Bio-diversity conservation and Extractive resources

(i) Study on bio-diversity and Waste management issues in Uganda’s oil and gas sector

PROBICOU conducted a study on Biodiversity and Waste management issues in Uganda’s oil and gas sector.
The purpose of the study was to provide an overview and a basis for discussion of the issues in the stakeholder consultations to inform the development of the oil and gas waste management guidelines for oil and gas sector in Uganda.
The study was further to facilitate the development of regulations and guidelines that cause operators to institute measures to treat process and dispose of oil and gas, and industrial waste streams in an efficient, convenient and environmentally sustainable manner in order to avoid potential environmental catastrophes.
The general objective was to assist in the development of regulations that institute and implement a comprehensive waste management framework that ensures that all emerging and generated wastes do not harm the sensitive environment of the Albertine Graben or any part of the country.

(ii) Citizens’ tool for monitoring Environmental Compliance of oil and gas companies

Participated in the project, development of environmental governance indicators, development of and testing of the tool to collect data on indicators and a score card to measure performance.
This process was led by WWF and CSCO under COSEA.
Oil and gas resources are important for human development. However, the development, transfer and utilization of these fossil-fuel resources present significant challenges to the long-term conservation of the environment and natural resource especially in areas where oil and gas production takes place.
The “Citizens’ tool for monitoring environmental performance of oil & gas companies is an instrument which has been developed on behalf of COSEA for establishing the extent to which any given oil and gas company is effectively managing and conserving environmental resources, biodiversity and maintaining vital ecosystem services through its direct and indirect activities in a given area over the long-term.
The tool covers management actions, policies and guidelines or failure thereof, by companies; their representatives and their contractors or sub-contractors with respect to implementing international and national environmental safeguards during oil and gas development.

(iii) Legal and Policy advocacy

PROBICOU has been participating in the reviewing of a number of Laws, Regulations, and Guidelines both as an Individual organization and also under National Coalitions and Networks.
Some of the key processes include;- the National Environment Policy, National Environment Act, and the Mining Act, the oil and gas waste regulations, the Public Finance Act, the Uganda Wild Life Act and EIA regulations.
PROBICOU’s main interest has been to ensure that the environmental laws in Uganda are people oriented. PROBICOU has been promoting laws that conserve the environment, promote transparency and accountability as well as improving livelihood.

(iv) Awareness raising on Environment and Oil and Gas

Together with partners such as Global Rights Alert, RICE – West Nile, Uganda Land Alliance (ULA), and CRED, PROBICOU has been raising awareness and building the capacity of civil society organizations, District Local Governments, and communities on land and environmental issues concerning oil and gas in the Albertine Graben. This was done through conducting capacity building workshops for selected participants drawn from a wide range of stakeholder including; civil society organizations operating in Albertine Rift.
PROBICOU also partnered with Rice West Nile to build the capacity for the District Local Government leaders on Management of Environment biodiversity in the fragile Ecosystems of North ALbertine Rift (Nwoya, Bulisa, Nebbi, and Arua Districts).

(v) Building the capacity of communities on Environment and corporate social responsibility

PROBICOU organized 2 capacity trainings in Hoima Town targeting representatives from communities around areas where oil exploration is taking place in the Albertine.
The meetings aimed at promoting local participation and preparing the communities to harness benefits and opportunities from the oil and gas sector. The successful implementation and managements of social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts depends on the civic competence of the population to engage with government and companies and demand for transparency and accountability.
Therefore, PROBICOU’s trainings added to the existing efforts to create a critical mass that will participate in the decision making on the governance of the oil and gas. The overall Goal of the was to promote good governance in the management of Oil and gas resources to ensure that they are used in an economical, social and environmentally sustainable manner that meet the needs of present and future generations.
Capacity trainings focused on the following:-

• The impact of the oil industry and refinery
• Social and Environmental Impact Assessments and its Mitigation Plans
• And participate in the development of Local Development Plans and Basic Services and Local Content; Capacity Training Plans and Closure Plans
• Understanding the social and environmental monitoring principles, multi/stakeholder participatory monitoring panels and grievance mechanisms
• Best practices of multi-stakeholder oil foundations that manage local development projects and monitoring
• National laws and regulations, vis-a-vis individual CSR policies, international best practices and international social and environmental standards.

(vi) Training of certification and traceability of Minerals

PROBICOU also participated in trainings organized by the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in the great lakes region against illegal exploitation of natural resources. These trainings took place in DRC in Bukavu. The trainings also focused on harmonising laws in the great lakes region.

(vii)_Face book page Campaign

PROBICOU and Publish What You Pay carried a face book page campaign that was aimed at promoting Transparency and accountability in the extractive sector. People shared information on land grabbing, EITI, on oil and gas in Uganda. There were about 160 likes to our face book page campaign.

(viii) Artisanal Gold Mining

In Uganda, large numbers of small scale miners use Mercury in the gold extraction process causing contamination of the environment and risks to human health. The danger of having mercury contamination in the environment, food chain and poisoning the people is well understood, and therefore the need to prevent this contamination cannot be over emphasized in any society. Currently, the international community has established a global, legally-binding instrument (The Minamata Convention on Mercury) that aim at reducing or eliminating mercury releases to the environment.

The global effort that address mercury as one of the priority areas under heavy metals and industrial chemicals include Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) at global and regional level and number of UNEP - Governing Council (GC) Decisions. To achieve these global initiatives, various kinds of local or national activities could contribute to these efforts in form data gathering and could begin to have real impacts.

PROBICOU undertook a scoping exercise on the extent of use and impacts of mercury pollution by artisanal gold miners in Uganda, including identifying sources of mercury (both legal and illegal), current practices/technology that are used for extraction activities, alternative technologies, quantifying the potential impacts of mercury in hot spots areas by taking samples of water, soil, sediments, fish, vegetables and assess potential health impacts, assess the level of awareness and training needs by artisanal gold miners and surrounding communities, and establishing role and efficacy of the Industrial and Consumer Chemicals Act (2003) in managing mercury use in Uganda.

(ix) Sensitization on Oil Waste

Together with the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), PROBICOU trained the civil Society Organizations on Oil and with a focus on oil waste management. The training was attended by the members of the Network on Sound Management of Chemicals (NESMAC) and it took place in Hoima district.

(x) Advocacy on Iron mining in Kigezi Region

Of recent, individuals and companies have been mining iron ore in Kigezi Region. The mining of iron ore does not follow mining laws of the country. No environmental impact assessments have been carried out. The mining method being used is open cast mining which is degrading the environment at a high rate. The residents of the areas where iron ore is being mined are not benefiting from this mining.
PROBICOU has conducted 2 community meetings to raise awareness and advocate for sustainable mining of iron ore in Kigezi region.

(xi) Training on Resource Taxation

PROBICOU participated in the international conference on resource taxation organized by the African Center for Energy Policy and ibis Ghana, in February 26-27, 2014, Accra, Ghana. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Tax evasion and tax avoidance through transfer pricing, trade mis-pricing, bribery and corruption of officials in the extractive resource sectors which constitute a major component of illicit financial outflows with a damaging impact on African countries’ ability to mobilize domestic resources to finance national development.

(xii) Advocacy on Gorilla Revenue Sharing

PROBICOU in partnership with NCCDF has been doing advocacy on revenue sharing from the Gorilla Tourism Levies. Residents neighboring Bwindi Impenetrable National Park traditionally depended on the forest for firewood, timber, meat, and medicinal herbs. After Bwindi was gazetted as a national park in 1991, hostility towards that protected area increased, due to the enforcement of strict regulations for access to these forest resources. To decrease conflict with neighboring communities, UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and two international NGOs (International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) and Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE)) began implementing a number of programmes including tourism revenue-sharing, sustainable use of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), conservation education and problem-animal control.

The mountain gorilla ecotourism programme in Bwindi began in 1993, and continues to grow. There are currently 8 groups of gorillas visited daily by tourists. Prices for gorilla tracking have been rising steadily, and tourists now pay US$ 600 to view the gorillas for one hour. The TRS has funded community development projects in 19 of the 21 parishes bordering the Park since the programme began in 1995. Each parish received approximately US$ 4,000 and all either focused on building primary schools, health clinics, or improving roads. Both IGCP and CARE provided the UWA staff responsible for implementing the TRS programme with strategic planning assistance as well as technical, logistical, and monetary support for community training.

Although the TRS programme relied upon donor support in its initial stages, TRS was seen primarily as a UWA programme with the potential to offset these initial costs with long-term benefits. Because of PROBICOU’s advocacy, in addition to receiving tourism revenue, local residents have since been allowed to extract certain resources from Bwindi Forest. Beekeepers in five parishes have been allowed to harvest honey from beehives within the Park. Eight other parishes are participating in programmes that allow the utilization of NTFPs such as fibrous plants for basketry and medicinal herbs from the Park. In addition, UWA is giving the neighboring communities ie the districts of Kabale and Kanungu 20% of the entry fees and 5$ from each gorilla permit.

(Xiii) Tree Planting Project and Road Safety awareness in Kisoro District

In October 2014, PROBICOU and ALCDI embarked on tree planting particularly on public land. PROBICOU and ALCDI planted trees along Kabale- Kisoro road and in 22 secondary schools in Kisoro district. All in all, solutions to environmental problems can be achieved by the direct intervention by government, environmentalists and the people not only in Kisoro but also in the entire country. In addition to tree planting, PROBICOU conducted environmental and road safety awareness in the 22 Secondary Schools and in other communities neighboring the protected areas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga National Park and Kisoro town.

(xiv) Celebrating the international worlds Indigenous Peoples Day

PROBICOU organized the celebration of the international day of the indigenous peoples in Uganda. The celebrations were organized by PROBICOU together with the Nkuringo Cultural Centre and in conjunction with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD).
The event took place on 9th August 2014 at the National Theatre in Kampala. The celebrations focused on promoting indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories and resources which all continue to be exploited for “development” projects such as tourism, mining, plantations, agro-business among others without the prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples. For instance, the indigenous Batwa of Uganda are amongst the poorest communities in Uganda living alongside the Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks, home to the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas.
The Batwa traditionally lived as hunter-gatherers in the forests of Uganda, which provided them with food and shelter. However, when the national park was officially gazetted in 1991, their communities were evicted, leaving them homeless and without land. They have since faced acute poverty, and a low level of education, coupled with little knowledge of their rights which has resulted in a severe lack of confidence.
The objective of celebrating this day therefore was to enhance public awareness on the UN’s International Day of the World's Indigenous People in reference to its contribution to social and economic community livelihoods.

(xv) Advocacy on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

PROBICOU participated in the advocacy for better management of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Uganda. The Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012 was tabled by the Hon Maria Kiwanuka, the then Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MFPED) before Parliament in February 2013 and the Speaker deferred it to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology to further consult various key stakeholders.

The proprietors of GMOs insist that biotechnology is the way to go in the present circumstances where farmers are faced with challenges related to climate change such as, long droughts, floods, unpredictable rainfall patterns, low fertility, low crop productivity due to diseases, to mention but a few. According to the GMO promoters, traditional farming practices currently employed by the small scale farmers can no longer support and meet the food demand of the growing population in Uganda and the neighboring countries.

It should be noted however, that while there is need to increase food productivity, the use of genetically modified organisms, is likely to come with its own challenges. GMOs will cause extinction of the local traditional seeds which despite their low productivity, are more accustomed to the local conditions and are easily replicated and are tasty. GMOs are also likely to come with burdens such as excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, reliance on patented seeds bought seasonally from the suppliers (dependence on the shop for farming) as opposed to the indigenous way of preserving seeds using indigenous knowledge. In fact, GMOs will make Ugandans prisoners to Companies like Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and many others involved in the seed business. Such companies have been on the forefront of advancing GMOs worldwide.

In Uganda, at the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) based at Kawanda on Kampala- Luwero High way, a lot is happening on genetical-engineering. This has been practiced and promoted on maize, cassava, cotton, Beans and Matooke among others. Surprisingly, this has been promoted without a clear regulatory framework in place. PROBICOU worked with other civil society organizations to sensitize policy makers, farmers and the general public to ensure that the pro-GMO Bill is not hurriedly passed in parliament.