Getting to know you: stronger relationships contribute to better biodiversity mainstreaming

21 March 2016

Uganda's National Environment Management Authority has made a point of involving key ministries and agencies in the NBSAP revision process. This helped ministerial staff appreciate biodiversity issues and their importance to economic development. 

Agama Lizard, Uganda. Seven of Africa's biogeographic regions converge in Uganda, making it a country with a high level of biodiversity (Photo: Michael Sale, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Development specialists outside the Ugandan Ministry of Environment have not always considered biodiversity concerns in their policy and planning decisions. The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) revision team, including Monique Akullo from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), wanted to change this.

They involved a representative from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in the NBSAP revision process and she has passed on her new knowledge to colleagues, encouraging them to undertake training at NEMA. 

Angella Rwabutomize is a principal economist working on the water and environment sector desk in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in the Ugandan government. In 2013 she was assigned by the ministry to liaise with NEMA as it was revising the NBSAP.

"It started when Monique Akullo from NEMA wrote to the ministry, asking for a technical person to attend an NBSAP meeting," says Angella. "I was interested in natural resource economics, which someone must have known, so I was assigned to go." 

NEMA pitched a strong business case to me about why it was important to consider biodiversity issues in our development planning in the Ministry of Finance, and they kept in regular contact. I quickly became engaged with what they were doing – Angella Rwabutomize

Considering the relevance of biodiversity in development 

As the liaison, she attended regular NEMA policy review meetings and NBSAP review and update meetings. In turn, she reported back to colleagues in her department about what NEMA was trying to do and in detail about the critical status of national biodiversity.

She met the most sector representatives in her directorate on a one-to-one basis to discuss how the environment and within that, biodiversity, was relevant to decisions about road building, for example, or tourism, encouraging them to attend the training on offer from NEMA. She made sure that she attended relevant meetings within the ministry to put forward similar messages. 

David Okwii, working on the land, housing and urban development desk in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, took the opportunity to go on a training day at NEMA. "They took us through environmentally sensitive planning; how we should bear in mind the effect that building a road will have on crops, species and the forest," he recalls.

At the same time, NEMA linked its environment experts from other government ministries, agencies, departments and local government with the ministry to provide input and to review any significant reports to check that biodiversity concerns were incorporated.

While this was time and labour intensive, it was worth it for the awareness it raised around the importance of considering biodiversity. 

Building relationships and understanding 

Uganda's Lake Albert. (Photo: Bernard Dupont, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Increased mutual understanding about the NBSAP revision process and the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development's priorities helped the 2014 National Development Plan II process, including elements of the NBSAP.

Accompanying this is a budget for around UShs 6.2 billion (approximately US$2.5m) funding for NBSAP activities over the plan's five-year period. 

With a better understanding of the importance of biodiversity, the ministry increased NEMA's budget by UShs 3 billion ($1.2m) per year to enable NEMA to manage the potential impacts of developing Uganda's oil and gas reserves in a biodiversity rich area (the Albertine Graben). Oil and gas are key emerging issues in Uganda's NBSAP.

"While we might have got funding from other ministries," says Monique Akullo, "getting funding from the Ministry of Finance links what we are doing to the government budgeting system."

This means there's more chance that funding for biodiversity conservation is institutionalised within the system, rather than remaining as one-off payments. This makes a big difference since it will improve biodiversity and sectoral policies and better align Uganda's national expenditures with biodiversity and development goals and strategies. 

Rwabutomize adds a word of caution: the familiarisation and liaison exercise must be continuous to make sure that the process of using NEMA as a reviewer is followed every time, particularly since staff come and go. 

Daphne Rutazaana, senior economist working with the tourism, trade and industry desk, adds: "The training was excellent but one day isn't enough — I'd like a refresher. And I think more technical people in the sector from the permanent secretary down should be told about the value of mainstreaming biodiversity, so that we can really make progress."

Rwabutomize still has to persuade some colleagues about the benefit of considering biodiversity in development plans. But overall, she and Akullo are optimistic about the change in attitude among staff in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

They are now willing to consider biodiversity concerns and include them in their planning, and the NEMA staff are beginning to present their case in a way that resonates with both development and biodiversity priorities. 

Resources

Contact

Dilys Roe (dilys.roe@iied.org), principal researcher and biodiversity team leader, IIED's Natural Resources Group

John Tayleur (john.tayleur@unep-wcmc.org), senior programme officer, Ecosystem Assessment, United Nations Environment Programme

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