In the districts of Mpigi, Rakai and Masaka in central Uganda, once-forested landscapes have been degraded by farming and illegal logging. As the economic and environmental impacts of denuding land have become apparent, stakeholders have started replanting. But until recently, over half of the local population – its women – have been only minimally involved in the process.
“It’s such a patriarchal society that women traditionally don’t own land, and even their access to land is limited,” says Concepta Mukasa of the Association of Uganda Professional Women in Agriculture and Environment (AUPWAE). “So they might be able to plant a couple of trees for their own subsistence use, but that’s all – and even if they’re involved in planting, they’re not benefitting, especially economically.”
So in 2011 the AUPWAE, in partnership with the Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR) and Makerere University, began a project called “Gender, Tenure and Community Forestry”, with the aim of enhancing women’s involvement in forest management and promoting equitable benefit-sharing.
The partners worked with six communities in the area, using a process called Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM), in which stakeholders who share an interest in a common natural resource come together to develop shared visions, plan and implement them, and then collectively reflect on the impacts of the work and plan the next iteration. A conscious effort is made by participants to communicate, collaborate, resolve conflicts, and learn from their actions.
Local government, domestic and international NGOs, and private-sector forest owners were all involved in the process, alongside community members. Villagers were trained to facilitate the ACM processes, with a particular eye to making space for women to contribute, be heard, and take part in decision-making.
Following the ACM processes, action plans were developed for income-generating projects such as beekeeping, tree nurseries, fish farming and restoring degraded forest in order to harvest timber and fuelwood sustainably.
Having become effectively engaged in the process, non-community actors provided resources and support to help with implementation, such as training in tree nursery management and apiculture. They also supplied development funds, which were invested in income- generating projects outside of the forest, so as to help conserve the resource.
So far, says Mukasa, around 75% of the visions have been fulfilled. “And now, seven years down the road, the forest is flourishing, and the bare dirt that was covering the degraded areas can no longer be seen,” she describes.
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This story was originally published as part of a publication titled “Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success.” Produced for the Global Landscapes Forum by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), “Communities restoring landscapes” is a collection of 12 stories about community-led efforts to restore degraded forests and landscapes. To access the publication and other stories, click here.
CIFOR is a non-profit, scientific institution that conducts research on the most pressing challenges of forest and landscape management around the world. Using a global, multidisciplinary approach, we aim to improve human well-being, protect the environment, and increase equity.