Land use change and unsustainable land management practices are accelerating the enrichment of aquatic ecosystems with sediments, nutrients and pollutants. These in turn cause undesirable consequences including reduced water levels, excessive nutrients (eutrophication) and pollution, which affect aquatic ecosystem function and structure, ultimately reducing capacity of water bodies to support water uses such as drinking, recreation, transport, biodiversity and fishing. Sedimentation and eutrophication degrade habits and water quality and can lead to collapse of fisheries. Pollutants such as heavy metals accumulate to levels that make water and fish unsuitable for human consumption. They can lead to shifts in targeted fish species, loss or reduction of fish caught and restrictions to consumption of fish and fishery closures to avoid neuro developmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity that are more devastating in children.
Unsustainable land management practices, including deforestation, bush burning, excess application of agrochemicals and inappropriate waste treatment and disposal are widely spread in catchments of aquatic systems in Uganda, making the challenges such as eutrophication wide spread in water bodies. Due to these practices, areas in Lake Victoria adjacent to areas draining catchments of large agricultural hinterlands through rivers, in some cases are equally or more contaminated than areas of the lake adjacent to large towns, previously known to be the most contaminated. Eutrophication in the lake, one of the major consequences of the unsustainable land management practices could be more devastating for Lake Victoria than fishing. Therefore, promoting sustainable land management (SLM) practices that limit these challenges is indispensable for sustainability of the water uses including fisheries for all water bodies in Uganda. However, SLM practices are most effective as mitigation measures when implemented to target the most affected (degraded areas) in the catchment or most affected areas of water bodies. Success of implementation also depends on the capacity and skills of implementing stakeholders such as farmers.
This project will guide SLM investment priorities and increase capacity to promote sustainable catchment management practices within catchments of water bodies in Uganda. The aim is to improve the ecosystem health and livelihoods of communities. The study area is Lake Wamala, a lake within the catchment of Lake Victoria that is a designated Environmental change hotspot . Outputs are expected to be upscaled to other water bodies.