A New Report Calls for No Go Areas for Mining and Extractive Activities as Threats to Water, Food Sovereignty, and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories Increase Across Africa.
A new Report released 3rd July 2014 by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Uganda and The Gaia Foundation (UK) reveals how mining is significantly threatening ecosystems and communities in the Bunyoro region of Uganda. The Report – Mining and its impacts on Water, Food Sovereignty and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories – advocates for the recognition and protection of watersheds, food sovereignty areas, and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories as No Go Areas for mining and extractive activities.
Mining and extractive activities are growing rapidly in Uganda and across Africa. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in Uganda estimates there are 3.5 billion barrels of oil and gas deposits in Uganda’s Albertine region alone. The impacts of mining are of grave concern to communities and civil society organisations across Uganda and beyond.
The Report warns that oil extraction, which is projected to begin in Uganda by 2017, would have destructive, widespread and long-term impacts on the Bunyoro region, which is celebrated for its rich biodiversity and cultural heritage. The region’s abundance of water, food growing areas and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, upon which surrounding ecosystems and the lives and livelihoods of communities depend, are at great risk. Women are likely to be disproportionately affected by mining given their dependence on these ecosystems and the vital role they play in their protection. As ecosystems are interconnected, the impacts of mining would threaten not only Uganda but also the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Sudan- which share a common watershed – with untold political implications.
Asuman Irumba, a member of the Custodians’ Coalition in Bunyoro, in the Albertine region, comments:”Sacred Natural Sites existed before our great grand fathers but oil activities could destroy them despite the spiritual significance of our sites. In Kaiso, we have many Sacred Natural Sites. We shall not be intimidated and we shall not give up performing our rituals in our sites. We are who we are because of our Sacred Natural Sites.”
In response to this determination of local communities to protect their ancestral lands, the Report emphasizes the important role of communities, civil society and government in preventing and reducing the impacts of mining on water, food sovereignty and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories. The report cites relevant laws and policies which could be used to assert a right and responsibility to say ‘No’ to mining.
The Report also calls for recognition of, and compliance with, unwritten law – the laws of the Earth (Earth Law) which are reflected in communities’ customary governance systems – as central in the protection of Nature from the threat of mining and extractive activities. A movement is growing in Africa for the revival and practice of Earth Law, embedded in customary law.
As Frank Muramuzi, Executive Director, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) comments; ”This Report will be a basis for people in Uganda and in Africa in general, for using unwritten law to protect people’s rights and the rights of Nature. You cannot protect people’s rights without protecting Nature’s rights. Human rights and Nature’s rights go hand in hand. This report recognises the fact that Earth Law should be the basis of all laws (written and unwritten). I encourage all readers to use it to promote human rights and Nature’s rights. We urgently need to recognise and support the call of communities to respect Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, food sovereignty and watershed systems as No Go Areas for extractive activities. ”
Liz Hosken, Executive Director, The Gaia Foundation further comments; ”This Report is a wake up call – to recognise the toxic wasteland we will pass on to future generations of all species, if we allow mining to continue. Mining is breaching our Earth’s fundamental laws, especially fossil fuel extraction which not only destroys vital ecosystems and precious water and food systems, but drives climate change. We simply cannot afford to gamble the future of our children for the illusion of a quick economic fix, when there are alternatives. The choices we make today will decide the fate of our children. This Report is an important tool for the growing movement saying Yes to Life, No to Mining – the stark choice we are facing on an already fragile Earth.”
The Report offers a tool for communities, civil society and other stakeholders in Uganda and elsewhere, to strengthen the protection of water, food sovereignty and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories – which are interconnected – and to have confidence in saying ‘No to Mining’.
This publication was produced with support from the African Biodiversity Network, and Advocates for International Development.
This publication was funded by the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of NAPE and Gaia and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
This project is funded by the European Union
”This is a timely Report when extractive activities are exacerbating the devastation of healthy ecosystems, especially water sources, food chains, land, climate and communities, which are the fundamental conditions for life and livelihoods to exist. Standing for the protection of customary rights, community resilience, Sacred Natural Sites and healthy ecosystems, the African Biodiversity Network fully endorses this Report, recognising the urgent need for collective actions to stop the growing threat of mining and extractive activities in Africa as well as the recognition of Sacred Natural Sites as No-Go Areas.”
Fassil Gebeyehu Yelemtu, African Biodiversity Network (ABN)
”The urgency of the Report is inescapable when we consider the fact that African governments are increasingly relying on mining as a prime income earning base. When a country depends primarily on rents from mineral and other natural resources, they cannot fundamentally defend water, food sovereignty and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories. These must be recognised as No-Go Areas for mining and other extractive activities. This Report is an excellent tool for empowering communities in the line of fire, and provides a template for similar efforts across Africa.”
Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria
”The Mupo Foundation endorses this Report which reminds us that communities, indigenous forests, Sacred Natural Sites, water and food sovereignty are integral to a healthy Earth system. Mining and extractive activities are destroying these fundamental conditions for life, which communities have been protecting for centuries. Those of us living today, we carry a responsibility for deciding the future of our children and their children, and all the children of Earth communities. This Report is a useful tool for communities resisting mining across the world. For the sake of future generations of all species, we join others in saying Yes to Life, No to Mining.”
Mphatheleni Makaulule, Mupo Foundation, South Africa
”This Report comes at the right time when Uganda, like many other countries of Africa, is faced with a daunting challenge of safeguarding ecological sustainability in the face of ‘development’ through mining. It makes useful recommendations for the different institutions of governance in Uganda to strengthen implementation and enforcement of existing laws, and suggests reforms to recognise the rights of communities to food, water and sacred ecosystems, and to defend them from extractive and other industries. This Report is a great contribution to the development and practice of the emerging philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence in Uganda.”
Gathuru Mburu, Institute for Culture and Ecology, Kenya
”For centuries, African communities have protected ecosystems and lived according to ancestral customs deeply rooted in the laws of Nature. As the Report explains, Sacred Natural Sites, food sovereignty and water are increasingly threatened and damaged by human activities, such as mining. Humans appear to have forgotten Earth’s laws and are destroying the sacred, but this will have negative impacts on the whole planet. There is a saying, ‘fight against what is natural and it will quickly come back to you.’ GRABE-Benin fully endorses this Report, which gives strength to communities in protecting Nature and indigenous knowledge for future generations.”
Oussou-Lio Appolinaire, Groupe de Recherche et d’Action pour le Bien-Etre au Benin, Benin
”Mining is a major factor adversely affecting peoples’ lives all over the world. As mining uses non-renewable ‘resources’, it risks permanently destroying ecosystems which would otherwise be transferred from generation to generation, thereby undermining the natural balance and multitude of dependent lives. As this Report shows, mining adversely affects Sacred Natural Sites, food sovereignty and water, thereby compromising the rights and responsibilities of local communities to their culture, land, nature, way of living and traditional governance systems. MELCA-Ethiopia endorses this Report’s calling for the protection of Sacred Natural Sites and communities’ customary laws, and for a movement resisting extractive activities.”
Mersha Yilma, Movement for Ecological Learning and Community Action (MELCA), Ethiopia
”This Report from NAPE and Gaia Foundation does an excellent job of considering the threats to ecosystems, land and livelihoods and culture from the potential expansion of fossil fuels within Uganda. It makes sensible, practical recommendations on the right to water, the protection of food sovereignty and sacred sites.”
Andrew Whitmore, Co-chair of London Mining Network, UK
”The Report is apt in painting a picture of how Sacred Sites are under considerable stress from encroachment by investors, and how citizens are struggling against the use and misuse of laws which tend to trust investors and mistrust communities in Uganda. Yet, the communities are rising up irrespective of forces against them. This Report makes very progressive recommendations which require more than simple advocacy but a change of mind set. Such change will need not just lawyers, communities, civil society organisations, but the nation of Uganda and humanity at large.”
Adam Hussein Adam, Consultant on the Right to Nationality at OSIEA, Kenya