Decentralized Forest Management in Uganda: Local Communities' Participation and Forest Sustainability

Abstract
"Many countries, including Uganda, adopted forest decentralization as national policy for improving local people’s livelihoods and promoting forest sustainability. And both local communities’ participation in forest management and access to forest resources greatly impact their livelihoods. Indeed, the Uganda Forestry Policy of 2001 and the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act of 2003 stipulate improvement of livelihoods and public participation in forest management in addition to promoting forest sustainability. Despite the inception of forest decentralization in Uganda in early 2000,it was not well understood whether decentralized forest management was improving local communities’ livelihoods and enhancing forest sustainability, hence this study. The objectives were to: (i) Assess local communities’ participation in decentralized forest management and their access to forest resources, (ii) Stratify and quantify Uganda’s forest cover extent since 2002, and (iii) Assess and map the spatial distribution of Uganda’s forest cover dynamics since 2002. Social survey data collected between 1997 and 2008 by Uganda Forestry Resources and Institutions Center were subjected to descriptive and content analysis. Secondary data was also examined. Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus imagery for 2002, 2006 and 2009 each covering 1,509,328 ha were classified using unsupervised techniques and subjected to post-classification comparison change detection. Local communities were generally not actively participating in decentralized forest management and their access to forest resources remained unchanged and mostly illegal. Forest cover declined by 4.5% between 2002 and 2006 and by 32.8% between 2006 and 2009 while overall forest cover decline between 2002 and 2009 was 35.8%. Land cover conversion from non-forest to forest and vice-versa also revealed net forest cover loss between 2002 and 2009. A visual assessment showed a clustered forest cover loss spatial distribution. Forest decentralization did not substantially contribute to local people’s livelihoods and promotion of forest sustainability. There is therefore an urgent need for sustainable forest management interventions and full implementation of the Uganda Forestry Policy of 2001 and the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act of 2003 could be a good starting point in this endeavor."
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Keywords
forestry, decentralization, community participation, land tenure and use
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