The 4th Mount Elgon Stakeholders Forum took place from the 1st-2nd of November, 2017 at Wash & Wills Hotel in Mbale district under the theme ” Shared understanding of collaborative solutions to Addressing Mount Elgon Eco-System Challenges”

This theme posed questions and opened up dialogue amongst all the Mount Elgon Stakeholders ranging from Government ministries, Local Government, Civil Society Organisations right down to community leaders on how best they can collaborate to develop solutions that address the still existing challenges within this eco-system which is of critical importance, most especially in the provision of International Public Goods.

The guest of honor, Minister of Water and Environment – Sam Cheptoris stated the need for better coordination amongst stakeholders and better accountability for funding that is channeled towards conservation of this ecosystem.

“There is need to work closely with UWA (most especially the local communities) and change our behavior to ensure survival of this ecosystem alas the risk of another catastrophic landslide.”

The National Mountain Development Strategy developed by the government of Uganda last year will ensure sustainable protection and conservation of the mountain system, however, there is need to create awareness and change people’s attitudes towards natural resource management and protection. “The consequences of degazetting this ecosystem is too high – it is tantalum to destroying ourselves”

ECOTRUST showcased a GIS (Geographic Information System) story map of how the Pro-Poor / Human Rights Based Approached have been implemented within ongoing Programmes in the region i.e. Trees for Global Benefits – TGB and CECF. You can have a look at the story map here

The forum also brought to light the under utilization of the Climate Change Resource Centers that were constructed in Sironko and Bulambuli with funding from UNDP, as part of the EBA project. A number of issues for discussion were raised such as;

  • Mobilization of communities in climate change
  • Politicking which is getting in the way of implementation of climate change.
  • People not taking warnings seriously. 
  • Need for implementation by force on issues of climate change
  • Continued stalling of work on tracing the boundary of the Mount Elgon national park
  • Need to explore alternative sources of energy for local communities other than firewood
  • Need for more community mobilization by forum stakeholders
  • Equipping of the Climate Change Resource Centers for better community sensitization and awareness most especially amongst the youth
  • Need to lobby for funding for the trans-boundary border completion for the Mount Elgon national park 
  • MP’s in the low-lying areas of the mountain should be more involved
  • There is an ongoing process of developing a management plan for the Mount Elgon National Park. Consultations will be made to the stakeholders, communities and every stakeholder of this national park
  • UWA is already using her resources to plant bamboo (local NAME MALEWA) outside the national park on experimental purpose.

The chairman of the Mount Elgon Stakeholders Forum, Hussein Matanda made a few remarks on the challenges of the forum as well;

  • Pressure upon farmers to implement interventions in their farming systems
  • The minister of agriculture should be involved in these forum meetings.
  • There is a limited scope of project interventions because of the resource constraints. There’s need to scale up some of these interventions. / projects, probably by engaging government.
  • The ongoing conflicts between the locals and Uganda Wildlife Authority in the protected areas of Mount Elgon.

Some of the possible solutions suggested by participants included;

  • A resettlement programme from government
  • Compensation 
  • Tourism as an alternative source of livelihoods
  • Government’s assistance in development of the infrastructure in the region and engage private sector to invest in hospitality facilities in order to boost tourism,
  • Need for more climate change demonstration centers which would provide role models for communities in districts to learn these initiatives.
  • Restoration of degraded areas.
  • Building institutional capacity of local governments to deal with the challenge of climate change. Empowering local government is one way of making these initiatives succeed. MP’s present should help in the lobbying of this initiative 
  • The Forum should be registered to earn legal status to enable it lobby for funding on international level.

The Forum was brought to a close with remarks from the representative of the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities – Assistant commissioner, wildlife conservation – George Owoyesigire who advised that the Trans-boundary system with Kenya should be more organized and a trans-boundary collaboration management plan, a corporation MOU be signed between Uganda and Kenya. This forum is a good platform to share ideas and experiences from stakeholders on ground.  The Tourism sector is currently earning the country 1.3 million dollars annually. Approximately 200,000 people are employed by the tourism sector which contributes 9% of the country’s GDP. The tourism act 2008 will incorporate restoration of degraded landscapes in the country in order to boost tourism.

Whilst Kilimanjaro receives 350,000 visitors annually, Uganda gets 250,000 visitors. There is need to increase the number of visitors going to our national parks. A lot has to be done in terms of improvement of infrastructure like roads. Government agencies are working together on the key tourism roads such as Sironko, Mbale – Bududa and Lwakaka.

Civil Aviation Authority has been requested to develop more airfields for example one in Soroti. This is all part of the Tourism development Plan 2015-2021 and the Tourism Development Master-plan 2015 -2024. It’s approximated that by this year (2024), the country will be receiving an average of 4 million visitors.  As the Mount Elgon eco-system has so much tourism potential, the ministry will continue to support this Forum.