Uganda is branded as one of the countries with the best legal and policy frameworks on the continent, but the implementation processes of the forest related policies and frameworks have often left a lot to be desired. Among the key forest laws include Uganda Forest 2001, National Forestry and Tree planting Act 2003. For example, Article 189 of the Uganda Constitution gives the mandate of environment protection to central government while the local governments are empowered to enact district ordinances to fit within the local context. The National Forestry and Tree plant Act 2003, provides for the establishment a NFA mandated to manage CFRs, DFSS mandated to manage and over see forest activities on private land and FSSD mandated to monitor and provide technical guidance to NFA and DFSS. While all the mandated agencies fall under the Ministry of Water and Environment, there is limited coordination in enforcing rules and regulations in the management of the respective forest resources. This is coupled with the limited staffing and budget to implement forest activities at district level has compromised enforcement hence leading to continuous encroachment, illegal trade in forest resources.
The government conflicting programmes that affect the management of forests, for example in Kyenjojo, government is promoting tea planting at expense of forestry conservation and this is often driven by political motives that have further propelled forest destruction in favour of agriculture.
Furthermore, the decentralization process which transferred responsibilities and resources from national level to local government is not clearly understood by the community particularly on the roles and responsibilities of the districts in as far as the management of forests are concerned. This is compounded by communities’ limited understanding of their rights, responsibilities and entitlements in this regard. Equally, their interests are not adequately represented in the local structures. This state of affairs has been exploited by the shrewd businessmen and the rich who inequitably access the resources at the expense of the poor and marginalized citizens who depend on these resources for their livelihoods. This has particularly affected women who rely on resources such as firewood, water, herbal plants and raw materials for basketry and for building homesteads, all required to meet basic needs in a household. Corruption tendencies like sale of forest land, illegal permits to extract forest resources, supporting illegal forest activities for political gains continue to undermine resources being used efficiently and in the interests of the poor. These practices continue to marginalise citizens and especially severe on the poorest who mostly depend on public services and natural resources for their livelihoods.
JESE targets critical forest resources in the Districts of Kyenjojo, Kyegegwa and Mubende in the Rwenzori region, aiming at strengthening stakeholder collaboration and coordination at community, district and inter-district levels driven by strong, legitimate and representative CSOs, private sector and community groups to tackle the issues of corruption, advocacy and also create spaces for synergies to combat illegal trade in charcoal and timber.
In spite of the obvious advantages accruing from the presence of wetlands in the region, they are Increasingly being depleted and government has entirely ignored the situation. The ever increasing human population has led to unplanned development pressures within the wetlands, causing many direct threats to most of the important ecosystems and endangered species. This has posed a significant threat to biodiversity and environmental sustainability and hence indirectly affecting the livelihoods of the people. JESE in partnership with RAIN and WETLANDS INTERNATIONAL are piloting the integration of wetland management, rain water harvesting and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the Rwenzori region. The programme targets the trans boundary resource of the Rwambu catchment covering the districts of Kamwenge and Ibanda.Most of the wetland dependent communities along the Rwambu catchment live below the poverty line. Their activities in the wetland such as livestock grazing, brick making, firewood collection, water supply, hunting and fishing, are unregulated and thus encroaching on the very wetlands they depend upon.