TotalEnergies Uganda has signed agreements with four companies and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to implement its commitments made on biodiversity, environment, road safety and cultural protection in their areas of operation.
The four areas are the major points of concern by the government, the population and the civil society organisations during the oil and gas exploration and development activities.
The oil and gas companies developed the measures aimed at controlling, minimising or preventing negative effects on the ecosystem and the general human livelihoods in the areas of Bunyoro, Acholi, and Alur-land.
The implementing partners include a road-safety and driver training company, Safe Way Right Way for road safety initiatives and Cross Cultural Foundation Uganda (CCFU) for the implementation of a cultural dialogue and heritage programme.
The others are the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to support Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) law enforcement activities in the Murchison (Kabaleega) Falls National Park and the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWT) for initiatives to restore and protect Budongo Forest Central Reserve.
Mr Phillipe Groeuix, the TotalEnergies E&P Uganda General Manager, says this move will also be a response to “detractors” who he says want to see the industry’s development fail.
“Detractors in Uganda are many. There are many more outside Uganda but we want to prove them wrong in the sense that this development is good for the environment, for the communities and the most vulnerable people and the country. We will prove them wrong that instead of being bad, this project is a big opportunity,” said Mr Groeuix.
He said TotalEnergies has its own internal policies based on world standards but that it is also aware of the standards that the government has set to ensure a successful and safest development of the industry.
“TotalEnergies has made clear commitments towards ensuring that its activities are conducted in line with best environmental and social practices. These agreements are just the beginning of a much bigger programme of partnerships for the implementation of our actions for sustainability,” he added. The programmes Enhancing Road Safety and traffic with SWRW is in anticipation of the increase in traffic in the Albertine region.
“The Albertine region traffic is predicted to double over the coming years due to increased oil and gas activities; more vehicles moving equipment and materials for the project coupled with newly upgraded infrastructure leading to more risks on the road,” says Mr Groeuix.
He says the Road Safety initiatives will be implementing the ‘VIA Road Safety and Mobility programme’ in schools in order to provide solutions to this challenge.
The programme themed Road Safety at Heart prioritises road safety sensitisation and awareness in schools with a specific emphasis on young children and youths in the Albertine Region.
Mr Groeuix says it seeks to reach 100 schools and more than 38,000 students in Hoima, Kikuube, Buliisa, Nwoya and Kampala in the first phase of the programme.
The programme involves training teachers who in turn educate their students on fundamentals of road safety and mobility followed by practical demonstrations.
Ms Anita Kayongo, the Corporate Communications Manager TotalEnergies, says with the new good roads, increased traffic and others, there is need to intensify safety programmes especially around schools.
According to the agreement, in the end, the programme will create a road safety culture among the people.
Under the promotion of cultural heritage in partnership with the CCFU, a one year project will be implemented dubbed ‘Culture for Livelihood’ to safeguard and promote culture in Greater Bunyoro, Bugungu, Alur and Acholi sub-regions.
Ms Barbra Babweteera Mutambi, the CCFU Executive Director, says the project aims to promote culture as a key to improving community and individual livelihood, particularly through capacity building and intercultural collaborations in artistic initiatives, crafts and traditional music, with more focus on women, youth and children.
She adds that the programme will involve identifying, safeguarding and promoting traditional knowledge, facilitation of value addition in crafts making and traditional music, building the capacity of traditional music troupes and crafts workers in organisation management, publicity, and marketing.
“Culture is a catalyst for social and economic development and, therefore, we hope to play a vital role in promoting cultural income generating activities through skill development, creativity, and innovation, that will in turn empower the communities for further development and preservation of the beautiful cultural heritage,” Ms Mutambi, says.
The agreement with the WCS aims at supporting improvements of patrol effectiveness in Murchison (Kabaleega) Falls National Park in partnership with the UWA.
This is also in part, aimed at monitoring the movement of animals especially elephants and their reproductive behaviour and if there is an impact by the activities of the industry.
Studies over 10 years has showed a pattern of elephant movements from the park to other places, but they usually return.
It is not clear what causes the migrations for now. The 12-month-programme will also help in campaigns against preaching, according to Ms Kayongo.
The oil company has committed to conserving and restoring forests and forest connectivity through Conservation Education and Awareness around Budongo Central Forest Reserve with the CSWT under the Tilenga Biodiversity Programme.
Mr Joshua Rukundo, of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, says the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust shall be rolling out an educational programme with communities located around Budongo Central Forest Reserve.
“Budongo Central Forest Reserve is the largest Mahogany Forest in East Africa and is home to the largest remaining population of critically endangered Eastern Chimpanzee. The programme shall focus on the roll out of 30 episodes of a radio drama which will focus on chimpanzee habitat restoration, behaviour and the co-existence of communities with other wildlife,”Mr Rukundo says.