Over 30 years after their displacement, the Batwa people is still largely landless and many Twas find themselves having to re-create settlements in the forests. The article below highlights the harsh conditions of living and the consequences of climate change on the indigenous peoples of Uganda, who are for instance severely hit by malaria outbreaks since they were expelled from the areas where they used to live. In order to counter these negative effects, global strategy Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) could represent hope for the country’s indigenous. In the framework of REDD the Batwa, among others, could see their conditions of living improve thanks to the development by Uganda of a national strategy to fight deforestation and forest degradation.
This article was originally published by New Vision:
Three decades after being displaced, the Batwa and Benets also known as indigenous people are still landless. Today, climate change has created benefits to keepers of forests. Will the indigenous people benefit from this initiative?
“I had never suffered from malaria until we were evicted from Mt. Elgon,” said Batya Moya, an elder among the Benets at Suam in Bukwo district near the Uganda-Kenya border. “We have been hit below the belt by malaria outbreaks.”
Moya said they have become landless and that repeated promises by the Government to resettle Batya and thousands of his colleagues have not been fulfilled.
This is repeated at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south western Uganda where Batwa, a group of endangered pygmies gave up their ancestral homeland-the forest for the sake of conservation. The Batwa have been wallowing in misery in attempt to live outside the forest.
Although displaced 30 years ago, Batwa and Benets are the latest victims of conservation Africa. More than half a Century ago, swathes of rangelands such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Katonga Wildlife reserve, Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park were grazing lands for pastoralist communities such as the Basongora, Bahima in western Uganda and Karimojongs in north eastern Uganda.
The pastoralists’ grounds were gazetted as protected areas where Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is in charge and the pastoralists are seen as encroachers when they stray into the national parks or wildlife reserves.
Apart from Batwa, Benets, the pastoralists are also referred to as indigenous people as they have a culture that is distinct from the rest of the tribes in Uganda.
In addition to conservation, the indigenous communities are also facing impacts such as malaria which is related to the changing temperature broadly known as climate change.
The climate change phenomenon refers to seasonal changes over a long period with respect to growing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
It is blamed for the receding glaciers on Mountain Rwenzori, Uganda’s changing seasons, droughts and floods are some of the effects of climate change.
According to reports, providing a solution to climate change is part of the global agenda since it important for the formation of natural ecological systems as well as human economies and civilizations.
Recent studies have shown that human activities since the beginning of the industrial revolution – manifested in fossil fuel consumption for power generation, land deforestation for agriculture, and urban expansion – have contributed to an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by as much as 40%, leading to global warming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has described climate change as “inevitable” in view of the numerous changes observed in the temperature of the atmosphere, oceans, and sea ice, in addition to some extensive changes in the climate cycle over the course of the 20th century.
The IPCC report also points out that the most vulnerable people will be hit hardest by climate change. The Batwa and Benets who were forest dwelling people became displaced more than three decades to pave way for creation of protected areas, according to Nathan Makuregye, the deputy executive director at Pro-Biodiversity.
According to Samuel Cheptoris, the Minister of Water and Environment, a fresh initiative that could help to enhance conservation and also increase forest cover also referred as Carbon sinks has come through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
This is a global climate change effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, encouraging creation of policy approaches and positive incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands.
Uganda is developing a national strategy for addressing deforestation and forest degradation thus enabling the country to benefit from the REDD+ strategy.
As part of the preparations to implement the strategy, a study was conducted to build the capacity of indigenous people to actively participate in both preparation and implementation phases of the REDD+ process.
The researchers led by Gertrude Kenyange, a private consultant discovered that the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) is not yet domesticated by Uganda. In addition, the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, 1989 is yet to be ratified by Uganda.
When it comes to the National Tree Planting, the Forestry Committees have never been established since the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act came into force.
Also the study realizes that the Tree Fund has never been established more than 10 years after the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act came into force.
The National Forestry and Tree Planting Act does not assign any specific responsibility to local governments in the management of central forest reserves and does not provide for effective participation of Indigenous people, according to the report of the researchers.
It only calls for Collaborative Forest Management between Government and Associations of people residing near the forest, but these communities are not ideally indigenous persons. Because of education levels, neglect and non-inclusion it is always very hard for indigenous people to organize themselves in to formal associations legally binding enough to be able to enter into agreement with government for Collaborative Management of forest resources. If these gaps are not addressed, they will affect the implementation of the REDD+ strategy and participation of Indigenous people, according to the report.
The study conducted by Kenyange also noted that potential conflict over management of climate finance (including REDD+ funds) by different government agencies with conflicting institutional mandates. This is likely to frustrate the participation of indigenous people including Batya in the implementation of the national REDD+ strategy.
Published on UNPO on April 17, 2018
Candido Mezua is an indigenous leader from Panama who was present at the recent violent protests in Brazil. At the climate conference in Bonn, he tells DW why it's crucial for indigenous peoples to defend forests.
The Paris Agreement included indigenous peoples as a key element to improve climate protection. Recent studies have shown that titling land rights to indigenous communities decreases deforestation and forest degradation.
However, indigenous leaders say their land rights are still being violated - which prevents them from properly protecting the forests in which they live. Violent protests in Brasilia in late April have brought back the discussion back to the spotlight, as did a brutal attack on an indigenous tribe in Brazil at the beginning of May, in which a man had his hands cut off.
Candido Mezua, an indigenous leader from Panama, is taking part in the preparatory meeting for COP23 in Bonn, Germany, where DW spoke with him.
DW: We know forests are important for the climate because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. So how do indigenous peoples contribute to climate protection?
Candido Mezua: All people living within life systems of tropical forests experience climate change as a daily reality, and represent a key element for climate stability.
We live in line with ancestral climate principles. We know that if we do not protect the spiritual connection with water, forests and animals, mother Earth will die.
If indigenous peoples abandon their traditional way of life, the forests of the Amazonia, of Indonesia or of the Congo basin would disappear. But many people are not aware of those principles, and only see the forest as a source of economic gain that they want to own.
Recent studies show that granting land titles to indigenous peoples helps decrease deforestation. Why is that?
If we still lived in ancestral times when indigenous peoples had total control over the territory and its resources, we would not need those titles. But today, if we do not get title, governments hold control over our territories and can decide what to do with them. This is how they grant licenses to large corporations for mining gold, for extracting oil, for developing large-scale agribusinesses with palm oil or soybean plantations … These monocultures degrade the forest. The countries of the Global South do not realize that we must [preserve forests to] keep the climate stable.
The delimitation of territories has led to very violent conflicts in Brazil. What is really happening there?
The Brazilian constitution enshrines the land rights of indigenous peoples and the need to delimitate and grant title to their territories. But under the pretext of differing legal interpretations, the government seeks arguments to avoid complying with that constitutional obligation. The Brazilian ministry of agriculture is one of the main promoters of large agribusiness like palm oil and soy. With fewer laws supporting indigenous land rights, it can open the way for more of this business.
The situation in Brazil is a common reality for all indigenous peoples - from Standing Rock to the far south. We fear that if Brazil reduces indigenous rights, this might serve as a model for other Latin American countries.
You took part in the protests in Brasilia last April. How did you experience it?
The struggle has no other aim than protecting indigenous lifestyle and forests. We have asked for our constitutional rights to be respected in many peaceful forms, but since the government has not attended to our continuous requests, we had to seek new forms of drawing attention.
In the protest, I saw women carrying their children, scared and crying, I saw young and old people, and I felt the need to raise our voices and let other countries know what is happening there. It is so hard to reach decisionmakers and those responsible for protecting our forests.
Indeed, many were seriously injured during the protest. How did it happen?
I experienced how fast violence spread. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
Since I was a foreigner there, my friends were protecting me and recommended for me to stay back a bit. "If you go to the front, the government can classify you as a terrorist and you can get imprisoned for life," they told me. Even with that fear, it is hard not to react when you see your brothers being shot at or attacked with tear gas. I wanted, at least, to protect women and children; after all, they will represent us in the next generations.
I wish we could talk with the government and reach an agreement in a peaceful way - but the reality is different.
You are now participating in the pre-COP23 climate meetings in Bonn. What do you expect to achieve through these talks?
Thanks to the support of countries such as France or Norway, we were able to exert pressure for the Paris Agreement to include topics such as the importance of indigenous ancestral knowledge for the sustainable management of forests. Now it is time for implementation. Since we were part of the process, we also have to take an active role in implementing it.
Drawing international attention is crucial. We are more than 300 million indigenous people around the world, and we are stabilizing the global climate. But while we agree on our responsibility, we want to be heard with the same respect as other actors and countries. Who hears us, who speaks up for us? It is our task to come here to the Global North and to make our voices heard.
Published on DW on May 12, 2017.