Covid-19, Locusts and Heavy Rains. Earth Day demands Action for Biodiversity Conservation

On Wednesday 22nd April the world will commemorate the Earth Day while facing one of the biggest challenges of our time.
It all started with the unexpected heavy rains. As we were still getting accustomed to this then came the locusts threatening to eat all our crops and unleash famine. Slow forward and we now have a Covid-19 disease outbreak that has already seen government take unprecedented preventative measure.

All these three have a common line rooted in the unprecedented global and national biodiversity degradation. As we grapple with school closures, shutdown of motor transport, a 35-day lockdown, self-isolation, and concerns on the economic impact, the Prime Minister’s office is warning of impending heavy rains with a likelihood of floods and landslides.

As humans we have continued to exploit nature’s resources at frightening speeds by opening up new land to human settlements, cultivation, shrinking the forest cover, polluting our water bodies with industrial and human waste and churning out greenhouse gases. This onslaught on our biodiversity is wiping out plant and animal species with devastating effects on the ecosystem. A degraded biodiversity unsettles the ecosystem causing an imbalance that leads to new interactions resulting in animal and micro-organism extinction, migration, mutation and the risk of diseases jumping the species barrier to human beings. The ongoing Covid-19 outbreak may have originated in bats sold in the city of Wuhan in China.

A 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that more than one million species are at risk of extinction globally. In Uganda, the Nationally Threatened Species for Uganda report published by Wildlife Society indicates that over 400 animals and almost 100,000 plant species are threatened with extinction. The extinction of these animal and plant species also means that the many life-support functions they provide
such as cleaning our water and air, flood control and climate regulation, food, health among others are also threatened. In addition, there is a risk of losing revenue to the economy segments of the population who depend on the ecosystem for daily survival.

The Earth Day under the theme “Climate action. The enormous challenge” presents us with an opportunity to take action. The Government of Uganda is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and is committed to conserving Uganda’s biodiversity. The government has already taken positive steps towards biodiversity conservation by enacting laws, setting up agencies and providing them with funding for biodiversity conservation. Despite this, effort should also be geared towards strengthening and empowering the communities with knowledge and skills that can make them resilient and enable them to practice sustainable biodiversity conservation. Proven approaches used in community health such as the use of community resource person volunteers should be borrowed to bring about critical and sustainable biodiversity conservation. In addition, existing mechanisms such as the Uganda Biodiversity Fund should be natured and supported them to mobilize and provide grants and other technical packages to a variety of stakeholders for biodiversity conservation and natural
resources management.

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