Various policy documents in Uganda touch on conservation of wildlife. These include the Draft National Environment Management Policy, the National Forest Policy and the National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetland Resources. The main policy on wildlife is the National Policy on Conservation and Sustainable Development of Wildlife Resources.
The Draft National Environment Management Policy was finalized in December 2014 but it is not clear whether or not it has been adopted. It was drafted in replacement of the National Environment Management Policy of 1994. The 1994 Policy had been in place for 20 years and the government saw the need to review it in light of the new challenges and opportunities in environmental management.
The main policy goal of the National Environment Management Policy is sustainable development which maintains and promotes environmental quality and resource productivity for socio-economic transformation. The National Environment Management Policy has 6 key objectives which are to promote long-term socio-economic development through sound environmental and natural resource management, to integrate environmental concerns in all development policies, plans, and activities, to conserve national biological diversity, to optimize resource use so as to achieve a sustainable level of resource consumption, to educate and raise public awareness on linkages between environment and development and to promote individual and community participation in environmental improvement activities.
The key principles of the National Environment Management Policy are a clean, safe and productive environment, a robust natural resource and environment management regime, improved productivity of Uganda’s natural resource base, optimum utilization of renewable and non-renewable resources, total economic value of environmental costs and benefits, social inclusion and equity, international and regional cooperation and total compliance with enforcement and regulatory frameworks.
The National Environment Management Policy goes on to outline cross-sectoral policy objectives, principles and strategies. With regard to the wildlife sector, the National Environment Management Policy sets the objective of conserving and managing the country’s terrestrial and aquatic biological diversity sustainably in support of national socio-economic development and protecting natural heritage sites and traditional knowledge. Some of the strategies set out to meet these objectives include strengthening existing legislation to bring on board protection of biodiversity outside Protected Areas , developing a policy framework for the identification and management of buffer zones around Protected Areas, promote access and benefit sharing with adjacent communities and strengthening links to the international biodiversity conventions like CITES.
The National Forest Policy was adopted in 2001 to address emerging issues concerning forest resources including a declining forest resource base. The main goal of the National Forest Policy is to have an integrated forest sector that achieves sustainable increases in the economic, social and environmental benefits from forests and trees by all the people of Uganda, especially the poor and vulnerable.
The guiding principles of the forestry sector in Uganda include conservation and sustainable development, improvement of livelihoods and poverty eradication, provision of biodiversity and environmental services, creating partnerships in governance, ensuring equity and active participation with regards to gender and age and promoting and conserving cultural and traditional institutions.
The National Forest Policy has policy statements with regard to key issues impacting forestry. With regard to biodiversity conservation, the policy statement is that Uganda’s forest biodiversity will be conserved and managed in support of local and national socio-economic development and international obligations. The strategies for implementation of this policy statement will include supporting conservation initiatives in priority forests with high biodiversity value, promoting collaboration between sectoral institutions concerned with biodiversity conservation, promoting collaborative management of Protected Areas, addressing conflicts resulting from problem animals near Protected Areas, promote the development of biodiversity-related tourism and increasing knowledge of forest biological diversity.
The National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetland Resources (NWP) was adopted in 1995 to address the unbalanced, excessive and inappropriate exploitation of wetlands in Uganda which was leading to their degradation. The overall aim of the NWP is to promote the conservation of Uganda’s wetlands in order to sustain their ecological and socio-economic functions for the present and future wellbeing of the people.
The goals of the NWP are to establish the principles by which wetland resources can be optimally used, to end existing unsustainable exploitative practices in wetlands, to maintain a biological diversity in wetlands either in the natural community of plants and animals or in the multiplicity of agricultural activity, to maintain the functions and values derived from wetland resources throughout Uganda and to promote the recognition and integration of wetland functions in resource management and economic development decision making.
The NWP adheres to the 3 main principles in pursuance of its goals. These are that the conservation of wetland resources must be pursued in the context of overall development strategies and activities, wetland conservation can only be achieved through a coordinated and co-operative approach and attitudes and perceptions of Ugandans regarding wetlands need to be changed.
The NWP recognizes that wetlands provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals, some of which depend entirely on wetlands for their survival. Therefore, the NWP adopts 4 strategies with respect to wildlife conservation. These are that the government will establish fully “Protected Wetlands Areas” of important biological diversity, the government may also establish certain wetlands which will be used for partial exploitation such as research, the will be no modification drainage or other impacts allowed in the protected wetlands and parts of utilized wetlands will be set aside for conservation activities and protected from modification, drainage or exploitation.
The National Policy on Conservation and Sustainable Development of Wildlife Resources (WPU) is the main policy for the protection and conservation of wildlife and was adopted in 2014. The main goal of the WPU is to conserve wildlife resources of Uganda in a manner that contributes to the sustainable development of the nation and the well-being of its people. Some of the policy objectives are to promote sustainable management of Uganda’s wildlife Protected Areass, to sustainably manage wildlife populations in and outside Protected Areas, to promote sustainable and equitable utilization of wildlife resources as a viable form of land use for national economic development, to effectively mitigate human wildlife conflicts (HWC), to promote wildlife research and training, to promote conservation education and awareness across the nation, to effectively combat wildlife related crime and to promote and support local, regional and global partnerships for conservation of wildlife.
Some of the guiding principles to be adhered to when implementing the policy are sustainable development, public trust, maximization of benefits, transparency, accountability and fair competition, public private partnership, promotion of the interests of local communities around conservation areas, research guided decision making, climate change mitigation and adaptation gender and youth empowerment.
The WPU outlines the strategies that will be pursued to meet its objectives. The key objective for purposes of this paper is effectively combatting wildlife related crime. Some of the strategies to meet this goal are review of the Uganda Wildlife Act, formulation of regulations and guidelines to operationalize Wildlife Act, regulation of possession, use and trade in wildlife products and wildlife specimens and ensuring that all wildlife PA boundaries are surveyed, marked, monitored and secured.
Other strategies to combat wildlife related crime include elimination of illegal wildlife off-take within and outside Protected Areas, maintenance of a disciplined, motivated, trained, equipped and proactive wildlife sector workforce, collaboration with all relevant enforcement agencies and other stakeholders at local, national, regional and international level to stop poaching, illegal wildlife trade and trafficking and the promotion of legal means of wildlife utilization through user rights regimes.