Joshua Cheptegei, the reigning Olympic Champion and a three-time 10,000m world champion, has committed himself to the fight against climate change in Uganda’s Mt. Elgon region. The area, comprising Bugisu and Sebei sub-regions, has a history of being susceptible to climate-related disasters such as landslides and floods.
Cheptegei, known for holding world records in the 5,000m and 10,000m races, voiced his determination to combat climate change during the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) half marathon event in Mbale over the weekend. The event attracted more than 700 participants, including national athletes like Stella Chesang, Mercyline Chelangat, and Rogers Kibet.
In his address, Cheptegei emphasized the collective responsibility in the fight against climate change, stating, “Climate change is a fight where all of us should be involved. If we are able to protect our environment jealously, we shall be able to pass on a good future for our children.”
The half marathon received support from various organizations, including the Joshua Cheptegei Foundation, National Forestry Authority, TotalEnergies, MTN Uganda, and Uganda Wildlife Authority. Cheptegei encouraged people to embrace tree planting, highlighting their critical role in environmental preservation and protection against floods, as well as maintaining clean surroundings free from plastic pollution.
Notably, Mbale City faced devastating floods last year, resulting in the loss of 29 lives and the destruction of around 800 households. Rivers such as Nakyibiso, Namatala, Nabuyoga, and Nagayilila overflowed, underscoring the urgency of addressing environmental issues in the region.
Elsie Attafuah, the UNDP Resident Representative for Uganda, emphasized the organization’s role in safeguarding the environment. Mbale City Mayor Cassima Namugali called for the region’s untapped tourism potential to be harnessed for the community’s benefit.
Saleh Naminya, the CEO of Casa Uganda Safaris and Lodges, as well as Casa Del Turista, a tour and travel company, praised the event’s potential to promote tourism and contribute to the fight against climate change. He noted that the eastern region receives only 10 percent of the total tourists visiting Uganda due to challenges like poor marketing, inadequate road networks, and a perceived lack of government support for tourism sites in the region.