Restoring and conserving degraded fragile ecosystems

Political instability in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Burundi, and Ethiopia, among others is contributing to a drastic increase in the refugee population in Uganda. Uganda is Africa's largest refugee host with more than 1.3 million refugees and asylum seekers (World Bank & FAO, 2020). Whereas Uganda is endeavoring to accommodate refugees, the rise in their population is accelerating the loss in forests and woodlands as well as the degradation of other vulnerable and fragile ecosystems like wetlands in the country’s refugee-hosting areas (Bernard et al., 2019).

Uganda Biodiversity Fund (UBF), in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Nature-Uganda (NU), and Ecological Christian Organization (ECO) received a European Union (EU) grant to implement a four- year project titled “Restoring and Conserving degraded fragile ecosystems for improved Community Livelihoods among the Refugee and Host Communities of West Nile Region and the mid-Albertine Rift” to address environmental degradation and livelihoods in selected refugee-hosting districts of Uganda”.  Project implementation began in December 2020 and will end in December 2024. The European Union funding is part of the response to environmental degradation and protection of alternative energy sources in Uganda’s refugee hosting communities. According to the map below, the project is being implemented within a fifteen (15) Kilometer radius of refugee settlements in the Mid-Albertine Rift (MAR) districts of Kamwenge, Kikube, and Kyegegwa; and West Nile region (WNR) districts of Terego and Yumbe.
map showing WCS - EU project sites

PROJECT OBJECTIVES


The overall objective of the project is to improve livelihoods and ecosystems resilience to impacts of refugees and climate change in refugee hosting districts. The project will achieve the overall objective through three specific objectives namely:

  1. To restore degraded forests, wetlands, savannah woodlands and other fragile ecosystems impacted by human activities in refugee hosting districts.
  2. Support landowners in host communities to establish agroforestry enterprises and adapt Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices.
  3. Build capacity of Local Governments (LG), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), private sector companies and local communities for effective uptake of climate change mitigation and environmental conservation measures.

Conservation Approach

The project acknowledges that the degradation of forests, woodlands and wetlands/riverbanks caused by refugees and host communities jeopardizes their ability to support and sustain ecological functioning and community well-being.

Through assisting in the restoration of degraded forests, woodlands, wetlands, and other vulnerable ecosystems, the initiative is projected to improve the flow of ecosystem services and products and increase the resilience of refugee hosting communities and refugees to climate change. Additionally, the project will strengthen the collective responsibility of various state (including NFA, the local governments of the hosting districts) and non-state actors (including private sector players and civil society organizations) for the sustainable management and protection of the natural resources. The project will also assist households through community-based groups with knowledge and skills to practice sustainable land management practices like agroforestry, climate smart agriculture, and establishment of woodlots for long-term energy needs, increase land productivity, and vegetation cover.

Activities

WCS is one of the consortium members implementing in part or wholly selected activities of the project. Some of the WCS-led activities include:

  1. Undertaking socio-economic and ecological baseline and endline surveys for determining the right interventions and impact assessment of the project.
    Mapping of priority sites for project interventions.
  2. Support planting / enrichment planting with site specific species and or assist degraded forests and woodlands to naturally regenerate and monitor to ensure survival of planted species.
  3. Training and equipping NFA and districts to protect targeted forests, wetlands, and woodlands.
  4. Supporting NFA to develop restoration management plans for targeted degraded forest patches.
  5. Developing framework guidelines for selecting, planning, and managing refugee settlements in an environmentally responsive manner.
  6. Identifying, training, and equipping selected civil society organizations, local government officials, community groups, change agents, and preparing them to provide extension support including setting demonstration gardens to communities for uptake of innovative ideas / interventions, encompassing Agroforestry, Climate Smart Agriculture, and other Sustainable Land Management practices.
  7. Grassroot environmental NGOs / CBOs and selected private sector companies will be trained, equipped, and supported to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation activities.
  8. Establishing linkages with existing networks, mandated institutions, local actors to strengthen collaboration and coordination.

Accomplishments

Some of the key accomplishments so far include:

  • Socioeconomic and ecological baselines surveys have been conducted. The ecological situation of the project area habitats has been established using indicator taxa of birds, plants, herpetofauna, and insect orders of butterflies and dragonflies. These taxa were selected because they are sensitive to habitat stresses and improvements, and predictably respond to them. The socio-economic survey report highlights the socio-economic conditions, Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice levels regarding environmental conservation, climate change, and sustainable land management practices of people within the identified priority sites (clusters).
  • The project areas of interest were mapped using Sentinel Satellite Images of 2021 at 10 m resolution and 70% accuracy. A total of 29,470 km2 in MAR, and 7,959 km2 in WNR were mapped. This initial mapping provided a strategic overview of the project area’s land cover categories.
  • Three hundred and fifty-three (353) hectares of degraded forest patches in Bugoma and Mt. Kei Central Forest Reserves have been demarcated for enrichment planting with site-specific species and will be assisted to naturally regenerate with improved forest protection and law enforcement.
  • So far, 162 individuals and institutions have shown interest in restoring degraded woodlands outside forest reserves in communities in Yumbe and Terego districts. Using conservation agreements, the individuals and institutions are being provided with indigenous tree species and technical support.
  • The project developed a draft training manual for community extension works on Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices, Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), Agroforestry principles and practices.
  • Nineteen (19) NFA supervisors and managers as well as WCS field staff were trained in Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) for law enforcement and forest protection.
  • NFA received 21 mobile phones to improve forest protection and law enforcement using the SMART technology. West Nile range will provide 17 staff members with phones for forest protection activities in Central Forest Reserves of Mt. Kei, Kulua, Lodonga, Mt. Watti, Barituku, Otrevu, Enyau, and Suru in Kei and Maracha.
  • Three (3) laptops were donated to the Natural Resources Departments of Kamwenge, Kikube, and Kyegegwa districts to improve local government reporting on natural resource management issues and community engagement for sustainable land management.

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Key Staff

Simon Takozekibi Nampindo
Country Director WCS Uganda
Amoko Simon Buga
Project Officer
Grace Nangendo
Director of Conservation Planning and Research
Louisa Nakitende Kiggwe
Communications Manager
Michael BUSIINGE
Project Officer
Moses Nyago
Project Coordinator
Paul Hatanga
Partnerships and institutional development specialist