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Conserving Echuya Forest, Uganda

With 152 bird species, including 18 Albertine Rift endemics and the Endangered Grauer's Swamp-warbler, Echuya is ranked as the most important forest in the country for the rarity of its fauna and flora.  RSPB and the Ugandan BirdLife Partner, NatureUganda are working with local communities to ensure Echuya's long-term survival.

Echuya is a montane rainforest in south-western Uganda, adjoining the border with Rwanda.  Covering 3,400 ha, the forest includes a high altitude swamp called Muchuya.  The forest cover is approximately 80% mature Macaranga kilimandscharia and Hagenia abyssinica and 20% mountain bamboo Yushania alpina. 

Echuya lies in the Albertine Rift section of the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot, the most endemic-rich region in Africa.  Muchuya Swamp is home to an important population of 30-50 pairs of the Endangered Grauer's Swamp-warbler and the entire Reserve is considered a priority amongst BirdLife International's 30 Ugandan Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

Echuya is situated in one of the most densely populated and poorest agricultural regions of Uganda.  Its long-term conservation will depend on the support of the surrounding population, since pressure on forest resources - for firewood, poles, bamboo etc. is intense.  Prior to RSPB/NU's involvement, access to forest resources was legally restricted, but in practice unenforced.  Local communities (Bachiga and Bafumbira farmers and the marginalised Batwa pygmies) lacked the capacity to negotiate Collaborative Forest Management agreements that would permit them to access resources legally and to conserve them.  The result was destructive, illegal harvesting and conflict with staff of the National Forestry Authority.

Project objectives

  • Conserve one of Uganda's priority Important Bird Area
  • Protect globally threatened and regionally endemic birds
  • Put the exploitation of Echuya's resources on a sustainable footing through development, implementation and monitoring of Collaborative Forest Management agreements
  • Reduce local demand for forest products, such as bamboo and firewood by providing on-farm alternatives and introducing fuel-efficient wood-burning stoves
  • Provide alternative "income-generating activities" for those people dependent on selling forest products for their income, reducing their need to exploit the forest

Key dates so far

  • June 2004: £350,000 Department for International Development/Civil Society Challenge Fund project "Enhancing the livelihoods of Local People Dependent on Echuya Forest, Uganda" commenced
  • September 2006: Kulika training of farmers in Sustainable Organic Agriculture started
  • November 2006: Four Collaborative Forest Management agreements covering the whole of Echuya signed between National Forestry Authority and local communities
  • December 2008: Department for International Development/Civil Society Challenge Fund funding ended, RSPB core support commenced.

Work planned or underway

  • Maintain annual breeding surveys of Grauer's Swamp-warbler
  • Monitor resource off-take from the forest under the Collaborative Forest Management (monitoring performance of Collaborative Forest Management agreements and feeding results back into the Management Plan).
  • Follow up and offer on-site advice on adoption of technologies which have been successful, such as soil erosion control trenches, Sustainable Organic Agriculture, on-farm bamboo growing
  • Conduct community meetings for follow-up, evaluations and self assessment; continue training
  • Media publicity, including radio talk shows, newspaper articles

Results

  • Agreements were signed between the National Forest Authority and four Collaborative Forest Management associates, under which 1,020 households (including 600 Batwa) are able to access Echuya forest products
  • Government agencies especially National Forest Authority have recognised Echuya forest and its biodiversity by developing a management plan
  • 240,000 tree seedlings and 5,500 bamboo rhizomes have been planted outside the forest (on-farm) by communities, to provide alternative sources of forest products and reduce pressure on the reserve
  • Improved relationships (reduced conflicts) through Collaborative Forest Management arrangements between National Forest Authority and communities leading to improved management of resources.  Echuya forest is now less disturbed with reduced reports of encroachment and other harmful activities, such as forest fires, hunting and illegal cutting
  • Environment education projects relating to natural resource management conducted in 27 schools benefiting over 15,000 children
  • The discrimination gap that used to exist between Batwa and other communities has gradually been reduced through joint Collaborative Forest Management meetings and different empowerment programmes.  Batwa are now proactive in social and community processes including Collaborative Forest Management, enterprise development and living settled lifestyles
  • Approximately 150 farmers, including 45 Batwa have been trained in Sustainable Organic Agriculture  through collaboration with Kulika Uganda
  • Capacity of farmer groups has been built through training in group dynamics, marketing, project proposal writing, business skills, enterprise selection, micro finance
  • Income Generating Activities, such as mushroom and passion fruit growing, bee-keeping, tree nursery management and pineapple wine making have been promoted
  • Watershed management has been improved through soil and water conservation interventions, increasing agricultural yields by an estimated 30%
  • Household livelihoods have improved by over 50% through sale of products from enterprises, forest resources access and benefits

Species affected (not UK birds)

The forest has 152 species of recorded birds, including 18 Albertine Rift endemics (Handsome francolin, Ruwenzori turaco, Ruwenzori nightjar, Kivu ground-thrush, Red-throated alethe, Archer's robin-chat, Collared apalis, Black-faced apalis, Grauer's swamp-warbler, Red-faced woodland warbler, Yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Ruwenzori batis, Stripe-breasted tit, Blue-headed sunbird, Regal sunbird, Purple-breasted sunbird, Dusky crimson-wing, Strange weaver).

Gallery

Who to contact

Dr Chris Magin
Partner Development Officer
E-mail: chris.magin@rspb.org.uk

Partners

NatureUganda      htpp://www.natureuganda.org

Kulika Uganda       htpp://www.kulika.org

Funding

From June 2004-December 2008, NatureUganda, with £350,000 financial support from Department for International Development/Civil Society Challenge Fund, and technical and management support from RSPB, implemented a project to enhance biodiversity conservation and improve livelihoods of local communities at Echuya.  A grant of £45,000 was also received from Kulika Uganda to train farmers in Sustainable Organic Agriculture.

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