The opening session was honoured with participation from distinguished delegates from different countries; including Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Australia and Sweden. Special attendance and facilitation included the Government of Uganda Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs) and Local Governments; Uganda Landcare Network; Africa Landcare Network; International Landcare and Evergreen Agriculture. The opening session provided an opportunity to extend welcome remarks and official opening of the conference, which was performed by a representative of the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries from the host Government of Uganda.
Welcome Remarks by Vice Chairperson, Landcare
The Vice Chairperson for Uganda Landcare and conference host (Dr. Joy Tukahirwa) thanked all participants for setting aside time to attend the conference and passed a warm welcome on behalf of the organising committee. He thanked the Government of Uganda for the technical and logistical support and applauded the conference sponsors for different forms of support.
She gave special thanks to the organising committee and the Uganda Landcare Network Team for the coordination efforts. In addition to introducing Guests from ULN and different country delegates, she introduced Dr. Dennis Garrity, a former Director General for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Chairperson to the International Landcare and the Evergreen Agriculture; who initiated landcare interventions and continues to give forward looking technical guidance and resource mobilisation. She applauded the commitment by the organising committee of the conference and declared that the success was a dream come true that should open more avenues for strengthening ULN undertakings and partnerships with other chapters and innovation platforms. She wished the participants fruitful deliberations.
Welcome Remarks by Kabale District Local Government
On behalf of the technical team of the host District Local Governments, which hosts the Kabale District Landcare Platform, the Secretary for Production (Mr. Eric Tumwesigye) and Chairperson gave a warm welcome to all participants to the wonderful Kigezi Highlands, which were dubbed the Switzerland of Africa by British Deputy Secretary of State for colonies (Winston Churchill) when he visited Uganda in 1907, because of the hilly nature and coldness. They appreciated that the landcare conference was timely because the celebrated Switzerland of Africa and most other areas in Uganda (also dubbed the Pearl of Africa) have lost that glory due to poor landcare, which will be revisited during the conference.
In his welcome remarks, the Kabale District Chairperson (Mr. Besigye Keihwa), who is the Vice Chairperson of Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA) recognised attendance by the District Chairpersons of Rukungiri and Ntungamo and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for Ntungamo District. He reiterated that the conference has come at the right moment, where the experiences of poor land management have been a challenge to the Kigezi region and other areas in Uganda leading to extremes cases of loss of lives, crops, livestock and other assets. He expressed a fear that given the fact that land in most of Uganda provides the primary source of food and income, poor land management practices will not sustain livelihoods and hence the need for judicious care for the land is timely. He used the adage that if you do not give a cow the grass and water, it will not give you milk and urged all participants to support landcare initiatives.
He expressed gratitude to Dr. Joy Tukahirwa and all members of the Uganda Landcare and the Kabale Agroforestry Network who have started the district platform that has registered a lot of success such as promotion of agroforestry and restoration of areas previously degraded by landslides. He reported that in appreciation of the landcare interventions, Kabale District Local Government has set aside a small budget for landcare and strongly supports all initiated interventions. He appreciated that the conference will gives tools to the participants that can guide on preventing and reducing land degradation. He urged the participants to use the opportunity for sharing experiences from other countries to promote sustainable land management in Uganda and other participating countries.
He requested participants to utilise the field excursions scheduled on the last 2 days of the conference to visit important tourist attractions in the region such as Lake Bunyonyi, where the conference venue is hosted and Echuya Forest and other catchment areas for Lake Bunyonyi and Kabale Municipality. He requested participants to liaise with the conference organisers for a visit to globally celebrated tourist sites in Kigezi such as the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which host more than 50% of the world Mountain Gorilla population and urged participants to use a concession that has been offered to the conference participants by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
He urged all conference participants to pay particular attention during the different sessions and gain more knowledge and experiences to be shared for use in their different respective areas. He wished the participants a happy stay in Kigezi and Uganda.
Official Opening by Government of Uganda; Minister, for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries
A representative of the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Ms. Eve Luvumu) delivered a speech on behalf of the conference host, Government of Uganda. She welcomed all participants and appreciated the commitment for sustainable management of land and natural resources as summarised in the conference theme aimed at achieving “resilient landscapes and livelihoods through Landcare approach.”
She reported that Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has tried to achieve the previous commitment to support the Uganda Landcare Network activities. However, all the plans are not yet done due to limited resources. She appreciated the continued commitment by all actors and appreciated the need for partnerships and working together. She pledged more technical support to the ULN activities through the single spine extension approach by Government of Uganda.
The Chief Guest appreciated that outputs from the interventions implemented by landcare activities contribute to agro-industrialisation targets in Uganda’s Vision 2040 and the National Development Plans. The interventions also contribute to different policies that emphasise the importance of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) in improved agriculture production and productivity. However, she noted that due to budget constraints, funding for agriculture in Uganda is limited to only 2.5% of the National Budget. She therefore appreciated that the Landcare Network initiative plays an important role of giving additional support to the limited resources allocated to agriculture by Government.
She therefore urged participants from Uganda and other countries to use opportunities such as the landcare workshop to achieve the best outputs. She reported that MAAIF has recruited SLM specialists among the extension agents, who have promoted different technologies in different areas, including Kabale and the Kigezi region, who would benefit from facilitation through the landcare initiative. She also pledged continued MAAIF commitment to work closely with Non-State Actors including the Uganda Land Care Network to promote agro-industrialisation.
She urged the landcare team to devote more efforts to inform communities and other land users to appreciate dangers of poor land management practices. She reiterated more support by MAAIF for laying strategies, which are backed by a number of policies for guiding SLM and working together with different stakeholders.
She officially opened the workshop and wished participants fruitful deliberations.