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Uganda - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Uganda is a landlocked country located where seven of Africa’s biogeographic regions converge, making it a country with a high level of biodiversity. Despite its small size, Uganda has an extraordinary amount of diversity in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The Nile River passes through it, punctuated by various falls, like the Bujagali Falls, Karuma Falls and Murchison Falls. The ecosystems range from the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains, the Virunga Volcanoes, and Mount Elgon, to the high altitude montane forests, the open waters of Lake Victoria, Lake Mburo, Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Kwania, Lake Wamala, Lake Mutanda, Lake Nabugabo, Lake Katunga, Lake Nyabihoko, Lake Nakivale, Lake Marebe, Lake Kijanibarora, Lake Nkugute, Lake George, Lake Edward, Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert, Lake Opeta and Lake Bisina. The major rivers in the country are: River Nile, River Aswa, River Katonga, River Nkusi, River Kafu, River Rwizi, River Kagera, River Mpanga, River Manafwa, River Mpologoma, River Semliki, River Mubuku, River Mayanja, River Sezibwa, River Malaba, River Sipi, River Namatala, River Sironko, River Muzizi and River Nabuyonga. The islands include the islands of Lake Victoria and Bunyonyi. Within the country, farmland is the most extensive, followed by grasslands, woodlands, water bodies, bush lands, and tropical high forests.

With a recorded 18,783 species of fauna and flora, Uganda ranks among the top ten most biodiverse countries globally. It is host to 53.9% (400 individuals) of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas, 11% (1057 species) of the world’s recorded species of birds (50% of Africa’s bird species richness), 7.8% (345 species) of the Global Mammal Diversity (39% of Africa’s Mammal Richness), 19% (86 species) of Africa’s amphibian species richness and 14% (142 species) of Africa’s reptile species richness, 1,249 recorded species of butterflies and 600 species of fish. In addition, Uganda harbours seven of Africa’s 18 plant kingdoms (more than any other African country) and its biological diversity is one of the highest on the continent.

In general, the population of large mammals is stable. Population size is even increasing for some taxa (e.g. common eland) while decreasing for others (e.g. buffalo). Of the country’s bird species, 15 are endangered and 11 are vulnerable; several species are classified as threatened at the global (e.g. Shoebill B. rex, Grey-crowned Crane B. regulorum) and regional (e.g. White-backed Night Heron G. leuconotos, Rufous-bellied Heron A. rufiventris) levels.

The annual contribution of ecosystem services is estimated to have decreased from US$ 5,097 million in 2005 to US$ 4,405 million in 2010, due mainly to deforestation. Forest cover has been reduced from 50% (12.1 million ha) of the total land surface in 1900 to an estimated 2.97 million ha in 2012. Wetland cover has also been reduced from 15.6% in 1994 to 10.9% at present. Over the 20 years, fish and fish products have emerged as the second largest group to coffee (Uganda’s most important cash crop) in agricultural exports. The fisheries sector is however facing challenges with the overall export to international markets having recently declined sharply (from 39,201 tons in 2005 to about 15,417 tons in 2010) due mainly to declining catches, falling stocks, overfishing and expanses of regional markets. The potential negative impacts of climate change on coffee production are being given more serious consideration. Eco-tourism is now projected to become the mainstay of the economy, contributing the highest among sectors in terms of foreign exchange earnings, tax and non-tax revenue, employment and to the GDP as a whole.

Oil and gas have been discovered in the Albertine Graben region, a biodiversity hotspot, with production projected to begin in 2018.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Threats to biodiversity are identified as encroachment (prevalent in all types of protected areas); human-wildlife conflicts; illegal grazing in national parks; poaching and illicit trade in wildlife; use of destructive fishing gears and technologies; deforestation; urbanization and industrialization; introduction of alien species; encroachment of wetlands; drainage of wetlands; replacement of local crop varieties by introduced commercial varities; loss of other indigenous species found in cultivated areas; poverty; introduction of new breeds; systematic breed substitution and irrational genetic transformation.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Uganda’s first NBSAP (NBSAP1) was completed in 2002. Its implementation has been successful in establishing a CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas; formulating ABS regulations; preparing a National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan; operationalizing a national CHM; studying biodiversity financing and developing Guidelines and Action Plans for Financing Biodiversity; studying the role of indigenous knowledge and practices in the conservation of medicinal plants; studying taxonomic capacity needs assessment; developing Guidelines for Sustainable Biofuel Production; determining values for the contribution of the forest sector to the national economy; and including implementation of NBSAP in in the National Development Plan II (2015/16-2019/20).

Activities are currently underway to revise and update the NBSAP, with completion expected by the end of December 2015. NBSAP2 will address implementation of the national biodiversity targets developed within the global framework, as well as new and emerging issues, such as climate change, oil and gas, taxonomy, green procurement and pollution. Uganda’s ‘Vision 2040’ and the National Development Plan will also be mainstreamed in NBSAP2.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Uganda has established national biodiversity targets within the framework provided by the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (see http://www.cbd.int/countries/targets/?country=ug).

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Since the fourth national report was prepared in 2009, the following additional relevant policies and laws have been developed and reviewed to integrate new and emerging issues: Uganda Wildlife Policy (2014); Uganda Wildlife Education Centre Bill (2013); National Wildlife Research and Training Institute Bill (2013); National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill (2012); National Land Use Policy (2011); Plant Protection and Health Bill (2010); and the National Oil and Gas Policy for Uganda (2008), National Environment Act Draft Bill 2015.

Significant progress has been made to mainstream biodiversity in the National Development Plan and ‘Vision 2040’. The current NDP is under review, providing an opportunity to strengthen investment in the Environment and Natural Resource (ENR) sector, including forest management.

Uganda has developed a National Climate Change Policy and a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), with the linkages between climate change and biodiversity highlighted in these documents. The National REDD+ Strategy has also been finalized and mainly emphasizes forestry conservation and restoration on both public and private lands.

The Ministry of Finance is continuously engaged in mobilizing resources for biodiversity financing, with budgetary allocations for biodiversity conservation having increased since 2005-2006. However, studies reveal that significant financing gaps remain, most notably in the agricultural sector.

A National Clearing House Mechanism was developed and launched in December 2012 which has been a huge milestone in terms of information-sharing among stakeholders at the national and global levels.

NBSAP implementation is carried out in close collaboration with other MEAs, such as the UNFCCC, UNFCCD, CMS, UNESCO, CITES, Ramsar, Biosafety, ITPGRFA, among others.

To address the new challenge related to oil and gas exploration activities in the Albertine Graben region (a biodiversity hotspot), a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) for the region has been developed. An Environment Monitoring Plan and the Albertine Sensitivity Atlas (which covers biodiversity) have also been developed and are being implemented. The Ugandan Government is working closely with the oil companies to establish a baseline which will form the basis for monitoring the status and trends of species, and ecosystems when oil refinery begins as projected in 2018.

Shea butter tree cutting for charcoal is threatening the tree with extinction. A Directive from His Excellency the President has been instrumental in protecting the tree, and in stimulating the development of a National Strategy for the Protection and Sustainable Use of Shea butter Trees which is expected to be completed in 2015. Government has secured a GEF funding under GEF5 biodiversity focal area for a project on the “Conservation and sustainable use of threatened savanna woodland in Kidepo critical landscape (KCL) in north eastern Uganda project”. The goal of the project is to “ Conserve the biodiversity and ecosystem values of the KCL to provide sustainable benefit flows at local, national and global levels through enhanced operational capacity and functional landscape planning approaches while its the objective is to “Protect the biodiversity of the KCL in North Eastern Uganda from existing and emerging threats”. The project has a component on protection of shea butter trees and value addition through support to local community based initiatives on value addition on shea based-products. The project builds on from the effort that Government has inititiated and is expected to reduce cutting of the shea trees.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Uganda has established a national target to develop a Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy for NBSAP Implementation by 2015 (this target has been mapped to Aichi Biodiversity Target 17). Each Aichi target has been assigned to specific institutions to take lead in its implementation and these are refered to as Target Champions. Furthermore the revised NBSAP has a workplan showing activites and the costs. These measures are expected to enable NEMA carry out monitoring and evaluation of the progress in implementation of NBSAP2.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme