Uganda Must Reject Quick Wins in Oil in Favour of Long-term Resource and Biodiversity Protection, says US Ambassador

Uganda Must Reject Quick Wins in Oil – U.S. Ambassador


Source Photos STAR USAID site

By Simon Musasizi, 19 March 2013

US Ambassador Scott DeLisi says Uganda must reject temptations to seek quick gains from its oil industry.

Speaking at the official launch of the US-funded Tourism for Biodiversity (T4B) programme at Budongo forest in Murchison Falls national park last week, DeLisi urged Uganda to base decisions for the sector on long-term goals. Initiatives such as oil drilling or the Ayago power project should not destroy the country’s biodiversity, he said.

“These are not easy issues and the temptation to seek ‘quick wins’ or short-term economic benefits has to be rejected in favour of carefully-considered and balanced long-term goals for development, resource protection, and preservation,” DeLisi said.

Failure to strike the right balance could also endanger, Uganda’s young but fast-growing tourism sector.

“We have to be more thoughtful. We have to critically think of how we can nurture these two priorities together to benefit the country in the longer term,” DeLisi said.

“Protecting biodiversity, those are words we hear often, but what do they really mean… It is a goal that is simple to state but infinitely complex in its execution.”

DeLisi called on all the countries that are involved in the oil industry to put some money aside for conservation: “To do so, partnership is critical. None of us alone can face all these obstacles. But together -as partners – our collective ingenuity, creativity, expertise and energy can tackle every one of them, and bring us to a day when tourism in Uganda will be a model for the world.”

The $10m, four-year T4B is aimed at enhancing communities’ stake in protecting biodiversity in Uganda by increasing the benefits they receive from eco-tourism. It targets Kidepo Valley, Murchison Falls and Lake Mburo conservation areas, and Budongo and Kalinzu forest reserves. According to DeLisi, unless communities living near conservation areas realize how beneficial it is to live near these places, conservation efforts will always face challenges as communities question the rationale for conservation.

“Why should I care about a red-faced warbler when we struggle to educate our children? Why should I worry about protecting chimps when they raid the crops that feed my family? The answer that “it is important for global biodiversity” doesn’t solve the challenges Ugandan citizens face,” he said.

“But if protecting bio-diversity puts money in your pockets, if it helps pay school fees, if it supports the health clinic or pays for the new road that gives you easier access to regional markets and services, then it makes sense not just globally, but locally. And the [T4B] project, working through Ugandan partners, seeks to protect Uganda’s natural heritage and make it accessible to the world in a way that enriches and strengthens local communities.”

According to DeLisi, since the 1980s, the American people have provided over $100m in development assistance to conservation in Uganda. T4B is a follow-up to the just-concluded USAID- STAR (Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift), a three-year project, which was funded up to a tune of $2.5m.

“Results were promising, with participating communities seeing a 27 per cent increase in their incomes as a result of the project. But we want to see more,” DeLisi said.

“[T4B] will use tourism to deliver conservation in selected protected areas and central forest reserves. It will increase the capacity of Ugandans to manage their nation’s biodiversity. It will also improve the marketing of ecotourism and provide local communities with the opportunity to develop tourism businesses and services, giving them a stake in the preservation of their own country’s natural resources, increasing the economic benefits they receive from living next to protected areas, and reducing the threats to Uganda’s wide variety of wildlife and habitats across the landscape.”

Source: All Africa

More information on T4B and  STAR: Uganda one page PDF