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The Social Sciences
Year: 2009 | Volume: 4 | Issue: 3 | Page No.: 295-303
Efficacy of Forestry Conservation Policy on Rural Livelihoods in Uganda: Evidence from Mabira Forest Reserve
Jacob Godfrey Agea , Joseph Obua and Bernard Fungo
 
Abstract: A study was conducted from 2005-2007 in areas around Mabira Forest Reserve, central Uganda. The objective of this study was assess to: the awareness of the local communities about the current Forest Policy in Uganda the local communities’ opinions about the efficacy of the current Forest Policy and the capacity in terms of training to manage forest resources by local communities. Fifty-two households from 4 villages were interviewied in Najjembe sub-county in Mukono district that surrounding Mabira Forest Reserve. Questions were pre-determined and interviews guided. Individuals were interviewied for about 30-60 min. Primary data were subjected to content analysis, coded and subsequently analysed using Statistical Package for Social Scientist (SPSS). About 78% of the respondents were aware of the current Forest Policy in Uganda. About 59% of the respondents said that utilization and socio-economic benefits is strongly supported by the Forest Policy. Half of the respondents disagree that local people have more access to forest products than before under the current Forest Policy. About the same number of the respondents disagree that the forest and tree cover has increased under the present Forest Policy. Capacity to manage forest resources by local communities was weak, majority of the respondents said that none of their household members had received any of training in natural and or plantation forest management. Many institutions including National Forestry Authority (NFA), National Environment Management Authority, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Local Governments and Civil Society Organizations were reportedly playing key roles in conservation and management of the forest. There is a need for campaigns in order to realign policies that allows for full participation of not only the government and the local communities in forest conservation and management.
 
 

INTRODUCTION

Forest policy in Uganda has a long history dating back to 1929. Four revisions were made in 1948, 1970, 1987 and 2001. The revisions reflected the distinct changes in the perceived role of forestry in Uganda as the country has developed. The first policy of 1929 was developed at a time, when the colonial state was seeking to gain formal control over much of the land. The main justification for scheduling forest reserves was to ensure important water catchments were protected. This was a far-sighted policy in that it looked a head of a time when those water catchments might be threatened by increasing agriculture. Timber production forests were also gazetted.

By the time of the first formal revision of the policy in 1948, Uganda was beginning to change more rapidly: there was growth in population and more awareness of the importance of national economic development in the post-war era. In addition to emphasis on retaining forests for their climatic and other indirect values, the 1948 policy stressed the need to foster among the people of Uganda a real understanding of the value of forests, the need for an effective extension and the need to acquire more land for planting new forests. Under this policy, some national forest reserves were converted to plantation, in others logging intensified, sawmills flourished and above all original refinement and other technical approaches to silviculture were encouraged. Indeed, this was a reflection of the realization of forests for economic development. Other national forests were cleared for agriculture, in the belief that this was a higher priority land-use than forestry in some well-wooded areas. The size of the forest estate was to be limited to the minimum area necessary for the achievement of the primary objective of management for purposes of availing ‘enough’ land for agriculture (Kamugisha, 1993).

Although, there was no scientifically objective method of determining the size of a ‘minimum area’, a minimum area was calculated for each administrative district at the time. In practice, when the area of gazetted forest reached or exceeded an amount calculated on the basis of wood consumption per head, the size of the population, production capacity and land pressure in a given district, then the district would be declared ‘adequately forested’ irrespective of whether there were ungazetted forests in the district or not (Kamugisha, 1993). Although, some people argue that the 1948 policy gave relatively little emphasis to value conservation (Grove, 1998), one could argue that by placing emphasis on the value of forests, even those conservation values were embedded in the policy. What could have lacked is a clear interpretation of forest values and translating them in forest management options. A second revision of the forest policy was made in 1970. However, it maintained the main provisions of the 1948 policy except that it added a provision for efficient conversion of wood and wood products.

A third revision came in 1988. With it came new dimensions. For the first time, the policy emphasized the need to conserve biodiversity and rare species and also, emphasized the need for more active protection of forest resources, for research in silviculture and tourism, for promotion of agro forestry and an overall emphasis on environmentally sustainable forestry. The policy was used by Forest Department to arrive at the basis for managing forests. Twenty percent of all natural forests were to be turned into ‘strict nature reserves’ in which no human activity was permitted except walking and scientific studies. Thirty percent was to be become ‘buffer zone’ with ‘limited’ forest harvesting being permitted and the remaining 50% was to be left for management for sustainable utilization. These proportions however, applied only to forests that were managed by Forest Department and the management options did not consider forests on private landholdings.

In 2001, the government approved a new forest policy that was made in a participatory manner than the previous ones. Its goal is ‘an integrated forest sector that activates sustainable increases in the economic, social and environmental benefits from forests and trees by all the people of Uganda, especially the poor and vulnerable. Policy statements are made along the following headings, which in turn are followed by specific strategies. The new policy institutionalizes community forestry and addresses the concern of forests on private land. The objective of this study was assess to: the awareness of the local communities about the current Uganda Forest Policy (2001), the local communities’ opinions about the efficacy of the current Forest Policy and the capacity in terms of training to manage forest resources by local communities. It is expected that this study will be of great importance in terms of realigning policies in a direction that allows for full participation of not only the government but also communities in forest management.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Study area: The study was based on the survey carried out among local communities living adjacent to Mabira Forest Reserve, Mukono district. Mabira Forest Reserve is the largest block of moist semi-deciduous forest remaining in the central region of Uganda (Carswell, 1986). The reserve is considered to be a secondary forest, in which the distinct vegetation types are sub-climax communities, heavily influenced by humans for prolonged periods of time. There are 2 peaks of rainfall: March-May and September-November with mean annual rainfall of 1200-1500 mm and temperatures that rarely exceed 28°C. The reserve occupies gently undulating country characterized by numerous flat-topped hills and wide shallow valleys. Some of these valleys have papyrus swamps. The topography is such that the land drains to the north even though the reserve's southern boundary lies only 13 km from the shores of Lake Victoria. The reserve is isolated from other protected areas by settled agricultural land and Scoul sugarcane plantation. Its boundary is demarcated with numbered concrete posts at the corners as well as direction trenches and cairns. Commercial use began when some parts were harvested in the early 1900s and until 1988, intensive coffee/banana agricultural encroachment badly damaged large parts of the reserve (Howard, 1991). About 21 and 26% of the reserve have been designated as Strict Nature Reserve and Buffer Zone, respectively and forest in these areas is currently recovering, helped by extensive plantings of native tree species.

Data were collected from 4 villages selected from Najjembe sub-county in Mukono district due to their relative proximity to Mabira Forest Reserve and the presence of a variety of stakeholders operating within the villages. A total of 52 semi-structured questionnaires were used to gather the data. Certain ‘core’ questions were pre-determined and the interviews were guided as to ensure that those questions were answered. However, new questions, or lines of questioning, were allowed to develop depending on the answers received. Interviews were carried out on a one by one basis. Each session took 30 min to 1 h depending on the answers given. Primary data were subjected to thorough content analysis and coded before subsequently analysis using Statistical Package for Social Scientist (SPSS).

RESULTS

Socioeconomic characteristics of the respondents: Majority (53%) of the respondents were aged between 26-50 years (Table 1). Most (55%) households had relatively smaller family size of 1-5 persons. More than half of had respondents were male and 54% were married. Sixty eight percent were subsistence farmers. Most (67%) respondent had not gone beyond primary level of education. About 79% owned land and 61% had plot sizes ranging between 1-5 acres. Majority (45%) of the household had annual income ranging from Uganda shilling 251000-500000. Most (66%) respondents lived in semi-permanent houses reared. About 52 and 74% lived a distance of <1 km from forest reserve and 4 km from the nearest market, respectively.

Land tenure and local communities rights to land and tree resources: Many (92%) of the respondents had access to forest reserve, individually owned land (88%), wetlands (83%) and private land (neighbours) (35%). Access to individually owned land was acquired mainly by inheritance (47%) and buying the land (41%). Majority of people acquired these accesses between 1961 and 1990 (Table 2). Access to private land (neighbours) was mainly by permission from the owner (66%). About 8% said they acquired access by renting. The rest (28%) acquired access without permission. Many respondents said they started accessing forest reserve (79%) and wetland (87%) freely without permission in the periods of 1971-1980.

Asked whether some land they have access to have formal deed, majority (79%) said they do not have the formal deed to the individually owned land. Majority of them also said they do not know whether private land (neighbours), forest reserves and wetlands to which they have access to have formal title deeds. The entire respondent who claimed to have access to forest reserve, wetlands and private land (neighbour) said they do not have right to give out these lands or to sell them. For individually owned land, large number of respondents, 45 and 40%, respectively reported that they have right to give out their land or sell them with permission from their spouses. About 29 and 33% of the respondents said they do not seek permission from body in case they want to give out or sell their land.


Table 1:

Socio-economic characteristics of the respondents

The rights to plant and cut tree varied by the type of the land household had access to. Many respondents said they don’t need any permission from anybody to either plant or cut trees from the lands they individually owned. Contrary to this, 65% of the people interviewed said they have to seek permission from landlord before cutting trees from private land (neighbour). About 56% of the people do not have right to plant trees on this land (neighbours). Majority respondents also reported that they have rights to cut trees either from forests or wetlands without anybody’s permission. Similarly, a large number of people said they need to ask permission from NFA or local authority, respectively to before planting trees in forest reserve or wetlands.

Local communities’ opinions and awareness about forest policy in Uganda: About 78% of the respondents were aware of the current Forest Policy in Uganda and generally 84% think the Forest Policy addresses forest conservation issues in Uganda (Table 3). The sources of awareness included National Forestry Authority, Civil Society Organisations, media, workshops/seminars as well as Forestry Resources and Research Institute (FORRI).

Asked specifically about their opinions on the efficacy of the current Forest Policy in Uganda, majority (47%) strongly agreed that the current 2001 Forest Policy effectively addresses forest management and conservation issues (Table 4).


Table 2:

Land tenure and rights

Table 3:

Local communities’ awareness about forest conversation policy in Uganda

About 59% agreed that utilization and socio-economic benefits is strongly supported by the Forest Policy. Related, majority (36%) of the respondents disagreed on the statement that forest management and conservation are linked to local people’s needs in the Forestry Policy. Half of the respondents disagreed on the feeling that local people have more access to forest products than before under the current Forest Policy.


Table 4:

Opinions what about forest policy in Uganda

SA = Strongly Agree, A = Agree, D = Disagree, SD = Strongly Disagree, DK = Don’t know

About 52% of the people also, disagreed on the statement that forest and tree cover has increased under the current Forest Policy.

Asked whether under the current Forest Policy, charcoal burning is illegal and whether illegal logging is rampant, 62 and 60% of the respondents strongly agreed on the statement. Likewise, majority (68%) of the respondents strongly agreed that the current Forest Policy give provision for local people to collect firewood and other non-timber products from the forest for domestic use. About 59% of respondents strongly disagreed on the statement that local people are more involved in forest management under the current Forest Policy than. Many also strongly disagreed on local people earn more incomes from the forest related activities than before and feeling that the local people participated in formulation of current Forestry Policy.

Involvement of local people and other institutions in the management and conservation of forests: Institutions participating in the management and conservation of natural forests in Uganda include the National Forestry Authority (NFA), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Local Governments/Authorities and civil society organizations like NGOs and CBOs, local communities and some individuals (Table 5a). About 29% of individuals, however, said that they do not play any significant roles in the management of natural forests. They claim this is the study of NFA. Those who were involved in the management of the natural forests, said they were helping reporting illegal activities, reforestation and that they themselves were withdrawing from illegal logging and burning of charcoal in the forest. Majority (88%) of the respondent said their communities have collaborative forest management arrangement/agreement with NFA and that arrangement is mainly about sustainable forest use, monitoring and reporting illegal activities and enrichment tree planting.


Table 5a:

Involvement of local people into management of natural forests

*PFM = Participatory Forest Management

Table 5b:

Involvement of local people into management of farm forests

Asked about their involvement in the management of farm forests, majority (96%) of the respondents said they individually manage their farm forest although some (72%) said they also involve other family members (Table 5b). They said they do mainly tree planting, sustainable harvest, raising seedlings or collecting the wildings from the forest for planting as well as weeding and pruning of certain trees that develop big crowns.


Table 6:

Opinion about institutions participating in the management and conservation of forests in Uganda

*NEMA = National Environment Management Authority

Table 7:

Capacity to manage and conserve the forest by local community

Opinion about institutions participating in the management and conservation of forests in Uganda: Opinions of the local people about the roles of the institutions participating in the management and conservation of forests in Uganda and how they are performing in relation to management and conservation of forests varied widely among the respondents (Table 6). Outstanding roles of National Forestry Authority (NFA) included monitoring of forest status and illegal activities, conservation of forests, tree planting, awareness creation and capacity building in the area of forest management. Majority (60%) of the people interviewed also think NFA is so far working well to address in addressing these roles.

NEMAs’ main roles included awareness campaigns and encouraging tree planting activities. Only 30% of the respondents interviewed think NEMA is working well to address their perceived roles. UWA was perceived to be doing mainly awareness campaigns and conservation activities. Local Governments/Authorities roles were mainly lobbying for support to manage and conserve forests and to create awareness as well as building capacity of the local people to manage and conserve the forests. About 51% of the respondent also think UWA is working well in addressing these tasks. Roles of civil society organizations like NGOs and CBOs were reported to be lobbying for support, encouraging conservation activities, supporting tree planting, awareness campaigns and capacity building. Majorities of the people said NGOs and CBOs operating in the area were working well.

Capacity to manage and conserve the forests by local community: About 68% of the respondents expressed that none of their household members including themselves had received any sort of training in natural forest and plantation forest management, respectively. Many of them said they were not aware of any training opportunity nor training provider in the management of natural and plantation forests. Seventy two percent of them said they did not see any need to train in plantation forest management. Contrary to this, majorities of the respondents said some of their household members had received trainings in agroforestry (on-farm tree management), tree nursery establishment and management and the general tree planting around schools, churches and mosques (Table 7). Generally, household heads received training more than their spouses and other family members in plantation forest management, agroforestry (on-farm tree management), tree nursery establishment and management. Women received more training in the general tree planting around schools, churches and mosques.

Most people generally reported civil society organizations like NGOs and CBOs and National Forestry Authority (NFA) (Table 7) as the main training providers for natural and plantation forest management, tree nursery establishment and management and the general tree planting around schools, churches and mosques. In all cases except plantation forest management, most respondents, who received training said their households were putting into practice the knowledge acquired from those trainings. Those who did apply the training especially in plantation forest management said that it is very expensive to invest plantation forest and that the practice is time consuming.

DISCUSSION

Assessment of the efficacy of forestry conservation policy on rural livelihoods in Uganda, institutions and the trends of changes in forest condition presented in the preceding sections provides several important insights into the strengths and weakness of the current forest policy of 2001. Through this assessment, we attempted to show the level of awareness of the local communities about the forest policy, their opinions about the efficacy of this policy and their capacity in terms of training to manage the forest resources. However, when drawing conclusions about results discussed herein, the followining cautions should be considered: the subject of policy proved difficult to investigate. Most respondents did often not understand the question asked. Each interview took too long and sometimes respondents got restless and lost interest and concentration with the lengthy interviews. Despite this limitation, the study has been successful in showing the broad picture of local communities’ perception of the 2001 Forest Policy.

Although, the findings suggest that, many people interviewed were aware of the current Forest Policy especially through National Forestry Authority and the media, all most all of them did not know the policy intents. Lack of clarity of the policy intents often lead to poor outcomes for sustainable forest management and local livelihoods. Similarly, majority of the respondents consented that utilization and socio-economic benefits is strongly supported by the 2001 Forest Policy although, some people still feel that they do not have more access to forest products than before. To them this policy puts more emphasis on forest conservation. Rights and obligations of local communities are seldom elaborated clearly in the policy.

The conservation aspect of this policy is even never implemented effectively. Local people’s participation in plantation and management of forests is not given sufficient attention and social and cultural aspects of forest management are very often ignored. The roots of this problems can be traced back to the past forest policies of 1929, 1948, 1970 and 1987 (Tumushabe and Bainomugisha, 2004). It is very clear this study that the local communities feel natural forest cover has declined over the past years. A couple of factors including high demand for timber, charcoal and firewood in the country, massive expansion of sugar cane plantation and the loopholes in the previous forest policies are alledgedly responsible for such decline. Little is being done in terms of trainings to build capacity of local people to manage forest resources.

The 2001 Forestry Policy also appears to be more political in nature than being public service oriented. This policy is theoretical whereas, practically the attitude of an average official of the National Forestry Authority has remained the same as set by previous policies. Most of the officers of the NFA were reported by the local communities to be displaying more of authoritarian and possessive behaviour, quite similar to a policeman like in the past. The policy recognizes the importance of the involvement of local people in farm forestry but at the same time it is limiting the rights of local people by bringing more land under the control of state and powerful investors, ignoring the ground level realities and needs of the local population. In fact policy initiatives cannot achieve their objectives unless and until the sustainable livelihood of stakeholders is taken care of. According to Kazoora and Carvalho (2005), in practice, forest resources are currently being made more inaccessible for the poor and marginalized sections of the communities, whereas the influential along with members of the timber mafia consumes these resources at their own sweet will. This dichotomy creates a sense of lack of ownership among the marginalized sections not only adding to their miseries but also encourageing them to adapt illegal means to meet their needs from forest resources.

The dilemma with most of the natural resources management policies in Uganda is the lack of attention to human dimension aspects and a focus on a pro-conservation approach even at the cost of local livelihoods. The trends however, may in the near-future change since the world is no longer tied up in the “conservation” versus “development” debate. Rather a new approach “conservation as well as development” are now emerging (FAO, 2001; Shackleton et al., 2002). However, for forest policies to effectively address conservation needs and at the same to be the pro-poor, good governance is a must. Unfortunately, Uganda like many other developing countries good governance is difficult to achieve. Although, during the formulation of this 2001 Forestry Policy, the consultation with a group of experts was made, the consultation process was confined to the folds of professional circles. Thus, the policies is stronger on technical consideration but lacking the required flexibility to make them work in real life situations, presenting multiple sets of actors and factors. Thus local communities living adjacent to forest reserves often find themselves in a situation where forest policies either do not support or have harmful affects on their livelihood strategies (Tumushabe and Bainomugisha, 2004). It is in this scenario that policy do not meet the expectations of local people who in turn are forced to utilise the forest resources unsustainably to secure their livelihoods. Consequently, neither the developmental nor the conservational objectives are met.

CONCLUSION

The current 2001 Forest Policy is not a panacea for addressing forest management issues and the welfare of rural poor in different socioeconomic conditions. Although, many local people were well aware of the Forest Policy, nearly all of them did not know the policy intents. Capacity in terms of trainings to manage forest resources by local communities is generally very weak.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In light of the objectives of the study, the following suggestions are made:

The forest policy should have foundation of carefully organized policy research studies conducted by the academia of both from forestry and social science disciplines. These studies will ensure the involvement of grass root level people and civil society organizations

There is need to put people at the centre of development. This focus on people is equally important at higher levels (when thinking about the achievement of objectives such as poverty reduction, economic reform or sustainable development) as it is at the micro or community level. The forest policy should support the livelihoods of rural people through utilization of systematic approach of development i.e., training in alternate income-generating employment like non timber forest products

The forest policy should be flexible enough to be adopted according to the local situation. It is therefore, suggested that the more power over forest management be decentralized at the district level, so that the forest management can be done according to the prevailing local condition. Training and involvement of volunteer local communities, who should collaboratively manage forests resources together with the state, should also be strengthened in the policy

Livelihood would be secured only if policies work with people in a way that is congruent with their current livelihood strategies, social environment and ability to adapt. People, rather than the resources they use or governments that serve them, are the priority concern. Adhering to this principle would not only ensure provision of sustainable livelihood but would also enhance involvement of all sections of society in sustainable natural resources management. In this context, it should be realized that generation of income and employment is as important as generating government revenue alone and forest policy should be an instrument of sustainable forest management rather than its object, otherwise, the poor will remain mired in poverty pushing us into a spiral of over exploitation in the wake of policy failures

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We are grateful for the financial support from AFORNET that meet the cost of this study leading to the preparation of this study.