The success of the Collaborative Forestry Management by communities living near Itwara Central Forest Reserve is being attributed to the community's knowledge about the programme. There has been reduction in tree cutting for timber and encroachment of the forest reserve.
In 2001, government put in a place a forest policy aimed at effective management of forest resources, after some state institutions failed to register significant positive results due to lack of adequate financial and human resources to monitor the use of these forests. The Community Forestry Management was set up as another viable option to manage forestry resources.
In section 15 of the National Forest and Tree Planting Act, communities enter into an agreement with the National Forest Authority (NFA) for the management of forest resources through a negotiated process. Under the agreement, the community manages a central or local forest reserve in accordance with regulations that have been issued by the Minister.
In Kabarole district, the CFM was implemented a year ago in communities in Hakibale Sub County. NFA signed a memorandum of understanding with Hakibale conservation community group to manage Itwara central forest reserve. It was implemented following an increase in cases of tree cutting for timber and cases of forest fires, which had become a daily occurrence.
The implementation of CFM has seen a reduction in tree cutting and encroachment of the forest reserves, which was rampant in the past.
Moses Irumba, the sector manager Itwara, says that encroachment and tree cutting in the forest reserve has reduced by 60% since the CFM was implemented. Irumba says that some of the residents who had encroached on the reserve have since left and are managing the reserve after being educated on the dangers of depleting the forest reserve.
He says that through the CFM, communities also supplement the work of the NFA since the authority lacks adequate manpower and resources to protect the forest reserves.
Steven Mugenyi, the chairperson Hakibale conservation group, attributes the success to the community’s awareness about CFM. He says that in the first four months when it was being implemented, there wasn't any positive impact since the residents were ignorant. Mugenyi says that through the sub county and village environment committees, the residents have been sensitized about the benefits of CFM like getting herbal medicine and firewood from the reserves.
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Ruth Byamukama, a member of the group, however says that there is need for the government to popularize CFM since some members of the community are still ignorant about it. She says that some residents think that after signing the agreement with NFA, the forest reserve belongs to the community and are free to cut down trees.
According to the Environment report for Uganda 2011/2012 compiled by the Ministry of Water and Environment, in areas where central forest reserves exist, the CFM hasn’t registered any positive impact.
The report states that communities are ignorant about collaborative forestry management and NFA officials were also conniving with members of the public to cut down trees for timber.