Enhancing local livelihoods and wetland conservation through community based management: the case of Kyojja Wetland Management Association, Masaka District
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The study sought to provide an understanding of community based management initiatives in the wetland sector with regard to their capacity to improve local livelihoods and the conservation of wetlands. The study was undertaken in the wetland sector since no studies had been undertaken to assess the extent to which the community based management initiatives in the wetland sector were fulfilling these roles and objectives. The specific objectives were: 1. To examine the contribution of CBWM initiatives on the people’s livelihoods in the study area. 2. To examine the impact of CBWM on community attitudes and practices towards wetland conservation. 3. To analyze the conservation status of the wetland. 4. To establish the influence of social, economic, political and institutional factors on the functioning of the CBWM and make appropriate recommendations. The Study adopted a case study design with the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods. The study was undertaken in Kyojja wetlands, of Masaka district, Kisekka Sub County in the parishes of Busubi and Kinono / Nakalembe. The study area was chosen because it is where one of the first pilot community conservation initiatives in the wetland sector is located. The study found evidence to show that as a result of CBWM intervention, the community livelihoods have been enhanced through better access to wetland resources, earning income, enhancing human capacity, strengthening social interactions and acquiring physical assets. In addition, people’s attitudes, beliefs and practices have become more positive towards wetland conservation, communal management and ownership of the wetland. The study however found that despite the reduction in degradation activities such as wetland drainage, cultivation and burning, there were still instances of over harvesting of wetland resources. The most affected resources included papyrus, palms and animals like sitatunga and antelopes. The study found inadequacies in the institutional capacity to promote community participation as witnessed in the failure of the central management committee to regularly consult with the communities. The committee has also performed poorly in participatory planning, gender balance in decision making, and renewal of leadership positions. It is recommended that the wetlands lead agency, the Wetlands Management Department and the district environment office regularly monitor and support community conservation interventions. This will ensure that communities understand the importance of utilizing the wetland sustainably. Furthermore, support advanced to the community based wetland management institution would help enhance community mobilization initiatives and empower the community in participatory planning, implementation and monitoring. The lead agency should in addition work closely with other government departments / sectors particularly those concerned with community development, tourism and commerce to empower the community to own and manage the project sustainably and also to produce high quality wetland products that can access markets both locally and internationally.