Improving livelihoods through sustainable management of forest resources

Geographical Location

Echuya forest lies between 1º14'- 1º21' S and 29º47'-29º52'. It lies at the heart of the biodiversity rich Albertine rift eco-region and is a site of global biodiversity importance and hence is categorised by BirdLife as an important Bird Area because of the high diversity of bird species especially the globally threatened and high endemism levels. Echuya Forest Reserve is a montane rainforest of c.3403ha extent surrounding a c.7km long, 700 ha, high altitude Muchuya swamp that is a home to the globally threatened and albertine endemic Grauers Swamp warbler.

Biodiversity

The forest has about 137 species of birds, including 10 Albertine rift endemics and a significant population of the globally threatened Grauers Swamp Warbler. The forest lies between 2 north-south aligned ridges, with its eastern and western borders lieing essentially on the ridge tops and falling down steep sides into Muchuya swamp in the valley between. It ranges in altitude between 2,270 & 2,570 m.a.s.l. The forest is dominated by mature hagenia-rapenia comprising c.80% of the forest cover with a declining but significant mountain bamboo (arundinaria alpina) component, c.20% of the forest cover. Muchuya swamp is dominated by the sedge species Pycreus nigricans, with tree heather (Erica kingaensis), giant lobelia (lobelia mildbraedii) and red hot-pokers (kniphophia species) also notably common species.

The People around the Forest
The forest is surrounded by areas with a very high rural population density that depends entirely on natural resources and forest products for their basic livelihood needs e.g. firewood, bamboo for construction, medicinal plants etc). Most of the landscape around Echuya has been deforested, leaving the Central Forest Reserve as the only source of forest products. The forest sorrounding communities have been using forest products unsustainably due lack of alternative sources of livelihoods hence degrading the forest biodiversity resources. 
The Project
In July 2011, Dansk Ornitologisk Forening (DoF) and NatureUganda (NU), started the project “Improving livelihoods through sustainable management of forest resources in and around Echuya Forest Reserve, Uganda”. The project is implemented in collaboration with National Forestry Authority (NFA) , United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU) and, Kisoro and Kabale District Local Governments. The project is a four year project targeting women and men in Forest Adjacent Communities (FACs) in 9 parishes surrounding Echuya Central Forest Reserve (ECFR). It seeks to promote multi-pronged approaches towards forestry resources management, including setting up a Collaborative Forest Resources Management (CFM) system that would serve as a demonstration to Uganda and beyond.
The Goal of the project is “Forest adjacent communities (FACs) around Echuya Central Forest Reserve (ECFR) provide a national demonstration of how to develop a sustainable source of income through Collaborative Forest Management (CFM). This Goal is set to be realized through; Increasing the capacity of FAC’s, National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Nature Uganda staff to manage Natural Resource Management (NRM) projects and to communicate and advocate for the developed CFM agreements, livelihood approaches and lessons learned at national level; Improving incomes and livelihoods of all FACs equitably and increasing social benefits they receive through training/ support in sustainable livelihood options and natural resource management; and improving the ecological integrity of ECFR through securing the natural resources, environmental services and biodiversity in the long-term.

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