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Using Spatial Data for Biodiversity Decision-Making in Uganda

06/10/2021

Using Spatial Data for Biodiversity Decision-Making in Uganda

by Learning for Nature | Originally published on 31 August 2021

Uganda has immense biological diversity that is both nationally and internationally important, offering an excellent opportunity for developing approaches to put nature at the center of efforts towards climate change prevention, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development.

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To support the achievement of Uganda’s national priorities for nature and sustainable development, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Impact Observatory (IO), and the National Environment Management Authority of Uganda (NEMA-Uganda) received funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to develop approaches for using spatial data to identify and safeguard the country’s Essential Life Support Areas (ELSAs). ELSAs are locations where nature-based actions can protect key biodiversity and provide humans with critical ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, food, fresh water, and disaster risk reduction.

As one of 12 initial pilot countries selected to map their ELSAs, Uganda undertook a four-stage process executed through a series of stakeholder consultations. The initial phase identified national vision and priorities based on existing policy commitments. To do this, the process brought together diverse domestic stakeholders to identify up to approximately 10 of the most strategically important nature-based policy commitments in the country. These commitments were used as a foundational framework for the ELSA mapping process. The next phase, called the data hackathon, identified national and global data sources to support the achievement of the priority policy commitments. Based on these inputs, a global and national team used the science of Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP) to develop a customized ELSA analysis for the country. The result of this analysis is an ELSA map that shows indicative areas where action to protect, manage, and restore nature will support the delivery of the priority national policy commitments. Finally, stakeholders work to embed these results in national policy implementation and to communicate their importance at national and global levels.

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The final ELSA map for Uganda shows where nature-based actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore nature can deliver results efficiently across national priorities for biodiversity, climate, and sustainable development in the country. In Uganda, this effort has required cooperation across a vast group of stakeholders through virtual workshops with national and international policymakers, scientists, academia, civil society, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLs), and media to identify, foster, and showcase nature-based solutions using the principles of Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP). Cooperation between diverse groups throughout the consultation process increased understanding and transparency in sharing information and encouraged local ownership of the mapping process. As a result, enhanced coordination efforts and strengthened partnerships will benefit the effectiveness of Uganda’s environmental protection policies.

 national policy implementation and to communicate their importance at national and global levels.

A photo in this story

The final ELSA map for Uganda shows where nature-based actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore nature can deliver results efficiently across national priorities for biodiversity, climate, and sustainable development in the country. In Uganda, this effort has required cooperation across a vast group of stakeholders through virtual workshops with national and international policymakers, scientists, academia, civil society, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLs), and media to identify, foster, and showcase nature-based solutions using the principles of Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP). Cooperation between diverse groups throughout the consultation process increased understanding and transparency in sharing information and encouraged local ownership of the mapping process. As a result, enhanced coordination efforts and strengthened partnerships will benefit the effectiveness of Uganda’s environmental protection policies.

A photo in this story

The most vital parts of Uganda’s work to develop their ELSA map from the perspective of Monique Akullo, the Senior Internal Monitoring and Evaluation officer at NEMA-Uganda and a national leader in the project were the policy and data hackathons. The policy and data hackathons provided additional opportunities to learn about national policies and targets already in existence, as well as raised awareness about the existing gaps to meet these goals that still need to be mitigated. They likewise ensured that the final ELSA map was created based on national needs and priorities.

Developing national capacity to utilize spatial tools for biodiversity

In addition to the final ELSA map, the project also led to the development of an ELSA webtool, which enables stakeholders to iterate the analysis based on evolving national priorities. A series of stakeholder consultations further built in-country capacity to run the analysis using the webtool, fostering national ownership of the project. The establishment of spatial and digital platforms through the project in Uganda meets the national priority of strengthening access to environmental information, education, and communication.

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Uganda is also successfully using the UN Biodiversity Lab (UNBL), an online platform that provides the country team with a secure workspace to access and use high-resolution national and global spatial data, as well as dynamic indicators for subnational and transboundary ELSA management. The platform provides access to spatial data that can help to monitor the impacts of protection, restoration and management of Uganda’s ELSAs. This resource will support decision-making to stop and reverse the degradation of climate change in favor of economic growth. The expected results will lead to an increase in land cover of forest and wetlands and will support the restoration and management of protected areas. Long-term benefits are expected to visibly impact the tourism sector and increase opportunities for employment and job creation.

Scaling up ELSA to support regional and global processes

The ELSA process is currently taking place at the national level, but is envisaged to reach a regional level alongside other countries facing challenges related to shared natural resources and ecosystems. Regional partnership is possible because of the transboundary resources Uganda shares with its neighboring countries. Within the East African Community (EAC), lakes such as Lake Victoria (shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) and Lake Albert (shared by DRC and Uganda) serve as ecosystems that provide food, water, species habitats, and services across borders. Other ecosystems, such as mountain ranges, protected areas within national parks (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, shared by Rwanda, Uganda and DRC), and rivers (The Nile River) can require up to nine states to share one resource. Therefore, each of the countries composing the EAC face similar challenges in environmental management, creating an opportunity to scale up ELSA mapping to preserve biodiversity on a regional level using Uganda as its case study. 

Beyond the regional level, ELSA mapping offers an approach to cohesively support development and implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is intended to orient humanity to a new era of living in harmony with nature. The framework will contribute to the cultivation and preservation of ecosystem, species and genetic diversity while simultaneously meeting human needs. The Open Ended Working Group on the Post-2020 GBF, co-chaired by Mr. Francis Ogwal from Uganda and Mr. Basile Van Havre from Canada, has released a draft framework that includes targets supporting ecosystems and species diversity that will accelerate the use of spatial data for implementation. As countries such as Uganda work to address our planetary emergency, the use of spatial data to map Essential Life Support Areas and platforms such as UNBL will become continually more useful to support action on an international scale.

If you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of how to use spatial data for biodiversity conservation, register for the "Using Spatial Data for Biodiversity" micro-course, and visit the UN Biodiversity Lab to learn more.

Article and pictures retrieved from https://learningfornature.exposure.co/using-spatial-data-for-biodiversity-decisionmaking