The Murchison-Semliki Landscape (MS-L) in western Uganda is one of the six core landscapes constituting the Albertine Rift and is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the African continent in terms of birds, mammals, amphibians and plants. In MS-L mosaics, there are privately owned tropical rainforests that are important for providing vital ecosystem services that regulate global and local climatic conditions, act as carbon sinks, and provide catchment protection to many streams and small rivers. The private forests also act as corridors and dispersal areas for wild animals like chimpanzees between government managed wildlife protected areas. Unfortunately, the corridor forests are being lost and degraded due to subsistence and small scale commercial agriculture, increasingly indiscriminate unsustainable logging, harvesting of fuel wood, and sub-canopy agriculture.
With financial support from American Electric Power in Ohio, USA and in collaboration with seven national and international conservation organizations, the Jane Goodall Institute is implementing a pilot project, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), in MS-L to provide incentives to local farmers to maintain natural forest on their land. The goal of the project is aimed at 1,541 private forest owners through building awareness, capacity, and governance mechanisms to access carbon payments and that benefit from the United Nations REDD approaches to climate change mitigation. The 1,541 private forest owners live in 19 separate Parish Local Governments and have been organized into 13 functional Private Forest Owners Associations for implementing project activities and channeling REDD incentive payments.
After being equipped with skills and knowledge in collaborative planning and facilitating multi-stakeholder processes by Beahrs ELP 2012, I returned to Uganda determined to facilitate and support each of the 13 Private Forest Owners Associations and to develop a forest management plan in a consultative, participatory, and integrated manner. Technical support was provided by a procured forest consultant, with me co-facilitating the meetings along with the Community Development Officer from the Hoima District Local Government. A village meeting was organised for each of the 13 Associations. The consultative meetings were held in September and October 2012 and were aimed, among other things, to develop a shared vision, goal and set of objectives for the management of private forests under the Private Forest Owner Association. I was specifically involved in facilitating four sub-working groups that were tasked to generate planning issues focused on the following themes related to forest management: benefits, problems/issues and associated potential solutions, stakeholders and their roles/responsibilities as well as community resource mapping.
The series of meetings culminated into the development of 13 private forest management plans and were ready to be implemented to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation through supporting farmers to undertake the following set of interventions: forest-based enterprises, agro-forestry, establishment of woodlots for firewood, conservation farming, profitable forest friendly cash crops e.g. cocoa and coffee, access to rural micro-finance services, and organic certification for farmers to be able to demand higher prices for agricultural products.
N.B. The implementation period of each management plan is 2013-2022 and each will require on average an investment of US$ 278,592 for implementation of the interventions for the entire ten years.