RAIN’s Environmental Sustainability Program a National Success in Uganda

In 2012, RAIN, Wetlands International and Joint Effort to Save the Environment (JESE), an Ugandan NGO, began the Environmental Sustainability pilot project as part of the Dutch WASH Alliance program in Uganda.

This pilot integrated the WASH 3R approach (retention, recharge, and reuse) and habitat management to address the challenges faced by the communities in the area of the Rwambu wetland, which forms the boundary between the districts of Kamwenge and Ibanda in Western Uganda. Besides the effects in the area, Rwambu became a celebrated example in national policy and a hotspot for training activities.

Implementation started with a small budget for recharge measures and wetlands protection. Just three years later the results are remarkable. Soil erosion has been reduced and the soils on the slopes have started to produce food again, in some cases giving a 50% increase in crop yields. More community members have started to implement the different 3R measures in their gardens. The water table has risen, allowing sustained yields from boreholes and shallow wells in the project area compared to elsewhere in the same sub-county. Farming in the wetland – though not yet fully eliminated – has been reduced, allowing wetland vegetation to regenerate. This and improved water buffering on the hill slopes have significantly reduced fluctuation in stream flows between rainy and dry seasons.

The changes on the ground in Rwambu are impressive, but the impact in Uganda as a whole are more interesting. The project has become a celebrated example used by the Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) to demonstrate best practices in catchment based water resources management. It is mentioned several times in the MWE’s Water and Environment Sector Performance Report 2014. When a minivan or a jeep now battles up the hills to the intervention sites, the farmers hardly look up as they know that these are more visitors to the 3R measures. Over 200 people from NGOs, governments and the private sector visited Rwambu in the past year.

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For more information contact Maarten Onneweer.