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Building Integrated Capacities for Ecosystem Services and Management for African Communities (BICESMAC)



Project background

To ensure the sustainability of the expected impacts of the Integrated Mobile Environmental Awareness Project in Uganda (IMEAP-Uganda) which targeted kids between the ages of 7-15 years, a scale-up project targeting the students in the tertiary institutions has been proposed. The project title which is; “Building Integrated Capacities for Ecosystem Services and Management for African Communities (BICESMAC) - The Role of the Ugandan Youth”- seeks to tackle another dimension of Environmental Education which permeates all the facets of the Ugandan Society and Economy.

Even though Africa’s societies depend upon ecosystems to deliver net development gains, benefits accruing from those ecosystem services are unequally distributed and have led to losses for some communities, leaving many groups unable to break free from poverty (MA, 2005). Deliberate and informed investment in ecosystems can bring enormous benefits to Uganda, providing the dual goals of supporting local communities, as well as helping them cope with and adapt to a changing climate. As a follow up call to the various African Governments to incorporate ESM into the visioning of development policies, CLEAN-Africa thinks of the future policy makers who are next in line are conscientised and educated adequately, they would take up the challenge to vigorously pursue the ESM call to action as declared by UNEP.

Ecosystem Assessment grouped ecosystem services into four broad categories: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, including the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as photosynthesis, nutrient and water cycling and crop pollination; and cultural, covering spiritual and recreational benefits. Ecosystem services are often beneficial at a local level and/or a small-scale so conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems can help buffer the Africa’s poor, who directly depend on such benefit streams accruing from ecosystem services, against impacts due to extreme weather and climate change.

According to UNEP, Ecosystem management may be defined as “an integrated process to conserve and improve ecosystem health that sustains ecosystem services for human well-being”. The IUCN gives it the expanded definition of “a process that integrates ecological, socio¬economic, and institutional factors into comprehensive analysis and action in order to sustain and enhance the quality of the ecosystems to meet current and future needs”. As such, ecosystem management embraces a holistic, inter-disciplinary approach that recognises the inter-connectivity between ecological, social-cultural, economic and institutional Knowledge-gaps have been identified as one of the strongest challenges to pursuing an integrated ecosystems approach to development. A survey conducted amongst about 500 students across Uganda amongst University Students indicates that about 75% of them still don’t appreciate the real benefit of eco-system services and how its related to poverty alleviation. A quick-win in this regard is for national and regional governments to harness knowledge and experience at the local, sectoral and national levels on ecosystems risks, impacts and vulnerability, and make the information widely available to stakeholders. Amongst several attributes, ecosystems provide valuable adaptation mechanisms.

Diverse examples of such nature-based solutions that remain unmeasured and unquantified include:

• Protection against flood risk5 for millions by naturally occurring floodplains and riparian ecosystems.

• Clean water and lower flood risk mediated by forest cover. Vegetation cover also enhances carbon sequestration.

• Replenishment of soil nutrients in agricultural systems by deep-rooted, nitrogen-fixing plants. Mangrove forests shielding of coastline from erosive forces, protection of human lives in the face of severe storms, and provision of spawning, nursery and feeding grounds for various fish species. Coral and Shellfish reefs protection of coastline from storm surges, provision of food and economic resources.

• Grasslands provision of forage for livestock and carbon sequestration in above- and below-ground biomass.

Thus, achieving an integrated ecosystem based approach to development in Africa will require a strategy that will merge ecosystem science and socioeconomic principles, initiate institutional change and coordination, and ensure stakeholder participation and collaborative decision making.

Accordingly, CLEAN-Africa, Uganda uses the CLEAN-clubs as entry points to position the mind changing messages and afford the wider community to benefit from the examples of the children. Since 2010 CLEAN-clubs were established in primary and post-primary institutions. However due to expanding interest and relevance of the initiative, CLEAN-Uganda is introducing clubs in post-secondary, especially at the Universities. Universities are a powerful addition because they are gatekeepers of an added value of qualified individuals.

Overall, CLEAN-Uganda has a vision to address the wider envelope of environmental challenges geared towards addressing the environmental targets in the Millennium Development Goals- MDGs. These include, but they are not limited to; unenforced environmental laws, limited involvement of youths in conservation programs, inherent problems of flooding, poor waste disposal, high hygiene-related morbidity and mortality, deforestation without afforestation, effects of global warming, droughts, changes in weather patterns and poor coordination of environmental programs.

Project Goals:

1. The project goal is to Increased number of young people in universities with knowledge, motivation and attitudes to address the 21st century ecosystem within their communities ;

2. draw the attention of Africa’s policy-makers to the challenges and opportunities in ecosystem management ;

3. to stimulate discussion and debate on how Uganda can avoid degrading the natural environment and with it, the wealth and valuable benefits it provides, and instead promote and utilize healthy ecosystems to support a sustainable and more climate-resilient future for the country;

4. To harmonize the information on the ecosystem services of Uganda and make it accessible and user friendly for the University Students, Policy makers and Civil Society;

5. Increase the number of professionals with environmental responsive focus for e. Environmental Journalist, Ecological Politicians, Environmental Lawyers and Engineers, Green Architects, etc.