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Local Communities living near Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda are engaged in initiatives that support livelihood improvement but also environmental conservation
© Jonas Schmidt Hansen/WWFUganda

Involving local communities in protecting the Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve pays off

Uganda´s forests are under massive pressure from logging and poaching. To stop the environmental degradation, WWF Uganda is engaging local community groups to improve their livelihoods and help them benefit more from a standing forest than harvesting it.
By Jonas Schmidt Hansen
 
The mountainside of the Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve in Western Uganda is  breath-taking. On these slopes also lies the Queen Elizabeth National Park with its rainforests, lakes and savanna grassland.
 
Following an initiative from WWF Uganda and with the help of National Forest Authority (NFA), the communities around Kalinzu have organized themselves into Community Groups to help protect the Forest in what is commonly known as Collaborative Forest Management (CFM).
 
At a nearby settlement, one of the groups, Nyakiyanja-Ndangara Community Group, is busy planting trees and harvesting vegetables.
 
On the day of this field visit, members from the Nyakiyanj-Ndagara community group are show casing their latest planted trees to the staff from WWF Uganda and NFA.
 
Judith Ahebwa, the Sector Manager from NFA explains that the community has not always been this corporative.
 
“They used to shout ’baboons, baboons,’ when we were coming in our vehicles. It was a signal to those who were doing illegal activities in the forest. When we would arrive, they were (would be) long gone,” she says.
 
“We realized that it is more useful to corporate with the local community groups. When we engage with them in profitable activities on the land around the forest, we can prevent them from going into the forest to cut wood illegally,” she adds.
 
A forest of life
The Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve is approximately 14.000 hectares and contains high levels of biodiversity. Many unique and endangered plant and animal species can be found in here, they include among others two unique species of butterflies and around 400 chimpanzees and other rare monkey species that have their homes in Kalinzu.
 
The extent of biodiversity can best be experienced by taking the jungle trails organized by the NFA. Only then would it be possible to get really close to many of the animals living in the forest.
 
Stick and carrot
WWF Uganda continues to support programs and initiatives that target communities living around protected areas with income generating activities and trainings, so that they are less likely to go into the forest to cut the trees for timber, charcoal and firewood or to hunt the animals.
 
The community group in Kalinzu that WWF and NFA visited has close to 350 members and they have been given access to 350 hectares of land for forest restoration in the Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve.
 
Here they are allowed to plant trees, grow vegetables between the planted trees and keep bees. They are also allowed to use part of the forest for resources like berries, seeds, mushrooms and dead branches for firewood. In return, they have agreed not to use the forest for illegal activities and to report illegal loggers and poachers in the reserve.
 
Money, food and education
One group member, Kisembo Adriano, explains that he has harvested 750 kg of beetroots from one of his three plots, which was allocated to him. From his harvest, he has earned 1.5 million Ugandan Shillings (approximately US$ 575).
A woman from the same group, Katusabe Provia, explains that from a plot of land allocated to her, she has sold potatoes for 480,000 Ugandan Shillings (approximately US$185). The rest of the harvest she has used for seed and food.
 
However, most of the group members say that the largest income they get comes from the trees. The Nyakiyanj-Ndagara Community Group has just cut its first timber from previously planted trees and can look forward to an even bigger profit as they soon are starting to plant over 15,000 new trees seedlings.

The group is also going to receive training in beekeeping to increase their income and the members are also hoping to attract investors to start up ecotourism in the area. There is no doubt that the Community Group has more to gain than lose from being caretakers of the forest instead of cutting it down.
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EU Ambassador to Uganda planting a ceremonial tree during a recent field visit to the Rwenzori Region in Western Uganda
© WWF-Uganda

EU Envoy commends WWF work in Rwenzori region

H.E. Kristian Schmidt, the Head of Delegation and Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to the Republic of Uganda, has commended the conservation work that the WWF Uganda Country Office (UCO) is doing in the Rwenzori region, in Western Uganda.
“Thank you for the great work you are doing,” said H.E. Schmidt.

The Ambassador made the remarks during a delegation tour in the Rwenzori region where he was visiting an over Euro 1.3 Million EU funded project that WWF UCO is implementing.

The three and a half year project is piloting a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme, focusing on watershed services and promoting tourism in and around Rwenzori Mountains National Park; a World Heritage and a Ramsar Site.

“We cannot keep the animals without the people. Ensure that people benefit, then the animals will be safe,” H.E. Schmidt said.

In his remarks, WWF Uganda Country Director, Mr. David Duli acknowledged the continued support from the EU towards various projects that WWF has implemented in Uganda.

“WWF has many donors (that support its conservation work), the EU has played a very pivotal role in sustaining the organization’s conservation mandate in the different parts of Uganda including the Rwenzori region,” Mr. Duli said.

The project, also known as, Sustainable Financing for the Rwenzori Mountain National Park (SFRMNP), is implemented in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Directorate of Water Resources Management (DWRM) and District Local Governments of Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko and Kabarole.

During his visit, the Ambassador also had a meeting with Kasese District Local Government officials where he met with the District Vice Chairperson, Mr. Muhindo Tadeo and district technical staff.

“We must all work hard to bring back the glory of the snow,” said Mr. Muhindo referring to the snow capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountain that are reportedly disappearing due to global warming.

The district officials also thanked WWF and the Ambassador for their support in efforts to restore the Rwenzori region.

The day’s events were crowned by planting of a ceremonial tree and a field visit to some of the benefiting communities around the Rwenzori Mountain National Park.


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