Challenges in land cover types, savannah woodland utilization and constraints to sustainable use in Kenshunga, Rwemikoma and Kinoni Sub Counties, Kiruhura District
The study investigated land cover types, their spatial distribution and how they have changed in the last 50 years; it also documented the current utilization of savannah woodlands and examined the constraints to their sustainable use. The research was conducted within the tri-junction area of the three parishes of Kijuma, Kaitanturegye and Nshwerenkye that are within the sub-counties of Kenshunga, Rwemikoma and Kinoni in Kiruhura district. The results of the research were based on image data and data from the questionnaire. The objectives of the study were to investigate changes in land cover types and to document the current utilization of savannah woodlands and the constraints to their sustainable use. The study revealed three main land cover types: closed grassland with sparse tree and shrubs where the percentage of sparse shrubs was between 1 -15% and that of sparse trees was between 5 – 15%, closed grassland was the dominant land cover type in 1955; this was attributed to the existing fire regime supported by the communal land ownership in the area which existed at that time. Bush burning as a traditional method of pasture management was commonly used in the study area. This practice was carried out every dry season at least twice a year intended to elicit fresh grass for grazing at the beginning of the wet season and for easy location of hunting grounds. Fires were set haphazardly burning large areas causing adverse environmental effects. As a result of burning, grass height became shorter and the number of trees reduced. The second main land cover type was open shrubs with sparse trees; this was the dominant land cover type in 1980. The third main land cover type was closed woody land cover with sparse trees; this was the dominant land cover type in the study area in 2000. The results showed that savannah woodland cover was negligible in 1950s but increased between 1955 and 2000. This was attributed to fire suppressions as a result of change from communal land ownership to private land ownership and invasion of non native or invasive species. Savannah woodland cover, however, decreased between 2000 and 2005 mainly because of clearing of these woodlands for livestock farming, charcoal burning and cultivation purposes. The study identified the following current utilization of savannah woodlands; livestock farming (385), agriculture farming (21%), charcoal supply for both rural and urban communities (21%), sources of fire wood (10%), sources of building materials (4%), and medicinal drugs (4%) for the local community. Three constraints to sustainable use of savannah woodlands were also noted: the first challenge was continued increase of savannah woodlands degradation, then the second one was lack of alternative source of income to the local community who are depending on these woodlands for their livelihood, the third constraints was how to provide the urban communities with cheaper alternative source of energy. The savannah woodlands In this area is under pressure mainly from high growth of human and livestock population. Human related activities have increasingly expanded agriculture and livestock production to cover even the most fragile types of the savannah. Currently there are not measures in place for sustainable use of this vital resource.