Dr Tom Okurut, the Executive Director, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), has said the country will front tourism and organic agriculture as their priority areas for sustainable development during this year’s Rio+20 conference in Brazil.
“We are going with Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU),” Okurut said. NEMA is the designated national focal point for the Uganda Rio+20 preparations.
“We all know that Uganda is the number one choice for tourists, and UTB will help to popularize Uganda as the best tourism destination. Uganda is also the number one country for organic products for exports. Organic farming is in line with objectives of sustainable development and therefore Uganda will showcase its organic agriculture potential, which will open up markets for organic products not yet selling on the international market,” said Okurut.
The conference, scheduled for June 15-22, is a historic opportunity to define the roadmap to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all.
The first Rio+20 conference took place 20 years ago, and as a result of the 1992 Rio Conference, according to Dr. Okurut, Uganda developed and implemented a range of legal, policy and institutional frameworks on environment, water, wetlands, forests, rangelands, fisheries, climate change, biodiversity, oil and gas governance and management.
As a result, NEMA, a regulatory body, was created in 1995. “The impact of these governance and management reforms is gaining traction though slowly, as depicted by the limited data on environmental indicators. The proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected increased from 13% in 1990 to 16% in 2010,” Okurut said.
“The share of land covered by forests though declined from 25% in 1990 to 18% in 2006. The rate of biodiversity loss in the country was calculated in 2004 to be 10% – 11% per decade. With the adoption of the public private partnerships and collaborative community management approaches, there is a progressive move towards reversing biodiversity loss,” he added.
Since 1992, Okurut noted, Uganda has been able to attract about $600m as grant money to environmental conservation. He said there is a need for more though. “After the conference, we want to sit down and strategize on how to tap into international money,” Okurut said.
Rio+20 will set the sustainability agenda for the next two decades.
One of the critical aspects to be discussed is how to build a green economy –something that brings the environment at the centre of all development aspects.
Uganda is sending a delegation of 30 people. This number is small compared to what USA (200 people), European Union (500), Kenya (70), and Tanzania (82) are sending.