Management Regimes established for REDD+ and their Adaptability to the Institutional and Ecological Conditions: A case of Ongo Community Forest, Masindi District, Uganda

Management Regimes established for REDD+ and their Adaptability to the Institutional and Ecological Conditions: A case of Ongo Community Forest, Masindi District, Uganda

This  report is one of the outputs of theproject “Man and forests – an  evaluation  of  management strategies for reduced deforestation” which aimed at evaluating the different  management strategies  undertaken  to  obtain  reduced  deforestation  in  tropical  forests  and  hence  maintain  the various ecosystem services delivered. One component of this project focused on characterizing the management regimes established in the REDD+ pilot area and how well the REDD+ regime is adapted to the local institutional and ecological conditions. The site under investigation is a communally owned forest known as Ongo community forest, where the Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST), is piloting REDD+ activities. The investigations entailed discussions with the implementing agent the ECOTRUST, local council leaders, forest management committee members, Masindi district technical staff and the local community members.

The key findings indicated that Ongo is a low-stocked Tropical High Forest under the governance of community  members,  from  the four villages  surrounding  the  forest.  The  forest  has  continued  to face deforestation and degradation with the main drivers including agricultural encroachment and harvesting  of  poles.  With  regard  to  governance  and  governance  structures,  there  were  several organizations  and  institutions  established  prior  the  REDD+  regime  including the District and several NGOs. The REDD+ project activities  were initiated in 2010 and some of the key achievements to date include the formal registration of Ongo Communal Land Association, initiating the  process  of  acquiring  a  land  title,  forest  boundary  survey  and  mapping,  more  community sensitization  and  awareness  about carbon  trading and  the  need  for forest conservation;  review  of the  constitution  and  the  forest  management  plan  to  fit  the current  conditions,  and  community training about benefit sharing.

Some of the challenges encountered included the bureaucratic process of acquiring the land ownership document; allegations of land grabbing by some of the community members, which disrupted several awareness and sensitization sessions; resistance during the boundary survey process and demands for compensation by those individuals who had cultivated along the forest boundary; and the continued illegal activities especially harvesting of poles and cultivating along the forest frontier. With regard to adaptability to the ecological conditions, the forest characteristics including topography, species composition, soil characteristics and accessibility make it very vulnerable to access and resource use pressures which are likely to continue posing challenges from the governance perspective. Further, the location of the forest makes it very open and accessible by any community member from the four villages.

With  regard to adaptability to the institutional conditions, ECOTRUST built on the existing initiatives and institutions, and therefore endeavoured to address the existing constraints especially with regard to conflicts between the CLA leadership and the community members. Most of the activities designed for implementation were acceptable to the community, given that a participatory approach was utilized all the time, with only a few instances were resistance was met (boundary  survey), but later resolved. In conclusion, it is noted that not until when the forest is gazetted and declared as a community forest, thus empowering the community, the forest will continue to face governance and management challenges. However, the different actors have exhibited complementary efforts and in due consideration of the REDD+ processes in the country, there is great potential for achievement of the REDD+ pilot activities.

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