Across generations, ethnic tribes, religions and nationalities, the human race continues to derive vital lessons from ancient stories or prophesies, some of which use animals’ characters. An example of such a prophecy is the ‘Prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle’ whose nativity can be traced to South American communities.
The existence of lakes owes much to the presence of catchment areas or water towers, from where they derive some or a majority of their waters. One such example of a catchment area is the Mount Elgon catchment, a transboundary catchment situated at the border between Kenya and Uganda. On the Kenyan side, the catchment consists of a 73,705 hectares forest managed by Kenya Forest Service, a 17,200 hectares nature reserve managed by the Bungoma County Government and a 16,916 hectares national park under the custody of Kenya Wildlife Service (Nabutola et al., 2022).
Nabajjuzi wetland, a Ramsar site, is located in Masaka district central Uganda some 120km southwest of Kampala. Nabajjuzi wetland remains relatively intact despite a long history of resource extraction by local communities. However growing use of wetland products for commercial purposes as well as subsistence use has led to increased levels of harvesting. Some of the surrounding areas have been modified and are built up into trading centres and small towns and this has further caused an increase in demand for resources.
This project contributed to poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation by training communities around the Malagarazi Wetland complex in Burundi on sustainable fisheries and agriculture pratices. Some development activities, such as good fishing practices, can be undertaken without a negative impact. However, many fishermen in the region use inappropriate equipment such as mosquito nets and toxic products. Such practices kill all of the young fish, eventually leading to widespread decline in fish stocks.
Luzira Wetland (the lower part of Nakivubo Swamp) is a mixed papyrus-miscanthus swamp that is part of the greater network of wetlands in the Lake Victoria Basin. Although not a designated site of international importance under The Ramsar Convention, the wetland has been proposed for protection as a conservation area because of its water purification role. The wetland constitutes a critical buffer zone between the run-off from Kampala City and Lake Victoria the biggest water body in Africa.
The Lake Edward and Lake Albert Basin (LEAB) area in DRC and Uganda is endowed with rich surface water fisheries resources that are important for economic growth and social development in the region. More than 12 million people live in this basin, and 73 percent of them (8.7 million people) depend on fisheries for their livelihoods.
Lake Victoria Basin covers an area of 250,000 km2 with the lake taking 68,000 km2. The basin has a population of 35 - 40 million people, with rapidly growing secondary towns, which has resulted in unplanned, sponteneous and unsustainable growth, run-down and non-existent basic infrastructure and services and significant negative impacts on the environment and fragile ecosystem of the lake.
The Kagera Basin, which lies within the four countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, is characterized by low-production subsistence agriculture and widespread poverty. Severe land degradation in the area is linked to loss of soil fertility caused by population pressure and primitive farming methods. The basin countries rank among the world's poorest countries. Land cover depletion including deforestation is wide-spread with almost total absence of reforestation activities.
Yala wetland is a biodiversity rich and diverse ecosystem comprised of the Yala River, Yala swamp and numerous satellite lakes which serve as habitat for birds, haplochromines and cichlid fish species that long disappeared in Lake Victoria and numerous other species. The wetland faces anthropogenic threats such as reclamation of wetlands for farming, burning and over-harvesting for papyrus crafts and cooking fuel, fishing grounds, accessibility paths and sand harvesting.
In an effort to address the escalating pollution of Lake Victoria, the GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) supported a project implemented by Environmental Women in Action for Development (EWAD) aimed at improving the ecosystems of Lake Victoria. This project restored degraded sand mining areas, promoted the use of energy efficient fish smoking kilns and introduced environmentally friendly Eco san toilet facilities in Kigungu, Entebbe Sub district.
Lake Victoria's Yala Wetland is made up of mainly papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) stands. It is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area that hosts many bird species found only in papyrus stands, some of which can only be found in Lake Victoria swamps. Two of these birds, papyrus yellow warbler (Chloroptera gracilinostris) and papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri) are listed as globally threatened species which require urgent conservation action.1 The swamp provides social, economic and ecological benefits, values and functions to the community and its biodiversity.
Malagarasi-Muyovozi Ramsar Site is the largest wetland ecosystem in Tanzania. Since its establishment in 2000, there have been several studies on the biodiversity of the area. Some of these studies have noted a high deforestation rate and overdependence on wetland resources. Unfortunately, findings and recommendations of previous studies have not been shared with the communities.