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RAM-pump at Mpanga Falls to protect cycads
UGANDA - About ten years ago Protos agreed with the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment to pilot new approaches in the water sector under the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management. This meant that we would use a more cross sector approach into our planning and interventions and ensure better integration of stakeholders, water functions etc. Protos ended up setting an IWRM program in the Mpanga catchment in western Uganda and by doing so, learned useful lessons that eventually made strong impact into the National Policies for natural resource management. As per now national IWRM policy has been put in place where this catchment based approach is recognized as the way to organize natural resource management.
During that period Protos was quite active to develop water points for human consumption, develop and invest in sanitation (a lot was done in schools for example), support and promote tree planting etc. Some hotspots were selected and (for example) in some fishing villages on the shores of Lake George and an encroached wetland where these IWRM principles were used to improve the living situation.
One site had not been a part of the intervention hotspots, Mpanga falls. Despite the fact that the site has a unique ecosystem as it is home to the critically endangered cycads (encephelartos Whitelockii) and is under heavy land pressure, there were no means to intensify activities in this area.
It was with a partnership between SOS – Save Our Species and Protos that we were able to start activities here and could address issues more intensively. Community nurseries were set up to reintroduce cycads in heavily encroached areas, a lot of sensitization was done (in schools, markets using drama performers etc) leading to the formulation of byelaws and the protected areas were demarcated with concrete pillars.
One key challenge of the program was to avoid cattle going into the protected areas, leading to seasonal slash & burn practices and extra damage to these cycads and their habitat. After technical studies were done it was decided that the technology of a hydraulic ram could serve the purpose here. A ram uses the water pressure from a local water fall deep in the valley to pump water out of the gorge. This part of the program came with quite some challenges but eventually we are proud to announce the construction is getting finalized. So the pump is now pumping 31,000 liters of water every day! This is saving families (largely children and women) in the area the huge trek down to the river and also means this will make the cattle healthier and stronger as they won't need to climb down and then back up the long and steep trail to the river. It also means they won't be trampling cycads or destabilizing the soils around them, and the farmers won’t be tempted to burn large areas while passing. A win for people, a win for cows and a huge win for cycads!
As described, even though we only focused on this site since a bit less than 2 years, a lot has been done so far, initiated with the help of SOS – Save Our Species. But more has been planned for. We are looking into extending our activities for another five years in this area to ensure follow up of the previous measures (especially bye laws and enforcement), functionality and efficiency of the water infrastructure and a more intensive focus on support towards local farmers on agriculture practices near the protected areas.