Conservation Hero: Agenonga Robert

Agenonga setting up a tree nursery for the 2021 planting season

Conservation Hero: Agenonga Robert

Life thrives in the Lake Albert region of Uganda. Stretching over 160 kilometers long, in these waters, hippopotamuses bathe, Uganda kob antelopes drink, Nile crocodiles lurk, and four species of endangered African pangolins roam. Here, Agenonga Robert grew up and developed a deep connection to his local community and the surrounding natural world.

Agenonga digging planting holes for restoration of a conservation site.

After attending university, Robert became an environmental activist, community leader, and spokesperson for the region when returning to his home village. Witnessing first-hand the industrial development in the area, Robert stepped in to fight for proper consideration of human rights and the protection of complex, biodiverse ecosystems.

There is a global industrial rush for ownership of Albertine territories. The French oil company TotalEnergies purchased land to drill near where Robert lives, and other businesses began following suit. Oil production pollutes the water supply and makes both people and wildlife sick.

These lands also do not have the necessary protections because the local government’s authority has been giving heavy salaries to administrators, leaving on-the-ground conservation and regulation severely weakened. Furthermore, residents are often misled about the full consequences when signing their land over to industries. Robert notes,

To combat land destruction, Robert and his non-profit, Ngetha Media Association for Peace, are working to intercede before the drillers. His goal is to keep the region preserved and protected for both wildlife and local communities.

Agenonga holding a rescued white-bellied pangolin. 

In 2020, Robert’s organization acquired 54 acres of land near Murchison Falls National Park, in an ecologically significant area of Uganda. This purchase was facilitated by The Quick Response Fund for Nature (QRFN), a philanthropic collaboration focused on protecting some of the world’s most critical sites for endangered species.

Together, Ngetha Media Association for Peace and QRFN continue to purchase land to protect and conserve an essential animal in the region, the pangolin. There are four species of pangolin in Africa, the black-bellied pangolin, white-bellied pangolin, giant ground pangolin, and Temminck's ground pangolin.

These unique mammals are covered in scaly body armor and roll into a tight ball when threatened. They play a crucial role in the ecosystem by rooting around in the soil and eating massive amounts of insects which helps vegetation flourish.

Each of these pangolins’ populations is decreasing due to poaching and habitat loss. They are either listed as vulnerable or endangered in conservation status.

A tree nursery site set up by Agenonga.

Despite this rich prevalence of biodiversity, conservation work in places like the Lake Albert region does not often receive proper media attention. For smaller community-led organizations, like the Ngetha Media Association for Peace, even small-dollar donations can make a world of difference.

Funding goes directly to support on-the-ground conservation efforts rather than overhead or extraneous administrative costs. Robert is optimistic despite recent lapses in funding due to the pandemic and an often-unsupportive government. He says,

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