- December 13, 2022
- Posted by: Mariam Kasemiire
- Category: Uncategorized
***The International Conference on Geographical Science for Resilient Communities, Ecosystems and Livelihoods Under Global Environmental Change (GORILLA) seeks to contribute to the realization of the Global Development Agenda 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063.
The resilience of ecological and social systems has gained heightened attention globally and are at the center of the United Nations Global Development Agenda 2030 manifesting in; (a) the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, (b) the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015-2030 with its four priorities and 7 targets, (c) the Paris Agreement geared at keeping temperature within the 1.5 º- 2 ºC threshold.
Substantial efforts by the global community have been variously invested in resilience building and sustainable systems in light of multiple exposures and threats. But huge gaps and challenges still remain that compromise realizing the desired goals. The effects of the global financial crisis, existing geo-political tensions and the emergence of COVID19 altered the resilience trajectory with new dimensions in health, natural resources and poverty. Moreover, recent events exemplified by record temperatures registered in several countries but most notably in the UK, the increasing frequency and magnitude of hydrometeorological hazards as witnessed in Uganda, the increasing loss of biodiversity (>1,000,000 species lost) as recently reported by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have heightened the need for urgent interventions that protect vulnerable societies. A consequence of these processes coupled with other factors including but not limited to land use and land cover conversions, rapid urbanization, is that mixed progress has been registered in realizing the sustainability targets for 2030 (https://sdg-tracker.org) with Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) countries posting dismal progress. Uganda currently ranks 136/163 in SDG performance with an SDG Index Score of 53.5 (https://dashboards.sdgindex.org/profiles/uganda). Contextual knowledge creation and utility coupled with harnessing evolving and emerging technology are critical ingredients in building sustainable and resilience pathways and systems which the Global Sustainability Agenda aspired to achieve.
The 2nd GORILLA Conference
The 2nd GORILLA Conference organized by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University, and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) sought to make a contribution to the realization of the Global Development Agenda 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063 by addressing two fundamental questions; (1) “how science, research and the academia can contribute to the expedited achievement of global targets and resolve societal challenges? (2) how local, regional and international partnerships as well as interactions between science, policy and practice can enhance the delivery and achievement of the global development targets?
The conference held on 8th-9th December 2022 at Protea Hotel in Kampala was coordinated by Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Climatic Sciences, also Deputy Principal, CAES (Chair), and Dr Jerome S. Lugumira, Natural Resources Manager (Soil and Land Use), NEMA (Co-Chair). Sponsored by UNESCO, Biodiversity Foundation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, NORAD, UK Research and Innovation, BRAC Uganda, ARUA Water Centre of Excellence (CoE), and the Regional Centre for Mapping Resources for Development (RCMRD), the conference was attended by eminent scholars, researchers, representatives from the government and civil society organizations, and policy makers. It was presided over by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, and graced by the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe; the representative of the Executive Director, NEMA, Dr Daniel Babikwa; the Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga; and the Dean, School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Prof. Fred Babweteera.
The conference featured a number of keynote speeches and presentations in relation to nature-based systems in mitigating Hydro-Meteorological hazards and disasters; climate smart agriculture for sustainable resilience; land degradation; migration and displacement; water management; biogeography, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation; and the future of smart cities and urban systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Prof. Tonny J. Oyana, Principal College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS), Makerere University, also GIS and Spatial Analysis expert shared insights on optimizing biodiversity data science for societal benefits in developing countries. Dr Joy Obando, an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Kenyatta University delivered a presentation on building climate resilient communities and ecosystems in Sub Saharan Africa, whereas Dr Justine Namaalwa, an Associate Professor and Head, Department of Environmental Management at Makerere University addressed participants on the significance of optimizing green assets as a pathway to achieving the global development agenda. In her remarks, Prof. Namaalwa emphasized the need to preserve nature. “Compromise nature then you fall on the targets of the Global Development Agenda. There is need to take stock of our natural assets and reflect on their value. If we are to continue with the mantra of no one should be left behind, there should be national ownership over the development process. We also need to adopt informal and formal knowledge systems, and embrace citizen science as well as global partnerships,” she explained.
Prof. Jan Ketil from the Department of Geography, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) briefed participants on the geography of disaster risk and participatory risk management, sharing insights on harnessing sensors and geospatial technology for disaster risk management. Dr Samuel Partey from UNESCO Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya highlighted the significance of biosphere reserves in building resilient ecosystems and societies. Dr Partey is the youth focal person for science, and the evaluation focal point for UNESCO’S Oversight Unit at the Office in Nairobi.
In his presentation, Prof. Heiko Baltzer from the University of Leicester, UK called for improved satellite earth observation as a measure to strengthen forest governance and livelihood resilience in Africa.
The conference also featured a panel discussion on a number of topical issues in regard to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG); research and policy formulation; building resilient communities; prioritization of resilience in government planning and budgeting; factors undermining innovativeness; and the use of geoinformation in the quest to achieve sustainable development. Discussants included Hon. Dr. Magolo John Faith, Member of Parliament Bungokho County North and member of the Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change; Mr. Othieno Odoi, Senior Planner, Trade and Tourism at the National Planning Authority; Ms. Celia Nalwadda, Senior Research Officer, Uganda National Academy of Sciences (UNAS); Ms. Hellen Aketch, Project Manager BRAC Uganda; and Dr Anastasia Wahome, Lead, Science/Data at the Regional Centre for Mapping Resources for Development, Nairobi. In his submission, Hon. Magolo informed participants that Parliament had passed the National Environment Act, 2019 and the National Climate Change Act, 2021 to fast track the implementation of SDG 13 (Climate Action). Brac Project Manager, Ms. Hellen Aketch called for strengthened partnerships between universities and industry for increased uptake of research and sustainability of innovations. Ms. Anastasia Wahome emphasized the importance of geoinformation in disaster planning and management, whereas Dr Othieno Odoi from National Planning Authority noted that checks had been put in place to ensure issues regarding resilience, climate change, gender, and environment are catered for before government plans and budgets are passed. The discussion was moderated by Dr Patrick Byakagaba, a Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Management, CAES, Makerere University.
Remarks by the Minister – Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza
In her remarks, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza urged Africans to embrace technology development as a measure to foster socio-economic transformation on the Continent. “Science contributes 50% to our national development. However, we haven’t done much to embrace technology development. We are blindly technology consumers, mainly relying on imports which makes it hard for us to achieve sustainable development. Africans should stop delegating thinking and work towards developing their own technology. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as consumers of technology and work on educating a thinking generation that can develop our own technology. Universities have done well but I encourage them to change their mindset and focus more on developing technology. We cannot afford as a country, in this new dispensation of green energy economies, post COVID19, and the future as envisioned in Vision 2040, to remain dependent on imported technology. We need to be more innovative,” she advised.
In line with the conference, the Minister emphasized the importance of geospatial tools in conserving ecosystems. Highlighting the significance of geography in developing the mobility industry, the Minister called for development of newer construction technologies. “The continued use of soil and stones in construction will lead to deformation of the ecology,” she noted.
Addressing participants, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe decried the continued depletion of ecosystems. “Climate change resulting from the continued destruction of ecosystems has led to erratic weather conditions with severe consequences for humanity. Because of erratic weather conditions, we cannot have good produces in terms of food and we are likely to have long spells of hunger. Achieving resilient and sustainable livelihoods requires continued research and invention of technologies to address challenges of climate change. It is gratifying that this conference seeks to address many of these challenges,” he noted.
The Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga reiterated the need to build resilient communities and ecosystems for improved livelihoods. “Through research, we are looking for ways of improving community resilience in order to have sustainable ecosystems for improved livelihoods. This conference serves as a platform for us to share experiences in the different ecosystem research areas and best practices in trying to curb climate change. Climate change is real and a lot has to be done. We need to re-adjust the way we do things. There are practices we have come up with in relation to our day to day activities like water conservation and soil management that will help us combat some of the hazards resulting from climate change, and at this conference, we are focusing on climate smart agriculture. As a country, we purpose to move from substance climate smart agriculture to an income-oriented climate smart agriculture,” she said. The Principal also noted that the College was committing more efforts towards achieving the sustainable development goals. “As a country, we committed to having an input to achieving the SDGs. At this conference, we are emphasizing our intention and being very proactive in ensuring that we tackle the SDGs, putting it in mind that we have only 8 years to hit our target. As researchers, we are purposing to make contribution to the realization of all SDGs, with special focus on Goal 1 that seeks to alleviate poverty.”
Addressing participants, the Chair of the Organizing Committee, Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze said the conference presented a great opportunity for conceptual, empirical and theoretical discourse on pressing sustainability and resilience issues. “The GORILLA conference serves as a platform for bridging the science-policy-practice gaps and deriving actionable and policy-oriented measures that can potentially transform societies,” he noted. He said a special publication had been planned with the African Geographical Review (AGR) journal in commemoration of Mak@100. He expressed gratitude to the sponsors of the conference and the local organizing committee.
Delivering his remarks, the Head, Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Climatic Sciences, Makerere University, Prof. Mugagga Frank appreciated the sponsors of the conference and the participants for committing time and resources to address issues crucial for sustainable management of ecosystems and livelihoods. He also appreciated the International Geographical Union (IGU) for its supports towards the Uganda Geographical Association. “We profoundly thank IGU, through Prof. Michael Meadows for supporting us when we petitioned against the merger of the Bachelor of Geographical Sciences with Meteorology and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University. The petition was successful and the programmes were left as distinct disciplines,” he noted. Prof. Mugagga is the President of the Uganda Geographical Association, an organization that works to develop professional geographers with knowledge and skills to effectively address global environmental challenges. The Association conducts research on pertinent issues affecting humanity such as climate change adaptation and mitigation, landslides, floods, soil erosion and sedimentation, land degradation, regional development, ecosystems management, urbanization, population growth and development, water scarcity and food security. The Association also holds periodic retooling courses for geography teachers and other civil servants. Prof. Mugagga congratulated Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze upon being elected IGU Vice President for Africa.
In his closing remarks, Dr Jerome S. Lugumira, Natural Resources Manager (Soil and Land Use), NEMA said government was committed to the use of science in fostering national development. He reiterated the power of networking in trying to address global development challenges and urged researchers to actively engage policy makers in their projects.
Pre-conference hackathon and training
Satellite Earth Observation (EO) provides a wide range of environmental data information which are key to the effective planning and monitoring of the environment. In this regard, the College held a three-day pre-conference hackathon on geospatial-based cloud computing for biodiversity and ecosystem resilience with the aim of engaging early career scientists, researchers and practitioners with diverse backgrounds to foster collaboration in the use of geospatial technology and earth observation to address sustainable development issues, especially on biodiversity and ecosystem resilience.
The College also held a three-day training on optimizing emerging geospatial technologies in evaluating climate change impacts on vegetation. Vegetation resources in tropical Africa are under increasing threat both from climate change and a spate of anthropogenic activities. Yet a substantial proportion of livelihoods in Africa is linked to environment and natural resources. Thus, the need for improved monitoring to ensure integrity and resilience of vegetation resources and ecosystems is apparent in line with the goals and tenets of the Global Development Agenda 2030. Geospatial technologies occupy a vintage position in monitoring, analysis and overall resilience building. The training aimed to, 1) equip participants with emerging tools and technologies that can be harnessed in analyzing climate change impacts on vegetation and ecosystems, 2) build an ecosystem of champions to propel the utility of geospatial technology, 3) to improve the ecosystem and vegetation resilience to climate change.
The trainings were coordinated by Dr Daniel Waiswa from the School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Makerere University; and conducted by Dr Allan Mazimwe from the Department of Geomatics and Land Management, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University; Dr Bernard Barasa from the Department of Geography, Kyambogo University; and Mr. Thomas Enuru from the School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-Engineering, CAES.
Details on the 1st GORILLA Conference at: https://news.mak.ac.ug/2020/12/the-1st-international-gorilla-conference-opens-at-mak/