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This is a conversation featuring a dedicated young man who has worked tirelessly to bring climate/biodiversity awareness to many schools and communities in Uganda. I first spoke with Nicholas in a global online meeting of people who were discussing climate breakdown. 

Nicholas, please tell us a little about your life when you were growing up.

I grew up in a rural community of Pallisa in Eastern Uganda in a pastoralist family. My family heavily relied on livestock as a critical source of food, labour and milk.

In our tribe the boys are meant to take livestock for grazing, and the girls fetch water for home use. Through this combined effort there is equal delegation of tasks and in such a way we would be able to have water at home and keep our livestock healthy. My father would sell milk, livestock and cash crops like cotton so that he could pay our school fees and handle the basic needs at home.

As I grew up we faced severe droughts, which dried up most of the seasonal wells that provided water in the village and to livestock in the community. The droughts not only depleted our water wells and grazing lands but also resulted in food scarcity. Together with my brothers, I embarked on extensive journeys with livestock in search of accessible water and grassy areas located kilometres away from their residence. We would leave at about 9am after  breakfast and come back at around 2 or 3pm.

Simultaneously, my sisters also had to walk longer distances to fetch water from the nearest available water wells and boreholes that still had some water. Although the water was not clean enough, they did not have a choice but to fetch that water. Our livestock grew malnourished and it became difficult to sell them at a fair market price. Fruits and crops also dried up. Since my father could not get enough money to fend for us, he resorted to rearing chickens to raise extra income. He would sell a tray of eggs for roughly US$2.5, which was below the market price.

In 2017, I graduated from high school and because I performed well I was given a scholarship to Kyambogo University, a glimmer of hope for me because it enabled me to study for a bachelor’s in surveying in the School of Built Environment, graduating in 2023.

Did you embrace your connection with Nature as a young child, or was it through your education that you slowly felt such an affinity for Nature and the need to protect it?

I think for me the connection with Nature was already there. I loved climbing the trees to pick fresh mangoes, and I would climb tamarind trees in my grandfather’s compound to pick and taste the fruits. We also had jackfruit, passion fruits, banana plantations, cotton, cassava and sweet potatoes. Getting these fruits fresh from the garden was exciting for me and was an exercise in trying to explore each one. We also had many trees around our compound and I noticed that some would shed leaves during droughts.

I didn’t really know as a teen that I had to protect all that we had until I reached the university. Things are different now. I no longer see so many bees in the compound, and it’s difficult to find even a single snake there, yet back in the day you would encounter a snake at almost every tree you climbed. I don’t see squirrels any more, and I don’t see any fireflies at night. So much has changed.

When did you become an activist? 

I found out about climate change from the university in 2021. Discovering that the droughts that I had faced as a teen were a result of climate change, I decided to do research and take steps to fight it so that communities like mine don’t have to face the same issues that ours faced. I knew I couldn’t do much at the time, so I decided to become a climate and biodiversity activist to spread more awareness about how climate change is affecting East African communities.

Do you and your fellow activists think you have made a difference in opposing ecocide?

I think we are making a difference. One thing we have done is educate communities about climate change. We have also planted trees in over 100 schools, and we have received a good success report of those trees surviving. Besides doing community work, we have organized campaigns on the protection of forests in Uganda like Bugoma Forest and Mabira Forest, which have been threatened by deforestation due to human activity. We have also been campaigning against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) to protect human rights, ecosystems and our climate.

Uganda calls itself a parliamentary democracy, but one party, whose leader, Yoweri Museveni, is president of Uganda, has oppressed the opposition to such a degree that there really is only one political group. Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses. What is your vision for Uganda’s democracy and its ecological heritage?

I envision our democracy as one where communities are involved in most of the decision-making processes. One thing about our country is that the minority in power make decisions for their own selfish benefit without involving the community. There is a lot of corruption, tribalism and nepotism. At the same time, the opposition is prone to oppression and the risk of loss of life.

I would love to see a country where there is freedom of speech, where communities have a right to say no if they are not involved in any decision-making processes, and where there is a balance between the opposition and the ruling party.

Nicholas has shown great courage and dedication in climate/biodiversity action. Here he tells me of the impacts of a major oil pipeline that, if built, would run through Uganda and Tanzania. 

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is a 1443-kilometre pipeline being built by TotalEnergies, China National Offshore Oil Company and the state-owned Uganda National Oil Company with the Tanzania National Oil Company to transport oil produced from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to the port of Tanga in Tanzania. Nicholas, please tell our readers why you and other activists in Uganda are adamantly opposed to this pipeline.

We are against the pipeline for a number of reasons:

• Displacement and loss of livelihoods

The construction of the EACOP has resulted in the forced displacement of local communities, who have lost their lands and properties. People have been relocated without fair compensation. The project has left these people without farms, money for education, adequate shelter, and a sense of belonging, leading to increased food insecurity for those affected.

• Environmental consequences

The pipeline’s route crosses more than 200 water bodies, which are vital sources of food, provide habitat for diverse animal species, and support biodiversity. The project endangers life both underwater and on land, jeopardizing ecosystems and the livelihoods of people dependent on these resources.

Besides that, some of the oil wells for the pipeline are located in the middle of Murchison Falls National Park, which is home to threatened wildlife.

• Human–animal conflicts

The noise from the oil drilling has driven animals out of their usual territories and onto people’s land, leading to conflict between wild animals and humans. Local people’s lives are at risk, and as of today at least six people have been killed by elephants in villages around Murchison Falls National Park.

• Climate change impact

One of the most significant global challenges we face is climate change. It is estimated that the EACOP project will emit over 34 million tonnes of CO2 every year, contributing to global warming. The consequences of this will include more frequent floods, heatwaves, droughts, landslides and heavy rains. While Uganda and Africa as a whole emit a fraction of global carbon emissions, they bear the brunt of the climate crisis. This raises critical questions about fairness in addressing climate change.

• Oppression and restrictions 

Climate activists and others who have tried to oppose the project have faced severe oppression from Oil Taskforce police and the army. In addition, people are not allowed to fish or farm in areas close to the site, evidenced by the capture of fishing boats from locals who try to fish around there.

Climate activists have faced illegal detention, beatings, arrests and blackmail.

Various pro-Nature groups have accused TotalEnergies of being perpetrators of “climaticide.” Do you agree with them?

Yes. TotalEnergies is responsible for over 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. This means that it has made an immense contribution to the climate crisis. Besides that, most of the TotalEnergies projects have had appalling effects on human rights, ecosystems, and the health and livelihoods of people in the global south.

In your opinion, can the global south, of which Uganda is a part, prevail in its insistence on social and ecological justice as a prerequisite for an equitable relationship with a post-colonial global north that can finally bring colonialism to an end?

I believe the global south can prevail in instilling social and ecological justice. Most people in the global south are very much connected with Nature and ecosystems. To them land means food for their children, it means cultural heritage, it’s their home, it’s their source of income, and it’s also where they seek medication when they fall sick.

If global north countries do not tamper with our land, with our resources, I believe we can have social and ecological justice. Before colonialism and the scramble for and partition of Africa, people used to live in harmony with each other and with Nature.

I think if local communities are allowed to decide on their own what they do with their land, and whether they favour any specific fossil fuel project, it will be easy to have social justice. I think that before any project is set up in any global south country the different risks should be analyzed, and if they are great then the project has to be stopped without causing any damage. But with corruption and capitalism it has been easy to set up such disastrous projects that affect our climate and biodiversity.

Nicholas plans to attend the next UN climate conference with other young people from the global south. As a result of his direct experience of UN climate conferences in Egypt and the UAE, he feels strongly that the meetings offer young people an important opportunity to exchange ideas about how to protect our planet. He also hopes to study for a master’s degree in climate and society. 

Please visit to better understand how disastrous the oil pipeline is for the people of Uganda, Tanzania and the rest of the world. You can also help by signing petitions mentioned on the website.

The proposed route looks almost as if it were drawn to endanger as many animals as possible.”

Bill McKibben, climate/biodiversity activist