Effect of human settlement on woody biomass resources in Kibaale district, Western Uganda
This study examined the effect of human migration and settlement on woody biomass resources in Kibaale district between March and July 2005. The objectives were to (1) assess the level of awareness of migrant communities towards environmental degradation and conservation, (2) assess the factors that influence deforestation rate in the areas settled by migrant communities, and (3) examine the species abundance and distribution of woody vegetation in areas settled by migrants. Data were collected at both community and household level. Twenty community focus group discussions were conducted while a structured questionnaire was administered to 160 households, of which 128 were from migrant communities and 32 from non-migrant communities. Data were analyzed using SOSS to generate descriptive statistics of the respondents and condition of resources. A Linear Regression Model was used to estimate the influence of socio-economic factors of migrants on cleared forest area. It was found that both migrant and non-migrant communities are aware of environmental degradation within and around their communities, including possible measures to reduce it although the level of awareness differed in regard to the different environmental related bylaws. The size of land owned by household was found to have a significant and positive influence on cleared forest area implying that households with bigger land size are more likely to clear more forest area. Contrary to the expected, ethnicity (in this case ‘Mukiga’ origin) of the household head had an inverse but significant relationship with the cleared forest area suggesting that households of Bakiga origin are not necessarily associated with increased cleared forest area. The areas surrounding migrant communities were found to be richer in woody species but with low species diversity and evenness. Settlement has a negative effect on woody resources in Kibaale district although this is not limited to migrant communities. It is recommended that more awareness programmes be implemented by government and civil society organizations but such programmes should be tailored to address the existing land use practices attitudes towards environment. Furthermore, resettlement schemes in the district should have comprehensive environmental regulations and natural resources use guidelines.