Protection of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs)
Uganda is one of the most species rich countries in Africa due to presence of several major biomes. It has also lost much of its natural habitat to agriculture. The country is estimated to have lost about 50% of its biodiversity value between 1975 and 1995 due to hunting and loss of forest, savannah, and wetland habitat to agriculture (Pomeroy, Tushabe, & Loh, 2017; Plumptre et al. 2018).
Uganda is developing rapidly as a nation and with this, actively encouraging mineral exploitation, oil and gas development, as well as expanding its power generation, industries, and road networks. As so often is the case, national infrastructure development generally results in widespread impacts on natural habitat.
While the effect of development is certainly damaging on species and ecosystems, a much greater threat remains in the fact that Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, which continues to increase rapidly each year.
There has been widespread loss of biodiversity and natural habitat over the years, as human population expanded from about 5 million in … to 35 million people in 2019. As the human population continues to grow, available land remains the same, creating a disparate ratio of resources for livelihood.
Uganda’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for 2015-2025 identifies threats to biodiversity as including
- Habitat loss
- Agricultural encroachment and expansion
- Climate change effects
- Over-harvesting of resources
- Introduction of alien species
- Demographic factors
- Poverty and national policies, among others.
The threats are exacerbated by inadequate funding and low budget allocations for environment and natural resource management, and climate change adaptation interventions.
Threats to Uganda’s Biodiversity
While it is true that Uganda is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet and the second most biodiverse country on the African continent, the quest for economic development, along with population growth, places significant pressures on the country’s species and ecosystems. Over the last century, Uganda’s forest cover declined by more than 75%. In 2012, fish exports dropped to 26, 574 tons from 32.855 tons in 2006 – so did the revenue from USD136.8million to USD56.8 million. Deforestation and land degradation are estimated to have cost Uganda 17% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
KBAs in UgandaIn the history of conservation work around the world, many terms and strategies have been used to identify areas and species of importance. KBAs refer to sites of global importance for the persistence of biodiversity because they hold significant numbers of one or more species of conservation concern, according to IUCN’s global standard for identification of KBAs , 2016. Uganda Biodiversity Fund is committed to focusing on protecting Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) as our priority areas for conservation.
IUCN (2016) gives five ways of assessing whether a site is a KBA:
A total of 36 terrestrial / wetland KBA sites and nine freshwater sites were identified for Uganda, constituting the areas which UBF will prioritise for biodiversity conservation program development.
Why should we protect Key Biodiversity Areas?
According to the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Uganda (2015 – 2025), services and products provided by ecosystems and species per year to Uganda’s economy constitute billions of shillings. Ecosystems provide many essential services such as provision of clean water and air, prevention of soil erosion, pollination of crops, provision of medicinal plants, nutrient cycling, provision of food and shelter and meeting of spiritual, cultural, aesthetic and recreational needs. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on biodiversity including fisheries, tourism, livestock, commercial and subsistence use of medicinal plants, among others. The continued loss and degradation of Uganda’s biodiversity therefore present a serious challenge to society, and the national economy generally.
In addition to direct gains in government revenues, biodiversity resources also support some of the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of Uganda’s population. The diversity of resources provides them with choice and fall back in times of drought, unemployment or other times of stress.
There is limited data on biodiversity valuation in Uganda, but past estimates have put gross economic output attributable to biological resource use in the fisheries, forestry, tourism, agriculture and energy sectors at US$ 546.6 million a year and indirect value associated with ecosystem services and functions at over US$ 200 million annually (Emerton and Muramira, 1999).