Environmental Issues and Natural Resources of Uganda

Uganda Profile

Uganda is a landlocked nation in eastern-Africa, west of Kenya, south of Sudan, and Rwanda and Tanzania to the south.  To the west are the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the Great Rift System of Africa.  The Rift valley boundary area includes two of the African Great Lakes, Lake Albert and Lake Edward and the Ruwenzori mountains.  Uganda is a fertile, well-watered country with many lakes and rivers, including a sizable part of Lake Victoria.  The country is mostly plateau declining in to the north and rimmed with highlands and mountains and volcanoes.  Uganda’s major environmental issues are rooted in meeting the human needs for land, firewood, and other natural resources for a rapidly growing population.

The Ruwenzori Mountains have abundant wildlife, some which are considered endangered species, such as the Mountain Gorilla.  Even though Uganda is the size of Oregon, it has an extreme abundance of wildlife including over 1,015 different kinds of birds and 354 species of mammals.  Uganda is home to some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in Africa.

Air Issues in Uganda

High altitude

  • Ranges between 16°C and 34°C
  • Temperatures exceed 30°C in the northeast
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
    • Fuel combustion in transport
    • Household biomass use
    • Animal waste
    • Rice cultivation
    • Industrial fuel combustion
  • Dust
  • Temperature increases
  • Indoor Air Pollution
    • Responsible for 1.6 million deaths worldwide per year, equal to one death every 20 seconds
    • Burning of biomass fuels in simple cooking in inadequately ventilated spaces
    • Programs in place to improve indoor air pollution
      • Energy efficiency week
      • Free distribution of energy saving bulbs
      • Legislation
      • Tax incentives for imported technology
      • Alternative energy technologies
    • Barriers to controlling pollution
      • Social barriers
      • Inefficiency in utilizing biomass
      • Inadequate information on RETs
      • Inadequate Technical and Institutional capacity
      • High up-front costs on RETs
      • Resistance to use human waste for biogas
      • Inadequate financing mechanisms
      • Inadequate local manufacturing capacity of RETs

Agriculture in Uganda

  • Crop and livestock production
  • Affected severely by degradation (over cultivation, overgrazing and deforestation)
  • Main food crops are
    • Bananas 
    • Cereals (maize, rice)
    • Root crops
    • Pulses
    • Oil seeds
    • Vegetables and fruits
    • Coffee
    • Cotton
    • Cocoa
    • Vanilla
    • Sugar Cane
    • Tea
    • Flowers
    • Sweet Potatoes
    • Millet
    • Sorghum
  • Provides occupation for almost 10 million people
  • Has supplied almost all of Uganda’s exports in recent years
  • Per capita food production has declined mainly because of a rapid population growth and because of the conflicts in the north and northeastern parts of the country
  • Favorable soil conditions and climate
  • Receives plenty of rain in most areas
  • Southeast and Southwest averaged 150 millimeters of rain per month
  • Short-dry season in the North during December and January
  • Weather allows for continuous cultivation in the South
  • 70% of the area under cultivation is used to produce locally consumed food crops
  • Women provide over half of the agricultural labor
  • Plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, and bananas are the major food crops
  • Coffee is the primary export for Uganda
  • Cotton, tea, roses, carnations, and tobacco are all major exports
  • Livestock has suffered in past decades
  • Beekeeping industry

Mammals of Uganda

Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

  • Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) 
    • One of the most charismatic flagship species in Africa
  • The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) reports that there are only about 300 mature adult Mountain gorillas (the entire population is estimated to be about 680-720 individuals)

The large mammal populations of Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park came under heavy pressure during the years of civil strife, leading to huge species declines and directional vegetation change.

There are over 354 species of mammals in Uganda.


  • Teeth with lack of a pulp cavity
  • Teeth form thin tubes which are continuously worn down and replaced
  • Burrowing, nocturnal mammal
  • Feeds almost exclusively on ants and termites


  • Largest land animals living
  • Thick skinned
  • Herbivores
  • Spend 16 hours a day collecting food
  • Brains are larger than those of any other land animal
  • Can communicate over long distances by infrasound
  • Elephants are among the world’s most dangerous animals
  • Attack villages regularly
  • 300 people were killed by elephants in Jharkhand, India between 2000 and 2004

Mountain Gorilla

  • Afraid of water, caterpillars, chameleons, alligators, and crocodiles
  • Choose to live on the ground
  • Primarily a herbivore that eats leaves, shots, and stems
  • Diurnal animal, most active between 6:00AM and 6:00PM
  • Large quantities of food are needed to sustain its massive bulk
  • Grow to be 5-6feet and 450-500lbs

Birds of Uganda

Over 280 species of birds has been recorded
There are over 1,015 different species of birds in Uganda.

Stone Partridge

  • Only member of the genus Ptilopachus
  • Bird of the pheasant family
  • Primarily earthy chocolate brown above with sparse pale cream-grey spotting
  • Exceptional amongst gamebirds
  • Evaluated as least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Helmeted Guineafowl

  • Guineafowl bird family
  • Body plumage is grey-black spangled with white
  • Short rounded wings and tail
  • Unfeathered head with a dull yellow or reddish bony knob and red and blue patches of skin
  • Breeds in  warm, fairly and open habitats with scattered shrubs and trees
  • Live as long as 12 years in the wild
  • Hard shelled eggs
  • Well-suited to consuming massive amounts of ticks
  • Great runners and rely on gliding when flying  extended distances
  • Eat spiders, plant food, animal food, seeds, ticks, fruits, greens, snails, frogs, worms and insects, lizards, small snakes, and small mammals

Crested Guineafowl

  • Guineafowl bird family
  • Plumage is overall blackish with dense white spots
  • Distinctive black crest on the top of its head
  • 5 subspecies
  • Monogamous with probable strong and long lasting pair bonds
  • Clutch of eggs are usually around 4 or 5
  • Nest is well-hidden scrape in long grass or under a bush
  • Eggs vary from nearly white to buff

Fishes of Uganda

There are over 350 species of fish known to exist in Uganda’s bodies of water

Nile Perch

  • Firm, white flesh
  • Resembles a cod fish
  • Species of freshwater fish
  • Maximum length of two meters and 530lbs
  • One of the largest freshwater fish
  • Eats cichlids such as the Nile Tilapia
  • Ruined the ecosystem of Lake Victoria when introduced in the 1950’s

Nile Tilapia

  • Plankton feeder, omnivore, and may be used to control aquatic weeds
  • Can feed on mosquito larvae and help fight against the disease malaria

Goliath Tigerfish

  • Up to 2 meters in length and 105lbs
  • Aggressive predators
  • Resorts to cannibalism when food is scarce
  • Have razor-sharp interlocking teeth
  • Streamlined, muscular built body for speed
  • Ferocious when hunting

Amphibians of Uganda

Around 43 species of amphibians are found in Uganda

Osorio’s Spiny Reed Frog

  • Light and dark brown
  • Rectangular dark dorsal spot, narrow extension of the light dorsal pattern to the anus
  • Large Afrixulus

Common Reed Frog

  • Strictly Savannah living
  • Brief snout
  • Horizontal pupils
  • Large clutch of eggs, deposited in water
  • Extensive webbing
  • Characteristic melodic voice

Kisenyi Forest Treefrog

  • Threatened by loss of habitat
  • Lives in tropical and subtropical swamps, subtropical or tropical monatanes
  • Intermittent freshwater marshes
  • Consume crickets

Reptiles of Uganda

There are around 165 species of reptiles in Uganda

Nile Crocidiles

  • Largest living reptile dating back 150 million years
  • Feeds mostly on fish but will prey on animals as they come to the water


Rock Pythons

  • Africa’s Largest snakes – over 5 meters in length
  • Kill their prey by strangulation and are not venomous
  • Feed on large rodents, small antelopes, and could kill a small child
  • Gold on back mottled kind of skin
  • Found in cave in Maramagambo Forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Puff Adder

  • Feeds mostly on rodents but will strike when threatened
  • Found in Savanna parks
  • Sluggish kind of snake

Gabon Viper

  • Largest African Viper
  • Over 2 meters long
  • Black and brown skin pattern with some gold on it
  • Heavy build and found in the rainforests of Africa

Boom Slang

  • Tree snake
  • Back-fanged and very toxic but non aggressive
  • Has not caused any fatalities in Uganda or Africa

Green Tree Snake

  • Non venomous snake found in trees

Mole Snake

  • Up to 2 meters in length
  • Feeds on moles and other small rodents
  • Found in Savanna Parks

Egg Eating Snakes

  • Feeds on bird eggs
  • Swallows the egg whole and regurgitates the shell later


Flap-Necked Chameleon

  • Around 15cm in length
  • Bright and green in color
  • Found in savanna and wooded areas
  • Can grow to double the size and be tan and brown in color under certain conditions

Graceful Chameleon

  • Yellow and green in color and white stripe along the flanks of it

Giant Chameleon

  • Bulky and dark green in color with yellow stripes and a small horn
  • Feeds on small reptiles and insects


House Gecko

  • Feeds on insects


Leopard Tortoise

  • Can weigh up to 30 kilos
  • Leopard like pattern on shell

Nile Soft-Shelled Terrapin

  • Wide flat shell of one meter in length in most cases

Trees of Uganda

More than 310 species of trees and shrubs

  • Combretum and Terminalia shrub and tree species are in the East Sudanian savanna

Araucaria Cunninghamii / Hunsteinii

  • Slow to grow and produces light non-durable wood
  • Requires deep, well-drained, non-stony, fertile soil
  • Needs tending for 3-4 years followed by pruning

Pinus Caribaea

  • Takes 20-25 years to mature
  • Grows fast and produces strong utility timber
  • Prefers light soils
  • Grows best at hot lower elevations
  • Fire resistant when it matures
  • Does not require weeding
  • Needs pruning and thinning

Pinus Oocarpa

  • Conditions similar to caribaea
  • Can grow comfortably in hot and cool sites
  • High drought tolerance

Pinus Patula

  • Moderately fast growing
  • Takes 25-35 years to produce its weak utility timber
  • Fairly fertile, light soils on higher elevations which are cool are preferred
  • Needs thinning and pruning
  • Cannot withstand stony or water logged soil
  • Not fire resistant
  • Seeds must be from selected sources

Cupressus lusitanica

  • Grows fast
  • Takes 25-30 years to produce strong timber which splits when nailed
  • Prone to aphid attacks
  • Not fire resistant
  • Must be planted in deep, well-drained, fertile soil
  • Not wind firm
  • Needs spot cultivation, pruning and thinning and is not tolerant of grass

Eucalyptus Grandis

  • Grows fast
  • In 6-20 years it produces fuelwood, poles, saw logs, and veneer logs
  • Requires fairly fertile soils with limited compaction and stones
  • Affected by drought, water logging, and high temperatures
  • Some trees can withstand fire when mature
  • Needs intensive cultivation and fertilization  after planting
  • Thinning is essential for good saw logs
  • Pruning is only occasionally essential
  • Termite damage may occur in young unweeded fertilization

Maesopsis Emenii

  • Fast growing indigenous species
  • Produces useful timber in 25-30 years
  • Prefers fertile, light-textured soils with good drainage
  • Intolerant of stony, compacted, or water logged soils
  • Sensitive to fire
  • Needs regular weeding
  • Close planting is recommended to provide straight logs
  • Older trees can be thinned

Terminalia Superba

  • Takes 25-40 years to produce utility timber
  • Light or medium-textured soils are best for its growth
  • Soils cannot be too stony or acidic
  • Tolerates some water logging, minimum droughts and weeds
  • Survive minor fires when it grows older
  • Should be planted at wide spacing
  • Self-pruning

Flowers of Uganda


  • Used as exports
  • Perennial flower shrub
  • Contains over 100 species and comes in a variety of colours
  • Different species vary in height


  • Used as exports
  • Herbaceous perennial plants
  • Growing 50-150cm tall
  • Deeply lobed leaves and large flowerheads
  • White, yellow or pink in the wild species

Environmental Governance of Uganda

Developed a master plan on poverty eradication, with the “Plan for Modernization of Agriculture” of 2000

  • Rice production is seen as a key to food security and increased household income

The Department of Water Development in the Ministry of Mineral and Water Resources

  • Responsible for investigation, surveying, design, and construction

The Department of Agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF)

  • Responsible for the operation and maintenance of irrigation schemes
  • The Department of Farm Planning (DFP) within MAAIF
  • The Department of Farm Development (DFD) within MAAIF
    • Major responsibility – to modernize agriculture by transforming subsistence agriculture into an economically viable venture, through the promotion of appropriate technologies in the water sector
    • Has the mandate to promote and spearhead sustainable agriculture through the provision of guidance and strategies in, among others, irrigation, drainage, and water harvesting
    • To promote, test, and popularize the utilization of appropriate machinery and equipment
    • The sections that are directly involved with agricultural water utilization are:
      • The Irrigation and Drainage Section within the Division of Watershed Management of DFD
        • The functions of the Irrigation and Drainage Section are to:
          • Provide policy guidelines on irrigation and drainage and the utilization and management of wetlands
          • Participate in the planning, selection, design and, construction of replicable and sustainable irrigation and drainage systems
          • Provide technical guidance in popularizing farmer-managed smallholder irrigation systems
          • Provide training for staff and other stakeholders in irrigation technology and the sustainable utilization and management of wetlands
          • Coordinate the development of irrigation in the country
          • Monitor and evaluate progress in irrigation activities in liaison with district subject matter specialists
      • The Soil and Water Conservation Section within the Division of Watershed Management of DFD
        • The functions of the Soil and Water Conservation Section are to:
          • Provide guidelines in the formulation of agricultural policies for the conservation of soil and water
          • Plan the promotion of conserving soil and water in farming systems through catchment area approaches
          • Provide technical guidance to promote water harvesting for agricultural production
          • Coordinate all activities in soil and water conservation and watershed development
          • Inspect and provide standards and by-laws for soil and water conservation
          • Provide training and technical backup for staff and other stakeholders on soil and water conservation issues
          • Provide technical advice on the development of fragile lands
          • Provide policy guidelines on sustainable agriculture in semi-arid and marginal lands
          • Participate and coordinate the promotion of agroforestry and other agricultural practices that combat desertification and promote environmental conservation 
          • Monitor and evaluate agricultural activities on fragile lands
  • The Water for Agricultural Production Section within the Division of Agricultural Engineering of DFD
    • The functions of the Water for Agricultural Production Section are:
      • The overall coordination and implementation of provision of water for agricultural production
      • To prepare work plans, strategies, management, and supervisory schedules for agricultural for water use

The Ministry of Water, Lands and Environment (MWLE) has the overall responsibility of initiating the national policies and for setting national standards and priorities for water development and management.

The National Association of Professional Environmentalists in Uganda (NAPE)

    • Several Programs
    •  Energy governance
    • Water resources management
    • Forest and wetlands management
    • Environmental governance, justice and human rights
    • Chemicals Management
  • Campaigns against mining in Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Culture is an important aspect of society that is highly valued in Uganda
  • People look at their rivers, lakes, plants, and animals to be linked with their culture

Civil Society in Uganda

  • Openness, political support, and commitment have provided tremendous support
  • Over 1,200 agencies implementing HIV/AIDS-related activity in Uganda
  • The AIDS Support Organization (TASO)
  • Organization range from National NGO’s (Non-governmental organizations), district-based NGO’s, Religious based hospitals, International NGO’s, CBO’s, and PHA Networks
  • Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders Initiative for Community Action on AIDS at Local Level (AMICAALL Uganda Chapter)
  • AMICAALL launched in November 2002
  • Comprises all designated urban authorities in the country
  • Created foundations for partnership, multi-sectoral action, local-level interventions, sustainability, and scaling up in urban areas in Uganda
  • Stimulated the urban leadership to lead the local response to HIV/AIDS

Economy and trade in Uganda

  • Once rich in human and natural resources
  • Political instability and erratic economic management
  • Among the World’s poorest and least developed country
  • Coffee is the primary cash crop, replaced cotton in the 1950’s
  • Agricultural production is based primarily on peasant cultivation
  • Tea , sugar, vanilla, electricity, fish, and fish products are common exports
  • Roses and Chrysanthemum are major exports
  • Commercial fishing is very popular in Uganda
  • Technological improvements are delayed by economic stagnation
  • Farmers’ face problems such as bad roads, increasing inflation, low producer prices, and a nearly destroyed marketing system
  • Ugandan Shilling is the official currency of Uganda
  • In 1990, 510 Ugandan Shilling’s was worth 1 US Dollar
  • Today 1,920 Ugandan Shilling’s is worth 1 US Dollar

Important environmental people in Uganda

  • Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka – Wildlife veterinarian and director of Conservation through Public Health
  • Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni continues to destroy Uganda’s environment by taking on projects that destroy the forest and displace wildlife
  • President Yoweri Museveni also made a statement to Ugandan’s about settling in the marshlands and how it destroys the environment

Urbanization in Uganda

  • Process through which the proportion of a countries population in urban areas increases
  • Urbanization is extremely low
  • Only 12% of the population live in urban areas
  • Persistent rural poverty causes people to move to urban areas
  • Central region has the greatest urbanization
  • High urbanization in central region is due to Kampala City being the prime urban area
  • Remarkable economic growth and political stability over the last decade have lead to increased urbanization
  • People moving and buying land in the urban areas
  • People building houses in newly urban areas

Further Reading:




Williams, B., & Taylor, T. (2010). Environmental Issues and Natural Resources of Uganda. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/152593


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