It goes without saying that this edition’s “3 questions …” interview is with Total’s David Ochanda, winner of the 2020 IOGP Outstanding Young Professional Award.
The Jury was deeply impressed by your efforts to raise awareness for the importance of biodiversity when operating in highly sensitive areas. How did you achieve that?
From the very beginning, ensuring biodiversity and addressing community impacts were among the top priorities for Total E&P Uganda’s Tilenga Project within the Murchison Falls National Park. Given the sensitivity of the area we wanted to make sure that our operations would have a net positive impact on biodiversity. To achieve that, we gathered as much data as possible and built good working relationships with our partners and stakeholders. Both factors were key to developing and implementing a biodiversity program. The level of internal and external engagement was impressive. A key enabler was to constantly raise awareness to ensure comprehension and appreciation of the need to mitigate oil and gas impacts onto biodiversity and ecosystem services through various conservation actions. I led the process of organising regular dedicated engagements with stakeholders through meetings, workshops, capacity building and training sessions, amongst other efforts, which fostered a greater understanding and appreciation of our activities. Through these engagements, we shared information on best practices we were putting in place to ensure conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services during our operations, and this has since helped in building trust and cordial relationships with stakeholders.
What do these achievements mean for oil and gas operations in Uganda?
This award is not only a great achievement for my personal professional career but also for TOTAL Group, Uganda, and Africa at large. For Uganda, the synergy developed between most of the civil society organizations and Total E&P Uganda is very important for successful and harmonious development of Uganda’s oil and gas resources. As a new industry in the country, the experiences from Total E&P Uganda’s operations in such a sensitive ecosystem will provide a benchmark and lessons learnt in implementing best practices in the country.
What does winning the 2020 OYPA mean to you personally?
I am extremely delighted to win this award. The award affirms the empowerment, motivation and trust I have always received from my supervisors and colleagues while executing my duties. This achievement and honor today is a great inspiration and gives me more strength to challenge myself and perform even better. I must say this would not have been possible without the support from my team whom I am grateful to and very proud of. The award is a testimony of the industry’s commitments towards sustainable development of oil and gas resources, and the need to develop future leaders to overcome environmental challenges in the industry.