 - that discussed the restoration of degraded peatlands to address climate change, enhance biodiversity, and reduce disasters. The Secretary General underscored the Convention's commitment to ecosystem restoration, particularly in degraded areas, emphasizing collaboration with partners.

Panellists at the Peatlands dialogue during the Uganda Water and Environment Week in Kampala, Uganda (20 March 2024)
Panellists at the Peatlands dialogue during the Uganda Water and Environment Week in Kampala, Uganda (20 March 2024). Photo credit: GIZ-NBI.

The Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment is collaborating with different partners such as the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the Michael Succow Foundation, Wetlands International, the University of Exter, Makerere University, and non-state actors to advance understanding on the distribution, socio-economic dynamics, coverage, health status, and emissions from peatlands in Uganda.

“Uganda needs to integrate peatlands into existing policies and international frameworks such as the Ramsar Convention and Convention on Biological Diversity.” - Jan Peters, Michael Succow Foundation.

Reflecting on the results of the Peatland Atlas 2023 and his experience of working on peatlands in various parts of the world, Mr Jan Peters, the Director of Michael Succow Foundation, emphasized the importance of understanding the status of peatlands, advocating for robust monitoring systems and a cross-sectoral approach to conservation. From his experience, the effective management of peatlands requires accurate and sufficient data, monitoring, and verification methods, meaningful stakeholder engagement, coordination, and long-term strategies.

“There is an increasing international focus on peatlands within the climate change agenda due to their significant role in storing organic carbon. Germany's experience in draining its peatlands has shaped its development agenda in supporting sustainable management of peatlands in partner countries and at regional scale.” - Dr Malte Grossmann, GIZ NBI Head of Projects

While Uganda is one of the countries in the region that is spearheading the sustainable management of peatlands, much remains to be done to sustainably conserve intact peatland ecosystems, to rewet drained peatlands and to fulfil Ugandas international obligations on climate change and peatlands. Reflecting on her experiences and the work of the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI), Ms Dianna Kopansky, Head of Freshwater Ecosystems Unit at UNEP (and former GPI Coordinator), highlighted that recognizing the importance of peatlands and understanding their interconnectedness with water, nature, climate, and livelihoods presents a significant opportunity for sustainable development. While there isn't a specific funding mechanism solely dedicated to peatlands, their importance should be acknowledged as a gateway to accessing existing climate change funding streams such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Green Climate Fund, and the International Climate Initiative, among others. In addition, private sector financing mechanisms such as biodiversity offsets, payment for ecosystem services, voluntary carbon markets, and debt-for-nature swaps present innovative funding opportunities for peatlands management, and countries need to explore such funding mechanisms.

Ms Margret Mwebesa Athieno, the Commissioner for climate change in the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment, emphasized the need to define peatlands in the Ugandan context and the importance of disseminating information on peatlands to policy and decision-makers. Highlighting the significance of peatlands in combating climate change, she called for deliberate efforts to collect accurate and well-informed data on peatlands to guide policy-making and decision-making processes, particularly in preparation for the upcoming update of Uganda's Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in 2025.

“Sustainable peatland management depends on conserving intact peatlands, halting degradation, and restoring drained peatlands. It’s important to prioritize local community needs, assess existing practices, and develop value chains that support people’s livelihoods.” - Elisabet Rams Beltran, FAO

This side event attracted participants from government, non-state actors, academia, and the private sector. It was hosted by the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment, a member of the Global Peatlands Initiative with financial support from the Policy Dialogue and Knowledge Management on Climate Protection Strategies Project (DIAPOL-CE) implemented by GIZ on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) under the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and Wetlands International.


Top image - photo credit: GIZ-NBI.

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