It was a memorable moment for the African Crane Conservation Programme in Uganda and the local communities organized to attend the World Wetlands Day 2020 celebration in Bushenyi district on Feb. 7, 2020. Holding a banner that highlighted crane and wetland conservation in our project “Saving the Endangered Grey Crowned Crane in East Africa” being implemented by the Endangered Wildlife Trust/ International Crane Foundation/ NatureUganda Partnership, a twenty-member team from Kabale and Rubanda districts arrived in Bushenyi to participate in the World Wetlands Day celebrations that were held at Bumbaire grounds. It had been deemed important that communities attend the function to showcase how they conserve wetlands and other biodiversity therein and also learn from their counterparts involved in similar work elsewhere in the country.
Celebrated annually on Feb. 2, World Wetlands Day aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet. The World Wetlands Day in 2019 drew attention to the vital role of wetlands as a natural solution to cope with climate change. Wetlands are declining three times faster than forests the world over. Hence there is a need to sound drums of warning against their unsustainable use. This is what the African Crane Conservation Programme is championing in Uganda using the Grey Crowned Crane as the flagship for the cause.
This years’ World Wetlands Day was a unique opportunity to highlight wetland biodiversity, its status, why it matters to promote actions that address the decline of threats and that everyone had a role to play. Relating to the world theme, “Wetlands and Biodiversity,” Uganda coined its national theme, “Life thrives in wetlands, protect them.” As a team and programme working on wetlands in Uganda, it was important that we conspicuously participate in national events, especially when the venue is within reach.
Participating in the events leading to the day was as exciting as the event itself. Our radio talk show at Voice of Kigezi in Kabale was a moving moment as we engaged with listeners over matters concerning the importance of wetlands to human life and that of other biodiversity, and even their role in climate change mitigation. We equally highlighted the African Crane Conservation Programme’s conservation actions that reduce human dependence on wetland based resources and secure the life of biodiversity. The district environment officer for Kabale was with us to articulate policy issues.
Donning well-branded t-shirts with the partnership logos; and holding high a banner branded with messages of enhancing the protection of the Grey Crowned Crane, the team braved the scorching sun to lead a 1.5km long march from Nyaruzinga wetland to the celebration grounds. An exhibition stand had been put in place in anticipation of our arrival, and we didn’t waste time to exhibit our materials that included a variety of wetland resource products carefully prepared by the communities to highlight the economic importance of wetlands.
Our pull-up stand was an amazing attraction for many, but much more to the journalists who couldn’t avoid asking about how easy it was for the partnership to commit communities to undertake the restoration of wetlands in a highly populated region like Kabale. “Conservation agreements!” the communities replied, which attracted even more questions for insight from the journalists as they sought to understand what the agreements were all about. Our explanation that this was an innovative strategy designed under the partnership, where the role of communities in undertaking conservation actions such as wetland restoration and soil and water conservation, and crane monitoring is rewarded with tangible benefits, sent the journalists into applauding the approach especially since all this is being well articulated by the communities themselves.
As we sat to listen to the moving speeches by the distinguished guests that included permanent secretaries, ministers and the GoH – the Right Honourable Deputy Prime Minister, General Moses Ali, our conclusion was that the partnership was leading in the realisation of the national theme – “Life thrives in wetlands, protect them.” As we traveled back to Kabale, the communities unanimously chorused in a song, “Bend the curve, bend the curve! bend the curve of the crane population in Uganda.”
Story submitted by Jimmy Muheebwa, Uganda Projects Coordinator. Click here to learn more about our work in Sub-Saharan Africa.