Contribution to livelihoods and perceived environmental costs of informal timber value chains among small-holder forestry farmers in the Albertine region of Uganda.
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In Uganda, the contribution of small holder forestry to the livelihoods of local communities is not well understood. There is knowledge gap on the determinants of participation, contribution to livelihoods and impact on the environment of informal timber value chains based on small-holder tree farmers. The study was conducted in Masindi and Rukungiri districts located in the Albertine rift. The overall objective of this study was to contribute to the knowledge that will enhance the contribution of small holder forestry to the timber value chain at the same time minimizing the impacts of these small-scale plantations and woodlots on the environment in Uganda. The specific objectives of the study were to: (i) assess the determinants of participation in informal timber value chain activities based on small holder forestry in the Albertine rift, (ii) determine the contribution of small holder forestry timber value chain to livelihoods of local communities, and (iii) assess the perceived impacts of the trade on the environment. Eighteen Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted to obtain information on the participation of communities and benefits that accrue from the informal timber value chain based on small holder forestry. In addition, a total of 133 respondents from Masindi and Rukungiri districts were interviewed. Data were analyzed using both descriptive and inferential statistics to characterize the socio-economic and demographic factors of the different respondents especially with regard to participation and benefits in the timber value chain. The results showed that size of household landholding was a determining factor in participation in tree planting while processing of trees into sawn wood was dominated by the male youth and adult men. Income determined participation in trading in timber. A substantial number of women and the youth were found to be participating in buying and selling timber and this was not expected. Both timber value chains and agricultural activities contributed greatly to livelihoods of forest adjacent communities. However, the timber value chain in Rukugiri contributed more to local livelihoods than in Masindi where agricultural activities were more dominant. There are both direct and indirect benefits that accrue to forest adjacent communities which include access to cheap timber for construction and firewood from processing residues among others. In Masindi, the majority of the respondents were of the view that timber value chain activities negatively affected the environment while in Rukungiri the perception of the respondents on the impact of timber value chain activities were mixed. Although, there were benefits accruing from the trade, the results also show that timber trade negatively reduced environmental services. It is recommended that planting of fast-growing indigenous trees in agroforestry systems for timber production instead of exotic trees that reduce environmental services should be promoted. In addition, strategies to establish local timber growers’ associations to promote efficient processing and marketing of timber for improved contribution of timber trade to local livelihoods should be put in place.