Wetlands serve as the ‘kidneys’ of the earth. They store and purify water, protect areas from flooding and are a vital habitat for fish and other wildlife. Once a wetland is degraded, it can’t maintain its ecological functions which poses risks to human health, biodiversity, and environmental security.
Partners under the Commercial Flower Farms Integrated Catchment Management Partnership have joined forces to combat the degradation of wetlands around Greater Kampala. On 28th of September 2022, Nature Uganda, a civil society organisation working for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable management of natural resources, officially launched their activities under the partnership in Mpigi District. The focus lies on the conservation of the Semagimbi wetland.
Conserving Semagimbi wetland together
Mpigi District belongs to the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area and hosts the Semagimbi wetland. This wetland has been heavily degraded by encroachment, land use change, a growing population and pollution from nearby industries.
To support the conservation of the wetland, Nature Uganda is implementing a variety of activities under the partnership in Mpigi District. These include:
Development of a wetland management plan for Semagimbi wetland
Demarcation and environmental restoration of 10 km of the wetland
Establishment of wetland management committees
Identification and promotion of alternative livelihood options
Sensitization campaigns on sustainable use of natural resources
Engagement of schools around the wetland on solid waste management
Launch Event organized by Nature Uganda
During the launch event, stakeholders from the Ministry of Water & Environment (Mr. Benard Arinaitwe, Ass. Commissioner Wetlands), Mpigi Local Government (Ms. Maria Lubega, Deputy Resident District Commissioner; Mr. Emmanuel Ssempala, Deputy Chief Admission Officer; Ms. Aisha Nakirija, Vice-Chairperson; Mr. Tony Mwidyeki, District Natural Resource Officer), Religious and Cultural Leaders, students and a representative of the private sector (Mr. Victor Embati, Quality Assurance Manager Fiduga/ Dummen Orange) came together at Mpigi District Local Government Headquarters to be introduced to the activities led by Nature Uganda and to give room for discussions. Finally, participants visited Semagimbi wetland to showcase issues on ground.
The Executive Director of Nature Uganda, Achilles Byaruhanga, highlighted: “We have in plan many interventions, which include working with schools around the Semagimbi wetland. By sensitizing them on proper waste management ways, we believe these children can help us pass this information to their parents.”
With the project officially launched, the stage is now set for the implementation of activities in Mpigi district. Jointly, partners will support the conservation of the wetland to ensure it can serve its ecological function for generations to come.
To promote resource efficiency and protect the integrity of natural resources, a shift to a circular economy in which products are reused and recycled instead of being wasted, is crucial. Therefore, an innovation hub for plastic recycling has been launched on 28th September 2022 at the International University of East Africa (IUEA) under the framework ofthe Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area PET Plastic Recycling Partnership. The multi-stakeholder partnership supported by NatuReS strives to improve the sustainable management of PET plastic in GKMA by developing an inclusive green recycling sector.
The Innovation Hub is a collaboration between IUEA, EcoBrixs, a Ugandan social enterprise working on plastic recycling, and NatuReS. EcoBrixs buys plastic from waste collectors, which it then recycles into a variety of new products such as bricks, pavers, fence posts or face shields.
Aware of the environmental impact of plastic waste and the importance of recycling in preserving natural resources, partners also recognize recycling as an opportunity to boost the local economy through employment and the production of other useful products. The hub aims to form a generation of empowered and skilled young Ugandans, capable of tackling Uganda’s plastic waste management challenges innovatively and collectively.
Therefore, the hub creates a space for plastic waste reduction through triggering and supporting recycling innovations. IUEA students will be the trainees, benefiting from the opportunity to explore and learn practical techniques in recycling from plastic waste recycling experts. EcoBrixs will, for example, provide the hub with the necessary know-how, skills and trainers.
Training the youth for innovative green jobs
However, the plastic recycling innovation hub will even go a step further and contribute to addressing some of Uganda’s youth employment challenges. The trainees will additionally gain employment and entrepreneurial skills. This will assist them in using and creating employment opportunities in Uganda’s recycling sector, which represents a goldmine of untapped possibilities. In fact, Uganda generates 600 tons of plastics waste daily according to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). This waste is currently handled by just over 30 registered recycling companies, working on a very small scale due to technical and resource constraints as revealed by the Global Green Growth Institute’s “Kampala solid waste value chain mapping” report. These figures demonstrate a huge potential for further recycling and opportunities for recycling startups to thrive.
By fostering a green jobs education approach that focuses on supporting circular economy initiatives, the Innovation hub will thus encourage the students to pursue green jobs and better manage plastic waste, building a workforce for a sustainable and inclusive future. This is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 12, which focuses on environmentally sound waste management through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse, as well as SDG 8, seeking sustained, inclusive economic growth and decent work for all. The Hub further contributes to Uganda’s green Jobs Programme, which aims at creating green and decent jobs to enhance labour productivity and reduce poverty through the promotion of innovative skills development and the enhancement of productivity and competitiveness of workers and enterprises.
The hub is expected to result in the following annual outcomes:
300 students trained in plastic recycling annually.
Through research and development of joint ventures with trainees, two prototype products are developed from plastic waste and brought to market per graduating year.
After graduation, 80% of trainees find employment in waste management and recycling.
At least 60 tons (5 tons per month) of plastic waste are recycled sustainably.
The Hub training modules have been integrated into the university’s curriculum. This, as well as partner commitments, will ensure the hub’s long-term viability and sustained outcomes.
In the informal settlements in the outskirts of Greater Kampala’s Central Business District, improper solid waste management results in the clogging of drainage systems. This, in addition to the seasonal downpours, whose intensification is attributed to climate change, have exposed already vulnerable communities to a high risk of seasonal urban flash flooding. This is intensified by the fact that Kampala’s informal settlements are situated in flood-prone low-lying areas.
Associated with the floods are huge socio-economic losses due to the damage of assets and goods, and disruption of business and work operations. Nakato Caroline, a small business owner and resident of Sembule A Zone in Nalukulongo, states that floods continuously disrupt her retail shop by destroying valuable merchandise and leaving her shop inaccessible to customers. This worsens the financial strain on her family. She cites the insufficient plastic waste management as a major contributor to the clogging of the channels and the consequent flooding in her community.
The game changer:collective action
To sustainably build the resilience of these communities to flooding, the Greater Kampala Integrated Flood Resilience Partnership, supported by the Natural Resources Stewardship Programme (NatuReS), is spearheading community action for flood resilience in two flood hotspots in Kampala’s informal settlements of Kinawataka and Nalukolongo. This partnership is being championed by ACTogether Uganda and the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) through a project dubbed “Community Action for Flood Resilience.” ACTogether is a Ugandan Civil Society Organisation affiliated with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) which supports the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda by facilitating processes that develop organizational capacity at the local level and promote pro-poor policy and practice in Uganda’s urban arena.
The “Community Action for Flood Resilience” project under the partnership empowers and builds the capacity of vulnerable communities to take the lead in the fight against floods. This is done through community-centered behavioural change activities to reduce the quantity of solid waste ending up in the drainage channels.
Through the project, 10 community members (5 from Kinawataka and 5 from Nalukulongo sub-catchments) were trained to become flood control champions, equipped with knowledge on the causes, effects, mitigation, and adaptation measures to the flooding challenges in their respective communities. The flood control champions are community members who were already spearheading awareness and dialogue sessions aimed at sensitizing their fellow community members on issues like malaria etc.
Community initiative under a partnership approach
The actions of the trained flood control champions have had a cascading impact in these communities, particularly in terms of a positive mindset change towards communities’ capacities for flood resilience. They organized and conducted community dialogues called settlement forums, as well as community radio talk shows. Through these, the communities have been trained on urban flood risk and practical mitigation measures to enable them to control floods in their areas. Morever, they provided a platform for dialogue with other stakeholders and duty bearers, such as community leaders, on the flooding. These include causes, effects, and ways to collectively contribute to addressing them.
Through the settlement forums, community-led monthly clean-up exercises have been taken up in Kinawataka and Nalukolongo. These have instilled a sense of community and social responsibility among the members. The communities acknowledge their contribution towards flooding through improper solid waste management. In turn, they collect solid waste and desilt clogged secondary and tertiary drainage channels within their surroundings that would otherwise contribute to the flooding. This is further complementing the Kampala Capital City Authority’s (KCCA) solid waste management and flood control efforts.
The flood control champions, officials, and community members speak out
As a follow-up to the actions led by the flood control champions and the communities, ACTogether organized community planning and review meetings. In these meetings, the flood champions, community leaders, government officials, and community members shared their experiences and lessons learned from the joint initiative.
Nakato Leticia, one of the flood champions, expressed her excitement and gratitude for being a part of this partnership learning from experts’ proven ways to improve community flood resilience. In addition, she appreciated having a platform to disseminate this knowledge to members of her community.
However, the effects of the community-led clean-up efforts went much further: Nyanzi Bob, Head of the Solid Waste Management Unit at KCCA (Rubaga Division, in which also Nalukolongo is located), shared that they have also improved the relations between the Kampala Capital City Authority and the local communities. This only became possible by working together as partners for a common objective.
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Kampala City, Uganda’s capital and commercial centre, is home to about 70% of the country’s small, medium and large manufacturing businesses and accounts for nearly half of Uganda’s 40 billion USD total Gross Domestic Product (World Bank,2021). The rapid urbanization of the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA) has led to increased impervious surfaces in ecologically sensitive areas such as steep slopes, wetlands and flood plains relevant for flood control, resulting in accelerated and often devastating runoff of water. The city’s existing drainage system, which was designed for a much smaller and less densely built city, is quite old and poorly managed and can no longer cope with the runoff from the rapidly expanding built-up areas.
The situation is further exacerbated by frequent clogging of the drainage system with solid waste, often originating from the city’s informal settlements. All of this increases the likelihood of flooding of critical areas such as road crossings, industrial areas, business premises and residential suburbs in the low-lying informal settlements. Of major concern is the wide-spread nature of the flooding and the increasing frequency of more intense flooding events, also attributed to climate change. Efforts to address the flooding challenge are limited in scope and often constrained, among others, by the city`s insufficient financial resources. However, also the lack of cooperation between stakeholders represents a hurdle to implementing effective solutions.
Addressing the flooding challenge in Kampala requires a multi-sectoral approach, involving all stakeholders (public, private actors and communities) to work collaboratively to develop and implement integrated flood risk management solutions which are scalable and context specific.
It’s against this background that partners from all sectors started to collaborate under the Greater Kampala Integrated Flood Resilience Partnership. The partnership`s objective is to improve urban resilience to flooding, thereby enhancing socio-economic development in Greater Kampala. Partners therefore jointly promote investments in nature-based “blue-green infrastructure” such as regreening of drainage channels, bioswales and retention ponds, as well as further inclusive solutions, in priority hot-spot areas. This way, they want to showcase the effectiveness of natural flood protection mechanisms in mitigating flooding, thereby protecting livelihoods and businesses` basis of operations, contributing to sustained socio-economic development. Partners also aim at developing innovative ways of using human-engineered “grey” infrastructure for better flood control.
The partnership follows the Natural Resources Risk and Action Framework (NRAF). The NRAF is a holistic approach developed by NatuReS to tackle shared natural resources risks in a participative manner. It guides initiation and implementation of natural resources stewardship partnerships through a series of tailored tools.
Together, partners developed a comprehensive Partnership Action Plan (PAP). The PAP is a commitment by all partners to support the implementation of jointly agreed activities. These activities include:
Developing strategies for the integration of blue-green infrastructure solutions, creating an evidence base for their effectiveness in mitigating flooding
Promoting investment and piloting of “blue-green” infrastructure and innovative “grey” solutions for flood resilience in selected catchments
Fostering behavioral change and stakeholder empowerment in the development of flood mitigation solutions
Encouraging rainwater harvesting within the private sector
Partnership Action Plan Launch
The PAP was formally launched during a ceremony at the Ministry of Water and Environment on the 5th of August 2022. His Worship Paul Mugambe, the Mayor of Kampala`s Nakawa Division, presided over the ceremony as a guest of honour.He congratulated partners for their foresightedness in establishing the partnership to jointly find solutions for the recurring flash floods in Greater Kampala. Often, they are caused by an insufficient, dilapidated and poorly managed drainage systems, combined with poor solid waste management, particularly of plastic waste, resulting in clogged drainage channels. The mayor underlined that, as part of the City’s Development Master Plan, strengthening the city’s resilience to climate change through the implementation of sustainable measures has been set as a priority by Kampala Capital City Authority.
The partnership chairperson, Dr. Benon Zaake, the Commissioner for Water Resources Monitoring and Assessment at the Ministry of Water and Environment, highlighted that rapid urbanization coupled with improper solid waste management in the GKMA has exacerbated the flooding problem to the extent that the existing drainage systems can no longer cope with the situation. He commended partners for prioritizing the integration of blue-green infrastructure solutions into Kampala’s flood management strategies. Moreover, he reaffirmed the Ministry`s commitment to the partnership and urged all partners to dedicate their agreed time and resources towards ensuring successful implementation of the PAP.
Other high officials included the Deputy Mayor of Rubaga Division, Ms. Rehema Fugge, and the Executive Secretary for Public Health and Social Services for Rubaga division, Mr. Emmanuel Kizza. They both expressed their gratitude towards the partnership and the important role it is playing in jointly working towards a flood resilient Greater Kampala.
Following the successful launch of the PAP, partners now move into the next phase (“Act”), focusing on accelerated implementation of agreed activities.