Mabira is one of Uganda’s few remaining rainforests, covering an area of about 300 square kilometers. One of the largest reserves in the country, Mabira is home to endangered species. However, population growth, high demand for charcoal and agricultural invasion pose risks to their conversation. To combat degradation, the Uganda National Forest Authority uses a program for forest mapping, protection, and management.
Called the REDD+ National Strategy, the program was created in November 2017 and is supported by the United Nations Organization, which has a strategy for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, UN-REDD. The idea is to encourage conservation, sustainable management, and increased forest carbon stocks.
“Forests support our well-being and can also be sources of income – we depend on forests and forests depend on us,” says Musonda Mumba, head of the UN Environment Ecosystem Unit.
Uganda has suffered from deforestation over the past decade and has one of the highest rates of forest degradation in the world. In 1990, forest cover was estimated at 24% of the total land area in the country. In 2015, this percentage was 12.4% and currently is 9%. Many of the remaining forests are in protected areas of the National Forest Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
“It is important to have accurate maps and forest situation reports so that management teams can make sound decisions. In my work, I sometimes stay in the field for 30 days straight in the woods, walking up to 15 kilometers a day. But I love nature and I’m happy to be able to help protect the environment, ”says Brenda Nagasha, National Forest Authority’s biomass supervisor.
Deforestation in Mabira is related to firewood extraction, as over 90% of domestic energy comes from firewood and charcoal. Harvesting timber for construction and converting land for agriculture are also responsible.
“We help with forest conservation by distributing information throughout the community and stressing their importance, talking about forests and the importance of not deforesting but replanting and restoring,” says Noar Natolo, a weaver from the Nagoje community, located in the Mabira forest. To complement the lace, she collects palm leaves and weaves rugs that will later be dyed with natural products. “Forests give us medicines, quality air, and rain, all very important. In return, the National Forest Authority allows us to collect dry firewood, water, and medicinal herbs for domestic use on certain days. Before, the National Forest Authority was a kind of enemy, but now, for the last ten years, we’ve had a great relationship. ”
The National Forest Authority also provided the community with hives and seedlings for planting. “They brought us together as a community,” adds Natolo.
UN-REDD was established in 2008 as a collaborative program of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).