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Margaret Athieno Mwebesa is the Assistant Commissioner for Forestry and the REDD+ National Focal Point for Uganda.

 

What drives you to work for forests and land use issues?

When I was growing up my dream was to become a medical doctor but God had a different plan and purpose for my life. Instead, his plan was for me to get married to a medical doctor – this is indeed what happened.

I was later to pursue my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Forestry, which I completed successfully. Today I have no regrets for having taken the forestry career path because I have touched the lives of local communities and contributed to forestry/natural resources related programmes at the national level and now at a global level.

Personally, I have a passion for trees and plants. As a family, we have planted a number of hectares of trees in a government forest through a permit arrangement with the National Forest Authority (the institution mandated to manage Central Forest Reserves in the country). We plan to keep this as our family retirement package – my contribution to my family, country and international community!!

Currently, I am the Assistant Commissioner for Forestry (responsible for planning and development) while also being the REDD+ National Focal Point for Uganda. The National Climate Advisory Committee, Water and Environment Sector Working Group and Top Policy Management, the highest Policy Guiding Structures in the Sector, have recommended that the National REDD+ Strategy should be used as a reference point in the development of new projects in forestry and other related sectors. Since 60 percent of Uganda's greenhouse gas emissions come from the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, this is a great career achievement for me, and a contribution to my country and the global climate change agenda.

 

Why are forests important to you from your perspective as a woman?

I perceive the importance of forests in a number of ways, especially when I put on different 'hats' or work at different levels of development. I believe it's paramount that whatever we're doing at any level, especially in leadership positions, should contribute to the economic development of communities, and of course to the nation as a whole. As a woman, my goal is to contribute to society and make this world a better place for all to live. I want this to be the legacy that I leave behind.

 

How can we ensure that there is more participation and leadership taken by women in forests and land use issues?

Previously, a number of professional disciplines including forestry were male-dominated. But this is being demystified over the years, and now we see a number of women in leadership positions performing extremely well.

In the early 1990s, the Government of Uganda took affirmative action to uplift women by encouraging them to take up science courses. This had a positive impact on empowering women to take up so-called male-dominated disciplines, including forestry. The other affirmative action is when jobs or training opportunities are announced, women are encouraged to apply or given priority. All these are very good affirmative actions that can be employed to uplift women. At local community institution level, some positions should be earmarked for women, e.g. position of Secretary and Treasurer since women are known to be good custodians of finances.

 

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