Published on: 13/02/2019
The Watershed consortium in Uganda led by IRC presents efforts to strengthen people's voice in water management.
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs organises an annual learning conference that brings together 25 strategic partnerships on Dialogue and Dissent. The Watershed presentation was one of the PechaKucha presentations selected for the conference and was to set the stage for a learning experience for all participants.
Martin Watsisi of IRC Uganda sketched the situation around the river Mpanga in Kabarole District, Uganda. The river is an important water source and water resource for people in Kabarole and its neighbouring districts. Due to pollution and degradation caused by human activities, among them sand mining, agriculture and waste dumping, the river is dwindling and no longer a reliable source for the communities.
By strengthening the voice of local civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as HEWASA and JESE, farmer and user groups, the Watershed consortium is opening up opportunities to improve the situation. HEWASA and JESE engaged with local government and local communities to raise awareness for the problems surrounding the river. They conducted meetings on riverbank regulations, how to enforce buffer areas and the resource protection policy for wetlands and rivers.
These awareness sessions provided the institutional space and the voice for community members to feel empowered to discuss the issues with local authorities and to increase environmental awareness among all parties. In March 2018, the Local Council embarked on delineating the banks of the river Mpanga and mobilised farmers owning land bordering the riverbanks to observe a 100-metre area and plant environmentally friendly trees in these buffer zones. A compromise has been reached to observe a 30-metre buffer and plant it with trees to improve and create a healthy vegetation around the river.
Waste management remains a serious issue so efforts to raise awareness continue as well as engaging with polluters along the river in order to get measures to save river Mpanga of the ground. This can only be done through collaborative advocacy and multi-stakeholder engagements. CSOs, government and private sector actors should all work together to ultimately attain safe and sustainable water for domestic consumption and production. Collaborative advocacy has created a multi-stakeholder platform involving political leaders, CSOs, utility companies like the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC- Fort Portal Area) among others to engage in restoration, preservation and regulatory activities to save river Mpanga. The Mpanga Catchment Management Committee was formed and is active under the political leadership of Mr. Richard Rwabuhinga, the Chairperson of Kabarole District. An upcoming Mpanga event that will be commemorated in Kabarole by the Watershed partnership and regional actors led by Protos and Albert Water Management Zone of Ministry of Water and Environment will take place from 11 -15 March 2019.