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Degraded watershed impacts economic growth

responsAbility and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Uganda are teaming up for a $240,000 restoration project on the Nyamwamba River Watershed in western Uganda.

This project will be implemented along with a 7.8 MW hydropower project, currently being developed by a responsAbility-managed energy holding and their partner SAEMS in the Kasese District.

The hydropower project will be connected to the Nkenda substation, which is of strategic importance for western Uganda. Construction of the plant is to commence in June 2019 and to reach commissioning in Q2 2021.

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Commenting on the importance of this cooperation, David Duli, country director at WWF Uganda, explained: “Following the concept that commercial users of natural resources should contribute to their upkeep, we are thrilled to team up with responsAbility for this triple-return project that will contribute to restoring a degraded ecosystem, improving livelihoods of local communities and, at the same time, ensure consistent water input for the planned hydropower plant.”

Speaking on behalf of responsAbility, Joseph Nganga, head of energy equity investments, added: “Over 15 years of pioneering impact investing in emerging economies responsAbility has demonstrated how for-profit investments can drive development and benefit local communities. This beautiful cooperation with WWF Uganda will allow us to create long-term value for all parties involved.” 

About the watershed restoration project

The 5-year project focuses on protecting important water catchments for socio-economic development and is expected to improve the livelihoods of 900 households in the region.

The Nyamwamba is part of the Nyamwamba River Watershed, which covers an area of approximately 750 hectares in Western Uganda’s Kasese district.

It is a key natural resource, safeguarding water for domestic use for over 1 million people and supplying water for a variety of industrial users including hydropower and mining companies. These water-dependent industries are key economic growth engines and major employers in the region and beyond.

The main economic activity in the area is subsistence farming, with cultivated land of two acres on average per household.

Coffee is the major cash crop grown in the watershed. The cultivated land with slopes of on average 25% in the landscape has been heavily eroded and yields are limited due to fragile soils and poor farming techniques that exacerbate soil degradation.

Through its Technical Assistance Facility responsAbility supports the restoration project focusing on protecting important water catchments for socio-economic development as well as biodiversity conservation.

The project uses a Payments for Watershed Services (PWS) approach-an innovative sustainable financing mechanism aimed at encouraging private and public sector agencies to actively engage in supporting and financing ecosystem conservation.

Improving water quality

The project aims to restore degraded hotspots, mitigate siltation and associated flooding risk and improve water quality and flow variability.

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By mobilising land owners for Sustainable Land Management (SLM) interventions to increase farm productivity, the project wants to improve community livelihoods upstream while at the same time ensuring sustainable water supply to the many users downstream and beyond.

Through this project, alternative sources of income will be created for the local communities. The project also supports the Ugandan government’s effort of increasing wealth at the household level, also related to SDG 1 ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’.

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.