There is a saying in Uganda that the British introduced bureaucracy and Africans perfected it, modified it and re-launched it. The process of getting a Letter of Approval (LOA) from the Uganda Designated National Authority provided us with a perfect lesson in bureaucracy but at the end it was a big relief for all to finally have it out of the way. This document is evidence that the project has adhered to all the prerequisite conditions for establishing a carbon project in Uganda. Without it, no project under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can proceed to registration.
Our first application for the LOA was made in September 2011. At that time, we were still trying to get National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to provide environmental compliance approval for the project areas and we were in the process of engaging them. Our intention was to get a clearance pending environmental approval. Unfortunately at that time, due to the lack if the aforementioned approval, the application was shelved. Our focus then shifted to NEMA with various staff members who knew the NEMA officials personally meeting them to try and get our EIA to the top of the agenda. Patrick Emopus who had previously worked with NEMA was very actively involved in this process.. I personally made many trips to Kampala from Jinja for this very purpose.
Eventually in mid January 2012 we received the EIA certificate for environmental approval and applied for the LOA. During this cycle the LOA approval procedure was altered by Climate Change Policy Committee (CCPC) to include a site visit to verify the documentation provided. I was notified of this during March of 2012. This move put a dent into the previously efficient LOA approval system that the Climate Change unit of Uganda was renowned for. At that point the government was short of finance and they were not able to approve funding for either these trips or for the CCPC. Inspite of various interventions including a letter to the Prime Minister’s office we were not able to speed up the process of releasing finances. When in late 2012, the CCPC announced that it was prepared and had finally been funded, we thought this would be the end of the line but alas it was not to be. We selected Iganga as the sample Project area after agreeing on the futility of a visit to Kanungu, which would take around 10 hours to reach on a site visit! A month later when the first LOA was issued, the CCU had – among other errors – indicated that Iganga was the first project, instead of Kanungu. When I tried to get this corrected, I was informed that I would need to have a visit conducted in Kanungu in order to approve the changes in the LOA but again the CCU was short of finance.
After months of deliberations, we eventually got the CCU to agree on funding for the trip to Kanungu. This was eventually to be the final tonic for the issuance of the LOA for us. Beyond this the CCPC had one meeting around November and approved the projects. It took a further two months of weekly phone calls and the intervention from the Regional Coodination Centre of the UNFCCC to finally get the LOA signed on the 4th of February 2014, a full 2 years and 4 months after our first asking. It was a full tour of the bureaucratic public service but with many friends made along the way and a working relationship built, we are sure to have it easier next time round.