Achieving No Net Loss For Communities And Biodiversity In Uganda


Period: April 2016 – April 2019

Funder: Department for International Development, UK’s Darwin Initiative

Researchers: E.J. Milner-Gulland, Victoria Griffiths, Julia BakerJoseph Bull

Collaborators: National Environment Management Authority Uganda (NEMA), Nature Uganda, International Institute of Environment & Development (IIED), Wild Business LtdWildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Uganda  


Project overview

Governments, financial institutions and businesses worldwide are adopting No Net Loss (NNL) targets for biodiversity, and using offsetting to achieve this. Biodiversity offsets offer the potential to reconcile the objectives of conservation and development through compensating for residual biodiversity impacts after the mitigation hierarchy has been implemented (avoid, minimise, restore/rehabilitate, offset). Moreover, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) highlighted how offsets can help Parties to achieve conservation goals.

Sacred tree in Uganda
Sacred tree in Uganda

The technical challenges of NNL are widely explored from an ecological perspective within academic literature. However, while international good practice guidance calls for offsets not to make local people worse off, there is a fundamental lack of understanding of how to achieve NNL with regard to people’s use of, and cultural values for, biodiversity, and the social, economic and ecological trade-offs involved.

This is a major challenge for countries where poor people depend on natural resources, where poorly planned offsets can exacerbate local poverty, and where impacts vary by gender and livelihood.

Using the Bujagali and Isimba Hydropower Projects and the Kalagala Offset in Uganda, this work seeks to explore ways in which development and offset activities can result in no net loss of biodiversity while at the same time ensure that local people are no worse off.

The World Bank-funded Bujagali Hydropower Project (BHP) was completed in 2012, with a sustainable management plan developed for its offset (Kalagala) to address biodiversity and human impacts. The area has high cultural, livelihood and biodiversity value.

The Isimba Hydropower Project (IHP) is being constructed downstream of BHP (planned completion in 2018) and an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of IHP and its effects on the Kalagala Offset is now being undertaken.

NEMA, the responsible Government agency, and Nature Uganda, a leading conservation NGO, have identified an urgent need to understand how the Isimba project may affect the Kalagala offset while they can influence its implementation, and for general guidance on monitoring and mitigating social and ecological impacts of offsetting in Uganda.

  Kalagala falls, part of the Kalagala Offset
Kalagala falls, part of the Kalagala Offset

This project will work at a local, national and international level, supporting governments, NGOs and business to integrate local poverty alleviation, equity and cultural heritage into biodiversity offsets for national economic development. From research on the biggest hydropower/offset in Uganda, it will produce, and support implementation of, local and national policy guidance for Uganda, and generate lessons internationally.


Planned activities

  • Research the costs and benefits that the Bujagali and Isimba Hydropower Projects and the Kalagala Offset have on local people and biodiversity in the area.
  • Review the existing Kalagala Offset Sustainable Management Plan and the Isimba Management Plan and provide recommendations on how to address key gaps and aid their implementation.
  • Assist NEMA with drafting and publishing new biodiversity offset guidelines.
  • Work with NEMA and Nature Uganda to improve their understanding on how to achieve NNL through biodiversity offsetting so that they are better equipped to design, implement, monitor and evaluate biodiversity offsets.
  • Establish a Business and Biodiversity Forum, enabling government, NGOs and businesses to work together on NNL of biodiversity goals for development which better account for local people’s needs and priorities.
  • Draft new international guidelines on incorporating social costs and benefits into biodiversity offsetting.


Project outputs

  • The project inception workshop was held in Kampala, Uganda in May 2016.focus group
  • A stakeholder and institutional analysis was carried out by Nafeesa Esmail, Wild Business, for the project in 2016/17, the report can be downloaded here.
  • Social data collection was completed  in Feb 2017; analysis and write up is currently underway, with first outputs expected in early 2018.
  • Ecological data collection is underway, with first outputs expected in early 2018.
  • The first annual project meeting was held in Kampala, Uganda in April 2017. Priorities for year II were finalised 
  • The main project researcher Victoria Griffiths will be presenting her research to date at the International Congress on Conservation Biology in July 2017 in Colombia.


More information 

Download the project flyer here

Download the Stakeholder and institutional analysis here


Media reports

Prof. EJ. Milner-Gulland was invited to do a guest lecture at the Aga Khan Development Network in April 2017 in Kampala. Read the press coverage here:

Daily Monitor: 6th April 2017

Saturday Monitor: 8th April 2017