Promote Renewable Energy To Save Environment

By Paul Kato

Uganda’s population is estimated to be 43.8 million people and growing at an average rate of 5.3% per year. The growing population is obviously exerting a lot of pressure on the existing natural resources in the quest for food, habitation, social, economic and environmental wellbeing. This is because of the failure by the government to promote renewable energy fully in the country especially in the rural areas.

Majority of the population in Uganda is poor experiencing hampered social and human development because they are not fully engaged in the use of renewable energy especially solar energy which is cheaper, affordable, clean, reliable and environmental friendly. The massive destruction of the environment, for instance, the forests and wetlands is like to continue on increased rate due to the failure by the government of Uganda to invest much in the renewable energy especially solar energy.

The per capita consumption of these energy sources in Uganda is still very small ranging from 5% to Zero especially in rural areas of Uganda. The supply and availability of renewable is crucial to the social and economic transformation and country development without degradation of the environment.

The country should know that when renewable energy is fully promoted in the country especially in the rural areas, it will be easy for the people to shift from agriculture, charcoal burning and use of firewood among other which tend to contribute too much pressure on the environment.

The environment needs to be conserved because of the increasingly climatic changes in the country. Today, various parties of the country, especially in the rural areas people, are suffering from different climatic changes like floods and prolonged drought among others because of the massive degradation of the environment due to a lot of pressure put by people carrying out agriculture and charcoal burning.

The country should invest much in the renewable energy to reduce the pressure put on the environment by individuals, veterans and senior government officials carrying out human activities like agriculture and charcoal burning.

Paul Kato-research associate

African Institute for Energy Governance.

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Fresh Dairy Explains Importance Of Quality Dairy Products

Milk is a key component of any balanced diet and yet many people are not well versed with its processing or value chain that impacts the quality of milk before it gets to their glasses.

According to the Dairy Development Authority (DDA) in Uganda, although milk production in Uganda has increased from 2.08 billion litres in 2015 to about 2.5 billion in litres in 2020, consumption is still low. A DDA report suggests that the per capita consumption of milk in Uganda stands at 62 litres which falls below the 200 litres recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Speaking at a recently organized event at the DDA offices, the Minister of State for Animal Industry Bright Rwamirama blamed this low consumption on people’s tendency to take fruit juice or soda which is readily available instead of milk which according to him is more nutritious. Rwamirama called for the need to prioritize serving milk at events in order to boost milk consumption.

This call for increased milk consumption has come at a time when milk processing companies have made it easier for consumers to take dairy products by ensuring quality control and varying products such as milk, yoghurt, butter, flavoured milk, and cream among others from which consumers can choose.

Marketing Manager, Fresh Dairy – Vincent Omoth said, ‘A growing body of recent research suggests that enjoying three servings of dairy foods a day is part of a nutrient-rich and balanced diet, and while several dairy products are available on the market, it’s vital to pay attention to the processing value chain as the quality of these dairy products is determined by the effectiveness of the milk processing value chain. The milk processing value chain refers to the step by step process that milk takes from the farm to the consumer’s cup.

Omoth noted that the value chain of Fresh Dairy’s products begins with the Farm. Fresh Dairy works with over 30,000 small and large farmers who are the principal stakeholders in our business that we empower on best practice in the dairy enterprise periodically. At Fresh Dairy, we believe that good quality milk products are made from good quality milk. We therefore source all the milk used in Fresh Dairy products from Ugandan farms only.’

Omoth explained that dairy farmers take their milk to Milk Collection Centres every morning where it undergoes mandatory tests. From Milk Collection Centres, milk is driven using milk tankers to the factory. At the factory, milk is tested again before entering a closed processing system out of which dairy products are made such as yoghurt, milk, ghee, butter, cream. The pasteurized Fresh Dairy products are then distributed to the retail outlets such as shops, supermarkets, duukas and kiosks countrywide where consumers can easily buy them.

Bugoma Forest Reserve Is Falling At An Alarming Rate

By Aryampa Brighton

Following a certificate issued by National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), guiding on how the land on Bugoma in Kikuube district should be used, Hoima Sugar have been allowed to grow sugarcane, which NEMA deems fit for human activity since it is grassland.

This act by NEMA sends grief down the spine of environmental activists across the globe who had protested the occupancy of Hoima Sugar on the land as the existence of Bugoma Forest reserve hangs in balance. Prior to issuance of the same certificate by NEMA, Masindi High Court Judge Mr. Wilson Masalu Musene ruled to allow the destruction of over 22 square miles of natural forest cover by Hoima Sugar Works for a sugarcane plantation.

This ruling also implied that he indirectly (though quite explicitly) ruled in support of the degazettement of a forest reserve that is also home to rare species of wildlife including over 500 Chimpanzees, Mangabeys, rare bird species and diverse plant life. After the decision, the life of Bugoma has been hanging on Civil society and NGOs from conservation, tourism and the legal fraternity who since came to launch the “SAVE BUGOMA FOREST CAMPAIGN”.

The whole Bugoma case focuses on land, but what happens if this is a natural forest, or wetland, or game reserve? Should it not be the Government of Uganda to guardedly monitor natural resources in and outside protected areas for the benefit of all people of Uganda? Who then should be mandated with ensuring that the country’s natural resources are protected?

Despite the country’s efforts to carry out several excellent environmental policies, legal and institutional reforms aimed at promoting the conservation and sustainable use of the country’s forest resources, as is the case with many other regulations, enforcement and corruption have been a major challenge.

Uganda today has the highest forest conversion and degradation in the whole of East Africa. According to the 2016 joint water and environment sector review report, Uganda’s forest cover had reduced from 24% in 1990 to just 11% in 2015. A few years ago, government gave out Butamira to Madhvani family’s Kakira sugar works, and in 2007, it attempted to degazette part of Mabira forest for use by Mehta’s Lugazi sugar factory, thanks to efforts by the conservation fraternity, civil society and the general public, this move was blocked.


“The issue of government consultation and consensus building on forest related and other natural-resource-based issues is still wanting,” “For all the forest land that has been given away, has there been consensus with the different players in the sector, and have there been thorough Environmental Social Impact Assessments which are prerequisite for any development of such magnitude almost anywhere around the world?” At the answer to these questions lies the heart of the problem in the fight to save Bugoma from distinction.

Despite the assertation by Hoima Sugar Ltd Spokesperson Sheila Nduhukire that On 25th April 2019, court ruled that Hoima Sugar was the rightful occupant of the 22square Miles of land bordering Bugoma Forest Reserve after National Forestry Authority NFA dragged Hoima Sugar to Court challenging the occupancy.

As Ugandans we that Whether the land falls inside the boundaries of the gazetted reserve or not … is a merely sterile exercise for primary school students. Because the reality is that we are talking about an ecosystem of international importance that cannot be discussed in parts and pieces,” he said.

The decision to go ahead with clearing the forest is “an unforgivable shame for all people of common sense, not only in Uganda but in the world”. Conservation groups and forestry experts have long warned that destroying even just a part of the forest’s diversity would lead to a loss of fauna and flora, and affect the water levels of the River Nile.

This plan to destroy Bugoma forest is not only detrimental to the Ugandan government plans to develop and invest in tourism in Bugoma Forest, but to the overall fragile and rich ecosystem which will simply be irreparably compromised. This is because Sugarcane is not only environmentally unfriendly in general, but in particular when it becomes the buffer zone of a tropical rainforest. But it is not the best crop to use as a buffer zone around a protected area because it doesn’t mix well with wildlife.

People siding with NEMA to give away our forest should know that Forests are life. Source of air, water, food, shelter, medicine: they are critical to the survival of every living thing on Earth. From the rainforests of the tropics to the snowy boreal forests circling the northern hemisphere, these ecological powerhouses support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people and host 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.

Their ability to generate rainfall is vital for millions of farmers not only in Uganda but also around the world as well as global food security. And, as the fight to stave off climate change escalates, forests could be our most important natural climate solution. Therefore as noted by MR. Dickens Kamugisha, an environmentalist and Chief Executive Officer of Africa Institute for Energy Governance during the press conference at Sheraton Hotel on save Bugoma campaign on Sunday 24th August 2020  that The fight to protect the world’s forests should be at the very heart of every human being.

Together with farmers, scientists, Indigenous forest communities, governments, responsible businesses, and citizens, should work diligently to cultivate sustainable, rural economies the most widely-proven strategy to keep our forests standing.

Aryampa Brighton is a student of Environmental law and policy at Uganda Christian University and research associate at Africa Institute for Energy Governance.

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Save Bugoma Central Forest Reserve From Destruction

By Patrick Edema

It was reported in media that the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) issued a certificate of approval that allows the destruction of 21.5 square miles of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in the midwestern region for sugarcane growing.

The issuance of the NEMA certificate to the sugarcane company came amid protests from the National Forestry Authority (NFA) who’s case is still pending before the court of appeal and the environmental activities who are fighting for the protection of biodiversity.

The Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, which covers 41,144 hectares, is the largest remaining block of natural tropical rainforest along the Albertine Rift Valley. The forest lies between Budongo forest and Semliki, thereby playing an enormous role in preserving wildlife migratory corridors.

It is also home to about 500 chimpanzees, which is 10% of the Ugandan chimpanzee population, making the forest a chimpanzee sanctuary. In addition, among other primates, Bugoma hosts a population of Ugandan mangabeys, which are endemic to this forest and are therefore a unique treasure.

Further, over 221 bird species have been recorded in Bugoma forest. Bugoma forest is also the single-most important tourist destination, outside the known national parks and wildlife reserves.

And with an ever-growing deforestation rate in Uganda that caused the loss of 63% of forested cover in only three decades, the life of the people in Bunyoro and in Uganda at large is more and more endangered. As forests are degraded or cut down, animal habitats are destroyed, resulting in increased human-wildlife conflicts.

In addition, water resources reduce as forests play an important role in water provisioning; this increases water stress. Further, soil fertility reduces, thereby affecting agriculture on which over 60% of Uganda’s population solely depend to meet their household needs.

In addition, conversion of Bugoma forest into a sugarcane plantation or any other land use that does not promote conservation undermines the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) among others which Uganda has ratified.

It will also undermine Uganda’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases through commitments made under Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and as well as the country’s commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Finally, since 1986, the Government of Uganda has pursued a policy of economic recovery and poverty reduction whilst observing sustainable management of the environment and natural resources. Currently, forest and environmental conservation is an integral component of the National Development Plan (NDP) III and the Uganda Green Growth Development Strategy.

This is due to the role forests and the environment at large play in supporting Uganda’s major economic activities such as agriculture, tourism and others. Therefore, destroying Bugoma forests that at the expense of sugarcane growing should be avoided for the wellbeing of the people in Bunyoro and Ugandans at large. It is paramount that the existing Bugoma Forest central reserve is protected and conserved.

Patrick Edema

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Kato Isa Explains Why He Is The Right Person To Be MP For Kampala Central

The National Resistance Movement (NRM), the largest and ruling political party in Uganda, is preparing for the 2021 general elections by electing persons to represent them in the national elections at different levels.

The concluded National Delegates Conference held at each of the district headquarters approved the endorsement of President Yoweri Museveni as national chairperson and presidential flag bearer. It elected members of Central Executive Committee.

Now the party is looking at selecting through the NRM party primaries individuals to contest in the general elections as Members of Parliament (MPs) and district local council leaders. MP slots are expected to be highly contested.

The ruling party will take no chances as it looks forward to retaining their majority representation in parliament. They cannot afford to lose even a single slot and for that matter, it will be looking at fronting the strongest candidate who then will battle contenders from other political parties or independents.

Kampala, the epicentre of Uganda’s politics, has some interesting races but being a predominantly an opposition stronghold, Kampala Central, a constituency that has never fallen in the hands of the opposition, has attracted some interesting young candidates at party level.

Poor Youth Coming For Nsereko’s Kampala Central

Kampala Central is occupied by Muhammad Nsereko, currently an independent but a known NRM person. In fact, he was an NRM candidate the first time he contested and won to become MP. He hasn’t expressed intent to reclaim his NRM cap preferring to remain independent.

In the party primaries race, Kampala Central has attracted Kato Isa, famously known for his activism with NRM Poor Youth, Cedric Babu Ndlima, the son Francis Babu and others who will be gunning to capture the blessings of the party.

In an interview with News Today Uganda, Kato Isa comes off as the winning formula that the party needs to reclaim the constituency from an unreliable NRM leaning independent Nsereko.

Kato, has been an active member of NRM right from the university days and at the village level. He resides in William village, Nakasero parish, Kampala.

"I was the general secretary Makerere University NRM Chapter.  When I came out, I concentrated on working and getting more education abroad. When I came back, in 2014, we started the NRM Poor Youth. We did a lot of activism. We were majoring in rooting for rule of law, fighting corruption and empowering the youth," he said.

Through activism under NRM Poor Youth, Kato and his colleagues caused reforms in the party and governments. To date, they are still active fighting corruption in government institutions like Bank of Uganda but they feel the time to upgrade from activism to policymaking is now hence his pursuit to become MP.  

"You know being an activist means that you have a cause and as NRM Poor Youth we had a cause and it doesn’t end at just that, being an activist.  Now we need to also influence decisions.

We have been pushing but there is somewhere where decisions are made, that is where I want to go, the parliament, and take these activism ideas there. We all know the powers that parliament has – everything has to be implemented, supervised and audited in parliament and that is where we need to go right now.”

I Am A Strong Candidate In A Strong Party

Kato is confident that NRM can retain Kampala Central because it is strong with majority voters. “I can give you an example. We have 136 villages and 90 per cent of the chairpersons of these villages are NRM. That gives us the leverage to feel in charge of the city,” he explains.

But with this support and base, Kato believes that the incumbent who enjoys the perks of the party in power has given the electorates a raw deal.

“He is just an MP who keeps in the media but on the ground, we feel that there has been a very big gap which he created within the leadership of Kampala who he should be working with because they are stakeholders.

In the ten years, he has been in parliament, he has never held village meetings to consult, even at parish level – we have 20 parishes – he has never held a meeting to consult. He has abandoned his electorates,”

Kato says he is a strong candidate compared to others and he has premised his manifesto on developing a city that doesn’t compromise its residents. This, he says, requires working together and consulting all stakeholders whose lives and survival are connected to the decisions made by the city leadership.

Boda Bodas, Markets And Education

For example, on the issue of boda boda operating in Kampala, Kato sees no reason why they should be chased out of the city but instead provided lanes in which they can operate without inconveniencing others.

"Why wouldn’t the city physical planners put up walkways and cycling lanes instead of chasing away people. The country is only planning for car drivers; so, I want to advocate for the construction of walkways.

We can work with the technical planning team at KCCA because the plans are there but have not been implemented.  Then we can have cycling lanes, these can give us a breather,”

By the look of things, we shouldn’t expect Kato to advocate for the chasing of boda boda riders out of the city anytime soon. The other key issue in Kampala is the fate of markets. He says that markets are catalysts of development and government should apply the method of zoning so that development is spread across the city and shared.

Kato’s other big ideas are the education sector where he wants to improve academic and sports performance; tourism is something where he wants to tap into by promoting tourist attraction sites in the city and the introduction of themed festivals.

Land Acquisition For Oil And Gas Projects: Project Affected Persons Will Be Adequately Compensated

By Ali Ssekatawa

The oil and gas sector in Uganda is at a critical stage.  The commercial negotiations which will impact both the profitability and the sector’s contribution to inclusive development are in the final stages.  The infrastructure required to commercially produce the Country’s 6 billion barrels of oil and gas resources has been clearly defined.  This includes the precise location for the various infrastructure.

This infrastructure includes well pads and flowlines, crude oil pipelines, central processing facilities, a refinery, base camps and access roads, among others. These facilities are being set up for four key projects; the Tilenga and Kingfisher projects (for development of the fields and production of the crude oil) together with the Refinery and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline projects (the commercialization projects).

Since Uganda’s oil and gas resources are onshore, the above facilities will be developed on private land acquired from the communities. Additionally, some of the required land belongs to government entities. The said land is acquired after prior, fair and adequate consent and/or compensation of the communities affected.

The halt in field activities for land acquisition for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project (and likewise for the Kingfisher and Tilenga projects) as a result of scaling down of project-related activities and later the COVID-19 pandemic has caused anxiety among the Project Affected Persons (PAPs). 

In addition, false reports wrongly state that PAPs have been stopped from using their land while others have been forcefully evicted without compensation.  There have also been allegations that the PAPs were made to sign compensation forms without adequate information.

The Petroleum Authority of Uganda acknowledges the delay in the compensation process; however, no PAP has been evicted or stopped from using their land as has been portrayed.

The 1,443km EACOP will transport Uganda’s crude oil from Kabaale in Hoima district to Tanga in Tanzania, for export to the international market.

It will be buried to a depth of about 1 metre below the ground for all its length. In Uganda, the EACOP will cover 296km, through ten (10) districts (Hoima, Kikuube, Kakumiro, Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Gomba, Sembabule, Lwengo, Kyotera and Rakai). 

The EACOP will be laid in a 30 metres corridor and the land for this has already been identified by Government. The Kingfisher project covers Kikuube and Hoima districts, whereas the Tilenga project covers Buliisa and Nwoya Districts. 

All the PAPs for the projects have been identified, and the affected property assessed and valued.   During the assessment and evaluation exercise, all PAPs (and their spouses) are required to sign on their assessment forms to confirm that what has been captured is indeed what has been taken stock of by the valuers and assessors.

This is done in the presence of local leaders, district leaders, Government representatives including staff of PAU. There is always a translator from the community who interprets the information in the local language to the PAPs. All PAPs are given a copy of the assessment form. 

The information captured is then compiled into a Valuation Report that states the compensation award for each PAP.  Compensation rates for crops and structures are determined by the District Land Boards while land rates are determined based on market value. All these are based on prevailing market rates for the financial year in question.

The PAPs will be compensated as per the valuation reports approved by the Chief Government Valuer (CGV), Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. On approval of the Valuation reports, the compensation amounts are individually disclosed to the PAPs in the presence of their spouses.

A cutoff date is announced after taking stock of affected land and properties. The announcement is meant to inform PAPs that any and all improvements made on the land following that period would not be eligible for compensation. A cut off date is essential for any project to progress from assessment to actual compensation.

Following the assessment exercise, the PAPs were advised to continue with the cultivation of seasonal crops, but any new permanent structures or long-term crops would not be compensated.  The PAPs would also be allowed to harvest all their crops and salvage any materials after compensation. Each PAP is aware of the boundaries of the project land and as such free to utilize the land outside the project footprint as he/she wishes.

The PAPs are only required to vacate project land following receipt of full compensation for said land. Currently, the only PAPs that have been requested to vacate project land are those in Tilenga Development Project RAP 1 and Kingfisher Development Area (KFDA) RAP 1 both of whom have been fully compensated and their resettlement houses completed.

All PAPs that have not been compensated remain in possession of their land and are free to keep utilizing it, within limits. Several livelihood restoration programmes in agriculture, business, financial literacy and skilling are also implemented as part of the package to support PAPs transition.

The PAPs are therefore allowed to utilize their land post-cut-off date announcement with the understanding that new developments will not be compensated, but crops can be harvested and any materials salvaged. All land surrounding and outside the project area is however not affected by the cut off dates.

It is therefore prudent to note that nobody has been evicted from their land.  After compensation, a notice to vacate will be issued with timelines within which the affected persons must move/ relocate from the project land. The PAPs are therefore encouraged to continue using their land as the process for compensation is fast-tracked by Government.

The delays occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges such as absentee landlords are regrettable;   Preparations are in high gear to resume the compensation processes within a month’s time subject to the Ministry of Health Standard operating procedures. The PAU will ensure that all PAPs are promptly, fairly and adequately compensated

Ali Ssekatawa is the Director Legal and Corporate Affairs at Petroleum Authority Uganda.

OPINION: Oil & Gas Graduates Should Be Creative

By Paul Kato

The media recently reported about oil and gas graduates petitioning the parliament over unemployment yet they are supposed to be creative.

Since 2014 over 500 graduates have graduated and only 50 graduates are employed in the oil and gas sector. This means that many of them are jobless.

Graduates need to be creative because oil and gas jobs sector is not going to be enough for graduates trained in oil and gas-related courses.

The oil and gas is expected to provide only 190,000 jobs to the graduates, therefore, people need to be creative because the jobs are not going to be enough for them.

In addition to that, the graduates should think beyond outside the box because oil and gas is expected to be extracted for a few years. This means that they need to see oil at the smaller picture.

Ugandans should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic period because many people who were working in the offices resorted to other sectors agricultural sector for survival.

For instance, people started piggery projects, poultry and planting perennial crops like banana and coffee which requires less labour.

Therefore graduates need to be creative if not, many graduates are going to be at risk of unemployment. They will also put their brains and resources to waste.

It should be noted that oil and gas in Uganda was meant to improve infrastructures like roads, schools and hospitals, projects would are supposed to provide jobs to Ugandan.

Graduates need to know that the oil and gas project is not going to satisfy all people’s needs, especially employment because from 2014 to 2020 only 50 graduates have been employed in the sector.

Therefore, I call upon government agencies like the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), local governments and local leaders to sensitize the public about local content.

Paul Kato is a research associate at Kikuube Youth Development Forum

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OPINION: Why Always Bugoma Forest?

By Paul Kato

Bugoma forest encroachment has become a topic every year. Since last year, many individuals, companies, agencies, veterans and the Bunyoro kingdom have been accused of destroying the forest.

Several groups of people in Hoima, individuals and the Non-governmental organizations like SICU and Save Bugoma forest Campaign (SBFC), African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Chimpanzee Trust Hoima and Oil Refinery Resettlement Association among others have been campaigning for the conservation of the forest but no action has been taken by government agencies like National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).

Recently, a group of people in Hoima district wrote a letter to President Yoweri Museveni reminding him of their demands and what the president promised Bunyoro in his last presidential term. A number of demands were raised and one of them was to cancel Bugoma land title as a way of conserving the forest but no action has been taken.

Bugoma forest is being destroyed by companies like Hoima Sugar Limited which is carrying out sugar cane growing. Others destroying the forest are individuals and veterans carrying out lumbering and cultivation and oil companies carrying out oil related-activities. 

The forest is under the threat by companies, individuals, veterans and oil companies which will endanger the biodiversity hence resulting to environmental degradation, climate change, human-animal conflict in search for space and food hence resulting to Fermin, Drought and floods among others.

The forest needs to be conserved because it is very important on the environment, people’s livelihoods and the country’s economy for instance in 2017/2018 tourism contributed 10% to the country’s national budget. It also provides local herbs to local communities, help in the rain formation among others.

The forest covers an area of 401km. It is found on an escarpment east of Lake Albert on the edge of the western rift valley. The forest is well endowed with a wide range of biodiversity, for instance, it has 465 species of trees, 359 species of birds, 2899 species of butterfly and 130 species of moths among others. Therefore, the forest needs to be conserved because of its importance.

It should be noted that human activities and the oil-related- activities will not replace the forest services. In addition, oil is going to be extracted for a few years and get finished but the forest will stay serving the environment.

Therefore, I call upon NEMA, National Forestry Authority (NFA), environmental policy and local leaders to operationalize new environmental laws that are going to stop people from encroaching on Bugoma forest because the forest is very crucial to environment, country’s economy and people’s livelihoods.

Paul Kato

Research Associate at African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)

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Ministry Of Education E-Learning Move Right, Says Vice Chancellor Victoria University

By Dr Krishna N. Sharma 

Higher education training institutions across the country were excited to know that the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) finally released guidelines for adoption of an emergency Open, Distance and E-Learning (ODeL) system during COVID-19 pandemic.

It is also applauding of the First Lady and education and sports minister Mrs Janet Museveni, gave the go-ahead for online teaching to enable the higher institutions of learning to offer learning during the current lockdown.

Though a few institutions had already engaged their students in teaching and learning activities using online platforms, the students and institutions were still uncertain about the continuity. If we leave out the institutions that started online teaching and learning early, for some of them, this guideline is a vanity, appreciating it is sanity, but complying with it is a yet-to-be-tested reality.

Institutions were concerned about the delay in issuing the guidelines as it was affecting the sustainability of institutions and the progress of students. But after reading this carefully crafted five-paged compact to-the-point document, it becomes clear why did it take time. The good thing is that the NCHE consulted the universities, took note of their suggestions, analysed, and then came up with this guideline. So, it is expected that the majority of the institutions co-own it.

These guidelines ask higher education training institutions to avail 26 different pieces of evidence. But the beauty of this guideline is that it protects academic freedom and institutional autonomy. These essential pieces of evidence cover a wide range of areas including but not limited to students, human resource, ODeL model, evaluation and assessment, ICT infrastructure, quality assurance, health and safety, and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

The very first expectation in this guideline is the existence of COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as issued by the Ministry of Health. It indicates that NCHE has prioritised the health and safety of students and staff. It is something the higher education training institutions should already have in place as it has been long since the Ministry of Health issued the guideline.

The immediate challenge higher education training institutions may face is crafting a cost-effective ODeL system that addresses the need of institution and students. This can be well guided by doing a student survey to find out their readiness. Knowing the readiness and challenges of students will help institutions not only find practical solutions and build required ICT infrastructure but also help them propose reasonable mitigation measures and strategy of redress for time and learning lost. The survey will guide the discussion with relevant stakeholders on mitigation measures and approach.

However, just having the ODeL system and ICT infrastructure is not enough until the users know how to use it. Higher education training institutions need to train their staff and students on appropriate and effective utilisation of ODeL system for online teaching, learning, assessment and evaluation. It is also vital to ensure that the students and staff are aware of internet ethics and relevant laws and regulations such as the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019.

There will be challenges at students’ end too. Few students may find e-learning financially constraining if there are longer face-to-face teaching and learning hours, mentally constraining if they have poor internet connection, and physically constraining (e.g. eye strain, neck pain, backache) if they don’t have quality tools to access ODeL. It is important to inform students about these constrains and help them learn cop up mechanisms.

Another important area, the institutions need to focus on is online assessment and evaluation. There will be a need for smart use of ICT to avoid cheating while ensuring security and privacy. Institutions should find creative and innovative ways to establish a framework that ensures fair assessment and evaluation without over-complicating the whole process.

In a nutshell, the guidelines have covered all essential areas and the ball is in the court of higher education training institutions and students. The post-pandemic period is not going to be the same and the e-learning is going to prepare both the education sector and the student for the same. It is not going to be a swift shift for many institutions and students, but it is worthwhile.

We must applaud the government on the move taken to allow e-learning. We should have had it in this country years back. The mere fact that now that the government has pronounced itself on the matter, this is highly laudable.

The writer is a Vice-Chancellor for Victoria University in Kampala.

Women Are Primary Users Of Land; Respect Their Land Rights

By Christopher Opio

Many scholars have argued that there is a direct relationship between women and girl children land right, economic empowerment, food security and poverty reduction. While women’s land and property rights are vital to development, the reality remains that in many parts of Uganda these rights are often not shared equally between men and women, and are routinely violated, denied and given insufficient protection and enforcement. 

This has been seen in government compulsory land acquisition and other forms of land transactions. Not only do women have lower access to land than men. They are often also restricted to secondary land rights, meaning that they hold these rights through their male family members. Women have been left out in decision making, formulation of land policies and many other associated land rights. This situation however has been worsened with the discovery of oil and gas in the Albertine region.

Women and girls in the oil affected communities are suffering additional injustices and they lack the means to fight the injustices and defend their rights. These sufferings among others include family breakdowns, denial of access and control of compensation funds, school dropouts, deterioration of health services, clean water, food insecurity and degradation of social fabric.

This problem is partly due to our societal setup which is patriarchal and land ownership is dominated by men, who dominate the majority of decisions related to land use and management which put the security of women’s land tenure in a problem.

 The constitutional right to own land under Article 237(1) of the Constitution clearly states that land belongs to the citizens of Uganda and Article 21 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender and accords men and women the same status and rights, thus women are entitled to own land like any other individuals in the society.

In addition, article 33 provides for special help/protection for mothers and women because of previous historical discrimination against women and prohibits any customary laws, traditions, or customs that discriminate against women.

In the Land Act, there are two sections that directly address gender, land and property rights. Section 38A of the Land (Amendment) Act 2004 provides for a spouse’s security of occupancy on family land, and section 39 requires spousal consent prior to entering into any land transaction concerning land on which the spouse resides on and uses for sustenance.

However, despite of the above safeguards, women are continuing to suffer great injustices during land acquisition, land sales and deals. Most of these laws are well stipulated on the paper and thus lack clear regulations and implementation framework which continue to put women and girl children in a vulnerable situation especially with the development of oil and gas projects in the Albertine region which has led to increasing demand for land coupled with unfair traditional history of land ownership that undermines their role on land use and management.

For example, the women affected by the oil refinery in 2012 contrary to the consideration made in the resettlement action plan (refinery RAP, 2012) and the constitutional safeguards for women land rights, were not fully engaged during the land acquisition processes and as a result, many women and girl children were abandoned by men after receiving the compensation money resulting into family break up, divorce, separation and school dropout among the oil refinery project affected children.

This is one example that that women and girl children suffer additional effects during land acquisition and transaction and with the increasing land acquisition for oil and gas projects, and land sales in the Albertine region, there is need for local communities, leaders, CSOs, government ministries and agencies to come together to work out a lasting solution for women and girl children land rights to avoid the experiences of the oil refinery project affected people. Women and girl children should always also ensure that they are fully engaged and participate in all land transaction in their families and communities.

Christopher Opio, Secretary ORRA

Kabaale-Buseruka

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