Collaborative Forest Management or
Community Forest Management: The Case of Mpanga Forest Reserve,
Kunga Ngece, Friends of Mpigi Forests
Conservation and Development Organization, Uganda, September 2002.
Forest management has
been a difficult task for most governments in Africa, more so in
areas where land tenure systems are ill defined. This has resulted
to the essence of developing enabling institutional environments to
arrest the cropping problems of natural resource management. When
colonization caught up with most African states, such lands that
were entrusted to kingdoms and chiefdoms ceased to exist in a number
of areas. The new colonial governments set up management systems
that mainly favored the white man, denying the real owner of the
land, the African access to use some of the resources. After the
advent of colonialism, the new African-led governments maintained
similar policies as were installed by the former regime. Hence the
government inherited problems that were soon to be the demise of
conservation cycles. Such was the case where communal land was put
under the trusteeship of the government without minding or solving
the problem of resource use. This many a times has caused unending
conflict between the government and local people. With the
governments controlling all forested lands, corruption comes in,
while this could have been contained by management using local
leadership systems as was the case in pre-colonial times.
case of Mpanga forest follows a similar pattern. The case. Although
it does not describe a definite process of its management could be
used to analyze how trends in leadership and governance can affect
the use of communal resources. The case further suggests how Mpanga
could be managed sustainably.
History of Mpanga Forest
forest is located in Central Uganda in what was formally the Buganda
Kingdom. The forest is a living remnant of the Pleistocene period
(15,000 years ago) when great climatic changes occurred throughout
the world. Increased rainfall in Africa at that time caused the
great forests of West and Central Africa to expand eastwards to
cover what is now Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Congo. By around 10,000 years
ago, the climate became drier again and the forests shrank to what
they were 200 to 300 years ago. As human populations increased,
parts of those forests were cleared or burnt and slowly replaced by
bush and savanna, leaving small islands of what is today called the
Guineo-Congolian rainforest which expands from the Congo basin to
Kenya. It is at this time that Mpanga was born, although initially
it was joined to other small forests in Mpigi district like Kyansozi,
Lwamuda and Navugulu. The forest covers approximately 453 hectares.
occupies the lower slopes of Nakyetema valley, in which a small permanent
stream flows westward into Nabukongole swamp, which drains into Lake
Victoria. The forest is underlain by granitoid gneisses and schist's
of the Buganda series.
Mpanga under the management of the Kabaka and
1932, Mpanga was land belonging to the Kingdom of Buganda. Research
shows that three Kabaka’s of Buganda had special interest in the
forest, and they established special mechanisms to ensure the forest
was not encroached. Kabaka Mutesa I, Mutesa II and Muwanga all some
interest in the forest, and its during this time that some nearby
hills and other small forests were also declared the Kabaka’s land
to enable people utilize them. This gave Mpanga reprieve from
utilization. Further, Mpanga forest was placed under management of
the Fumbe clan, who were ordered to make it a burial ground.
Questionnaires conducted around reveal that with the forest being a
burial site, and under management of the clan surrounding the forest
(Fumbe) use rights were controlled. The Baganda people give due
respect to burial grounds, and people associated the forest with
spirits. It was claimed that if one cut trees from the forest, evil
spirits would attack relatives causing ailments that no medicineman
could treat. The forest was therefore sacred and no destruction was
evident. Elders of the Fumbe clan established utilization quotas.
Hunting for small mammals in the forest was only allowed under
authority from the elders, while each family was allowed to harvest
one setala tree for drum making per half year. No cutting of
standing trees for firewood was allowed. Women were allowed to
collect firewood and mushrooms for food, and reeds for making mats
for their houses. The clan medicinemen were allowed to extract a few
herbs from the forest. Elders monitored what was removed from the
forest and anyone not obeying set quotas paid a fine.
clan management system enabled the forest to remain intact, and as
the crown government came in to manage the forest in 1932, Mpanga
was very intact, with high rate o biodiversity. At the time species
of primates that are no longer found in the forest, some endangered
were abundant in the forest.
Mpanga after 1932
i932, the colonial government gazetted the forest as crown land. The
Fumbe clan was then asked to stop management of the forest. Burying
of the dead in the forest ceased and the clan was allocated an
alternative place for a cemetery, still under use today. After the
clan was ordered out of the forest, and control of the forest placed
under the central government, various interested people came up,
each wanting a piece of the resource. Some of the indigenous trees
in the forest soon became target for harvesting or poaching.
Resource use control that was practiced by the clan ceased. The
government allowed all local people to have access to the forest,
although only collection of dead wood, mushrooms, small mammal
hunting, herbs and building sticks. Lack of control of the resource
off-take, and the fact that the forest guard was from the locality
enabled fast decline in forest resources. Soon, poaching took a
great toll on mammals such as Black and White Colobus, the Baboon,
De Brazzas and the Vervet, all of which no longer exist in Mpanga.
Even the Uganda Red Colobus listed in the IUCN Red Data Book as
Vulnerable was a common species in the forest before 1960. The Wild
Pig and Deer were also heavily hunted for beef by the local people.
1951, the government declared the forest protected for scientific
research. Research plots were established in the forest, and
experiments on girdling, , frill poisoning, tree increment in linear
plots and natural regeneration initiated. With conversion of the
forest into a research area, local people were totally not allowed
to harvest anything unless dry wood. The government also allowed
water collection from the protected natural streams, reeds and
papyrus, raffia palm, Bisalu grass and mud fish. Hunting in the
forest was prohibited, as well as sand and clay harvesting, cutting
of building poles and medicinal herbs. Charcoal burning and pit sawing
became a punishable offence.
to the forest doubled
for the community now turned to stealing what they felt was theirs
but which the had been denied. Harvesting of tree species such as Polyscias
fulva, Erythrina excelsa, Antiaris toxicaria, and Ficus mucoso, locally used for drum making became a daily activity,
and soon drum making businesses started thriving around Mpigi and in
Kampala. Young men started felling trees at night and ferrying them
to their nearby farms for charcoal burning, or selling them by the
roadside as firewood to tracks from the nearby Kampala city. The
forestry department reciprocated by arresting owners of drum flames
found near the forest, or owners of charcoal heaps. Unexplained
charcoal in trucks was also confiscated. This created hatred between
forest department personnel and local people. Some claim that
whenever their drum flames or charcoal was confiscated they try to
avenge by cutting down more trees.
1997, an Ecotourism site was opened at Mpanga, which the forestry
department hoped could provide some local people with revenue. Some
local people got employment within the site, and the department
promised 15% of the revenue collection to be remitted to the local
people for own projects. An Ecotourism committee comprising of
representatives from all surrounding villages was to be set up to
ease communication problem between the department and the people.
The people became optimistic that they could get some money from the
department since the Ecotourism site had started generating revenue
from the Bazungu. The
forestry department however never honored its pledge of the 15% and
villagers became restless. As all this was happening, the community
continued harvesting what they could from the forest, either by
stealing or conniving with the forest guards who were also poorly
the same year 1997, the forestry department took a decision to
engage in collaborative forest management with communities living
around Mpanga forest reserve. This was in a way to try to win the
confidence of the people, make them believe the forest resource
belongs to them, although under the management of the central
government. Promises about sharing of revenue and use quotas soon
made the community stop the rampant clearance of the forest. A team
began negotiations with local people, and there was excitement
everywhere. The local people thought that they could now arrive at
an agreement on forest resource utilization, and arrests could now
cease. They thought they could at last benefit from Mpanga forest, a
resource in their midst.
less that a year of negotiations, the process stalled. Resource use quotas
were not being introduced. The promised 15% was never remitted to
them. Only a few of their people were employed in the reserve or Ecotourism
site. The people felt cheated. Soon, illegal harvesting took a new
twist, and everyone wanted a share of the forest, without bothering
a bout the law. Even farmers were not left out. Small farms were
established within the forest, and encroachment was evident
everywhere. The people started crying out revenge, and started
destroying the departments property in the forest. Tourist way
markers and directional signs in the forest were uprooted by angry
locals, and other just cut trees for the sake of it.
2002, the forestry department tried to revive the collaborative
forest management process again. While some community members
welcome it, there are those who are totally opposed to it. Some argue
that Mpanga forest management should be left to the local councils
or forest committees.
Community management or Collaboration?
Although the forestry department wants to
manage the forest, through collaborative forest management, local
capacity need not be assumed. The community recognize the fact they
have lived with the forest and depended on it for decades. They have
used their indigenous knowledge to sustain ably utilize the forest
products and ensured the resources are protected. They argue that
their traditional forest management strategies should be incorporated
into conventional forest management, and be involved in decision
making as regards Mpanga forest. The people prefer the forest
becoming communal land, and a management committee put in place
comprising all the villages around it. In that way resource use
could be controlled. The people argue that with government
management, corruption has taken a high toll on the forest. They
claim most of the poaching is done by non-locals who are issue with
letters by the forestry department permitting harvesting, while
local people are denied the chance.
has worked very well in other areas where locals have been involved
wholly. In Tanzania, Kipumbwi is a major fishing village village in
Pangani district of about 130 households, divided in four sub
villages. A collaborative management plan for the management of the
Msangasi Mangrove Reserve was put in place which defines what kind
of uses and the procedure of utilization. The plan states that
forest users have exclusive rights to forest products made available
through the management plan. The forest users are are accountable to
the village government. The central government provides advise for
management only by demand. Villagers requiring building material for
domestic use require written permission from their respective
village sub-committee. The user is shown the area to utilize and is
supervised by a member of the committee. The committee also controls
commercial utilization of the mangrove used in boat building.
Protection of the mangrove forest is the responsibility of every
villager, and two persons accompany a member of the committee on
forest patrols. This has worked very well, and could work elsewhere.
February 1995 Mgori forest Reserve was disappearing. After
Community-based management was initiated where an agreement between
the central governments forestry division, Singida District Council
and the adjoining five villages were reached, things turned round.
By 1999 the forest was managed as Village Land Forest Reserve, each
village recognized as the common hold owner of its respective
reserve. Although the district council has one supporting field
officer responsible for the forest, all management is done by the
local people. The villages recruited 100 forest guards from within
themselves. Illegal harvesting, clearing for millet production ,
fires totally stopped and illegal hunting was reasonably contained. Dividing
the forest into Village Forest Management areas, each demarcated and
guarded by youth worked out the miracle. The boundaries were perceived
as extensions of each village. The government spends totally nothing
in the management of the reserve. Today the forest is in its initial
state and all the animals have returned. Its becoming a good tourist
attraction, although this has not been developed totally.
How to contain the Mpanga problem.
Both community-based management and
collaborative forest management could work in ensuring Mpanga forest
is conserved. For degradation of Mpanga to be checked, the forestry
department need to heed some of the calls of the locals. There's is
a need to involve local stakeholders in decision making and policy
formulation for Mpanga. There is need to promote conservation of the
forest through sustainable harvesting of the products and reforestation,
and promotion of activities that reduce the pressure off the forest
like sericulture, bee keeping, butterfly farming, development of
fodder banks, farm forestry and bio-intensive agriculture. The
department should facilitate capacity building of forest users in
technical knowledge-base in relevant fields such as species
enrichment and management regimes.
Much effort should be taken to deal with the
underlying causes of deforestation at Mpanga. Issues of community
involvement should be addressed the sooner, rest the forest is
totally wiped out. A leaf could be boll owed from Tanzania’s
Msangasi Mangrove Reserve or Mgori Forest Reserve.
paper was written with support from Friends of Mpigi Forests
Conservation and Development Organization (FOMAF)- Mpigi, Uganda and
the East African Ecotourism Development and Conservation Consultants
(ECOCONSULT)- Nairobi, Kenya. Other support came from VSO-Uganda and
the Forestry Department- Uganda. The author can be contacted on PO
Box 169, Mpigi, Uganda. Tel 077 580935 or email email@example.com.
comments in the article do not represent the feelings of the
Forestry Department, but the authors field assessment.
T., P. Howard, and C. Dickinson. 1996. Mpanga, Zika and Mpigi
District Reserves Biodiversity Report. Forest Department, Kampala,
E. 2000. Mgori forest: The present Situation of Community Management
of Forests and its Future after the Donors have left. Paper prepared
under CIFOR, Bangor, Indonesia.
M., and J. Kabamba. 1998. Defining Institutions for Collaborative
Mangrove Management: A Case Study from Tanga, Tanzania. Workshop on
Participatory Resource Management in Developing Countries, Mansfield
P. 2000. Collaborative Forest Management- The Process. Paper
presented to the National Workshop on Community Forest Management,
SECRETARIAT. C/O VSO UGANDA. PO BOX 2831. KAMPALA. UGANDA.
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Copyright 2003, Friends of Mpigi Forests
Conservation and Development Organization. All rights reserved.