Environment for Development Initiative (EfD–Mak) Centre on 7th November 2019 hosted its first policy dialogue on Governance and Natural Resources at the Senate Conference Room Makerere University.
The event attracted over 150 participants from public and private sector, research institutions, civil society organizations, representatives from government ministries and agencies, development partners,staff and student from Makerere University among others. The Research Manager at the EfD secretariat based at Gothenburg University, Sweden, Mr. Franklin Amuakwa-Mensah also graced the occasion.
The half day dialogue organized under the theme, “Governance and Natural Resource Utilization: Challenges, Gaps and Opportunities” was officially opened by Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe while the Keynote address was delivered by the Executive Director National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
In his opening remarks the Vice Chancellor welcomed and appreciated participants for continued engagement and support to Makerere university and expressed hope for continued partnership in research and policy development.
Prof. Nawangwe observed that unlike the past when villages were covered with natural vegetation with plenty of trees and wild animals with readily available land for food production, today, most parts the country are growing into urban settings, largely unplanned, eating up all the agricultural land with families looking forward to town dwellers to give them food.
“This transformation is a big problem that all of us in academia, policy makers and implementer in government must handle serious and the issue of high population growth putting a lot pressure on natural resources.
Natural resources are crucial sources of ecosystem service provision and are potential drivers of development. This is only true provided that research based policies are put in place to sustainable use these resources in appropriate boundaries”, The Vice Chancellor said.
He noted that initiatives like the EfD are important in countries where majority of people depend directly on soil, water, forests and fisheries for their livelihoods.
“We as Makerere University appreciate the relevance of Environment and Natural resources in fostering economic development. However, for environment and natural resources to play this role, governance is supposed to be at its best.
There are existing policy gaps that may hinder the sustainable utilization of the environment and natural resources and this include the human capacity resource gap, knowledge gap, the communication gap and the institutional gap. However, we are glad that EfD Secretariat gave us this opportunity as Makerere university to host this centre”, Professor Nawangwe added.
The Vice Chancellor extended appreciation to Prof. Edward Bbaale and Prof. Johnny Mugisha with colleagues upon successfully securing the EfD centre at Makerere university and Uganda .
The Vice Chancellor affirmed that through commitment and dedication staff affiliated to this center, the university will bridge the nation gaps and act as a hub for quality training, research and policy engagement in environmental economics and development in the Africa region and beyond.
This, he said, is to be achieved through providing high quality relevant policy research, offering graduate training support, policy engagement and outreach in the realm of environment and development economics in order to enhance sound environmental management and natural resource utilization for sustainable development.
“And I must say that this is a very good example of inter multidisciplinary collaboration which is largely needed now in this country. I have no doubt that this centre is going to be successful given the enormous capacity that has been built at Makerere university over years”, Prof. Nawangwe stated.
The Principal Makerere University College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS) Prof. Eria Hisali hailed the EfD-Mak Centre for setting off very well despite that fact that it is young.
“What is gratifying to note is as much as you are young, you started on a good note. I have been following a number of activities and this is unique of a very young centre like this”, Prof. Hisali commended.
Prof. Hisali extended appreciation to the EfD Secretariat in Gothenburg for the support accorded to the EfD-Mak centre.
“One unique thing is in as much as they offer support to the centre, they are walking with us in all steps unlike many donors who give money and leave”, the Principal noted.
Dr. Hisali welcomed and thanked government, the private sector, donors and civil society organization, staff and students for sparing time to participate in the dialogue saying the day’s activities will offer a platform for enduring relationship.
He said the theme of the dialogue is not only important but timely on reason that in the next twenty years Uganda’s economy will rely on natural resources with the discovery of oil.
“At CoBAMS we recognize the fact that the economy is to be shaped by natural resources. In addition to center activities, we have mainstreamed the emerging issues in our strategic plan 2020-2030. We have reviewed the curriculum to mainstream and reinforce initiatives like this”.
To move forward Prof. Hisali proposed the idea of creating policy labs where the university would meet selected policy makers once quarterly to address a topical issue and come up with policy brief to increase ownership and acceptability.
Prof. Hisal also implored centre leaders to involve students on the research projects to help them appreciate emerging issues and bringing other colleagues from university units on the policy arena.
He assured participants that the college will provide the necessary environment and support to the center and ensure that its activities are implemented to turn up to a successful and model center.
Speaking on behalf of the Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Prof. Johnny Mugisha reported that the two colleges CoBAMS and CAES have had joint collaborations in teaching Masters and PhD programs for over 20 years.
He described the environment as both rich and complex in all aspects on grounds that everything fits in it, takes too long to construct but takes short time to destroy.
“Environment is a mother of all disciplines. However, governance of environment has been the biggest challenge in developing countries and those with rich natural resources. For example,countries like DR Congo and Sudan have bad governance index. Uganda is slightly better but not good either. We want to be like Norway. We are doing badly in terms of accessing, using, sustainability and policy implementation”, Prof. Mugisha who is also Dean School of Agricultural Sciences said.
Prof. Mugisha said agriculture is the biggest culprit in destroying the environment as forests and wetlands are converted into farmlands and therefore, should be held responsible for restoring the environment.
“That is why the CAES teamed up with CoBAMS. We need policy makers to do this. Our EfD-Mak centre is to champion the drive to understand environment better, generate and share imperial work, develop strategies to ensure a wealthy environment and develop capacity for all to enjoy a healthy environment”. Prof. Mugisha explained.
Speaking on the evolution of the EfD Initiative, the representative of the EfD secretariat Sweden Franklin Amuakwa-Mensah said the EfD initiative started in 1991 as a Capacity building supported by Sida, and has so far produced 45 PhDs from Global South and more than 300 PhD courses.
The platform he said was tested in Ethiopia in 2003 and rolled out when the department of economics at university of Gothenburg Sweden sent proposals to Sida to create centres to engage in policy.
In 2007, Mr. Amuakwa-Mensah said six centers were launched in developing countries, and by 2019,15 EfD centers had been set up with many partners include that of Makerere.
“We want to promote policy dialogue and provide environment for researchers to help in poverty reduction and sustainable management of resources.
We concentrate on academic support at Masters and PhD, help develop policy research, create capacity within centers and partners in the industry, provide financial support for applied research and also link centre researchers with international researchers to put together experiences with countries and learn from each other,” he explained
Mr. Amuakwa-Mensah said the Secretariat had recorded a number of achievements including improved investment in policy interaction and fund-capacity raising capacity of EfD centres with a record from 13% external funds in 2007 to 64% external funds in 2017;
Other achievements he mentioned include increased involvement in Master and PhD programs and publications, establishment of new collaborations and a data repository at the secretariat among others.
The Director EfD-Mak centre Dr. Edward Bbaale thanked participants for honoring the invitation to attend the dialogue describing the EfD is an activity based research centre with a number of activities lined up.
Dr. Bbaale informed participants that the centre has a number of research fellows conducting research and shall be holding such meetings to discuss where the country needs to move.
He said the centre is set to hold a policy tours outside the university to reach out to other stakeholders and Local governments to engage them on matters of policy.
”We are going to consult and find three suitable districts , go there and hold an engagement like this one”.
Dr. Bbaale added that the centre recently held a short course on environmental valuation, evaluation and accounting and will be communicating to public for the next course .
The Director extended appreciation to the EfD secretariat for sending a representative to be part of the policy dialogue expressing commitment of Makerere university in engaging with policy makers.