The Budongo landscape is comprised of forests both on public and private land. With no clear boundaries and no defined ownership, these forests have come under threat by the ever-expanding population in the landscape. Forest degradation can be attributed to economic activities within the landscape such as; sugarcane growing, tobacco growing, oil and gas extraction, to mention a few. Wetlands in this region have also come under threat, with reports of wetlands being used as dumping grounds for industrial waste as well as distillation / production of alcohol. This continued trend is bound to have adverse effects on this eco-system which is of critical importance in the provision of International Public Goods (IPG’s). There is a strong need for Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s), National, and Private Sector institutions to find joint solutions to promote the sustainable use of the natural resources in this landscape.
One possible solution to the problem of uncontrolled deforestation in the Budongo landscape is through the formation of Communal Land Associations (CLA’s). Communities in this landscape are mobilized and supported to form communal land associations (CLA) which are responsible for the sustainable management and protection of these forests. This system has been used in Ongo and Alimugonza community forests since 2007. These are primary high tropical forests that have been managed as community forests. The CLA’s have worked with the District Forestry Services staff to establish community forest management structures as well as the District Land Registrar to streamline the land tenure of the community forests. ECOTRUST has also facilitated, the design of a sustainable financing mechanism to meet the forest conservation costs for the benefit of the community.
CLA’s were inceptionized in 2002 following the Land Act of 1998 that gave provision for community ownership of land as well as the Forest Act which provided for private ownership of forest land. Community Development & Conservation Agency (CODECA), a local NGO operating in the Budongo landscape, was at the front line of advocacy for the registration of these Community forests as a solution to the uncontrolled forest degradation in the region. However, with no guidelines on the management of community and private forests, the process was delayed until 2007 when the government of Uganda developed these guidelines. ECOTRUST followed up with the two CLA’s of Ongo & Alimugonza from 2007, helping them secure certificates of compliance and incorporation. The set guidelines were followed until 2012, when the registration of Ongo Community Forest was approved by the district council. Ongo CLA secured tenure for the Ongo Communal Forest in August of 2016, making it the first officially registered community forest in Uganda.
The Shared Resources, Joint Solutions programme (SRJS) which was launched this year (2017) seeks to promote advocacy for the sustainable use of natural resources within the Budongo & Murchison Falls landscapes amidst the new developments taking place by borrowing lessons from such already existing and successful interventions. The programme will target both the private sector and government at local and national level with emphasis on lobby and advocacy for stronger collaboration.