Major turnaround as communities adjacent to Forest Reserve now championing restoration efforts
“We are free to walk into the forests on specific days and collect dead wood for cooking and also medicine which we can use to treat our loved ones,” says Provia.
Provia is an active member of a Community group called ‘Ndangara and Nyakiyanja Parishes Tutungukye Group’ which is responsible for mobilizing various community members in Kalinzu in what the government has called Collaborative Forest Management (CFM).
Ndangara Parish, where Provia comes from, is one of two parishes in which the Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve (CFR) is located. The reserve is approximately 14,000 hectares and borders Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Imaramagabo forest.
Deforestation Challenge in Uganda
Uganda continues to lose about 92,000 hectares of forest cover annually and only plants about 5,000 hectares per year. Experts estimate that at the current rate of deforestation, by 2050, Uganda’s per capita share of forest will be zero.
According to Judith Ahebwa, the Sector Manager of Kalinzu CFR, there is need to work with communities adjacent to forest reserves so that government and the communities can jointly manage the resources together.
“In Collaborative Forest Management, we have what we call sharing roles, responsibilities and returns from these resources that we are managing together. Each stakeholder has a role to play in protecting the forest resources,” Judith says.
Role of the Community
The community carries out patrols in the reserve and communicates to NFA on any illegalities taking place in the forest. However, Judith notes that it has not always been a smooth ride for NFA since the communities were not welcoming at first and would always tip off the encroachers (When they see NFA enforcement officers). She says that the reasons the community members were not initially welcoming was because they feared being duped through the new (CFM) initiative. However, this is not the case now.
Challenges Faced in Kalinzu
“Politics is the biggest challenge in the natural resource management. Politicians often make promises to give out forest land to the communities, which is usually a stumbling block,” says Judith Ahebwa, Sector Manager NFA.
She further adds that, “There is also a problem of increased population growth which is exerting so much pressure on the Forest reserves because people tend to look at forestry land as vacant land for farming and agriculture.”
Other benefits of CFM and the future
In order to ensure sustainability of the intervention, NFA has also helped create linkages for the communities with other stakeholders like WWF. Since August 2012, when WWF first launched its initiatives in Kalinzu, it has introduced and implemented various livelihood improvement projects like bee keeping, tree planting and capacity building among others, to a scale that makes economic sense and enhances natural capital from zero to USD 52,500 annually, says Martin Asiimwe, the Project Manager.
The initiatives started by WWF, Martin says have gone a long way in helping improve the livelihoods of the community members, promote environmental conservation and the effort towards helping ‘people and nature to live in harmony’. As a result, community members like Provia have significantly reduced their dependence on the Park resources and yet their livelihood has not deteriorated but rather improved.