Social networks and community participation in catchment management in the Kigezi Highlands of Uganda
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This study analyzes influences of social networks on local communities’ participation in collective management of catchments in the Kigezi highlands. A social network approach is used to explore relations between actors and how these relations enable or constrain people’s catchment management behaviors. The study combined descriptive survey and ethnographic research designs to investigate community networks in Kashekyera village in Igomanda watershed, Kabale district. The key findings reflect catchment resident’s behaviors as shaped by diverse network relations, arising from their settlement arrangement, day-to-day social and economic activities and socio-demographic factors e.g. age, gender, origin and settlement history. There are significant influences of proximity factors, patriarchy and slope location in residents’ choice of network partners. Interpersonal and community-level relations are mediated by effects of large-scale networks of NGOs, government programs and administrative structures that channel resources into the community resources and maintain an overarching influence over catchment management activities at the grass roots. The findings stress the exchange-oriented nature of catchment management, since cooperation is sustained by obligatory exchanges between local communities and external agencies as well as norm-regulated transactions within the community. The study recommends deliberate nurturing of local institutions to sustain activities initiated by projects; enhancing bridging and linking capabilities of community networks; and an integrated approach that permits iterative learning and action in participatory catchment management.