Local capacity to manage forestry resources under a decentralised system of governance : the case of Uganda
This study aims at examining technical and institutional capacity in local organisations to manage decentralised forest resources in Uganda. Specifically the study assessed the roles, responsibilities, powers and legal instruments, incentives, facilities and human and fiscal resources of local organisations to undertake decentralised forest governance. Semistructured and key informant interviews were conducted in local organisations and legal and policy documents reviewed to ascertain strategies for implementing decentralised forestry. An inventory of selected forests was conducted to assess effect of decentralisation policy on the condition of forests in Uganda. Chi-square tests were used to show the factors that motivate local organisations to participate in decentralised forest governance. Tree species diversity and richness, density, diameter at breast height and basal area and sings of human disturbance were used to compare the condition of forests under local government and those under private and central government ownership. Similarity between the forests was assessed using a Two Way INdicator SPecies Analysis, while the differences in the composition and structural characteristics of trees among forest ownership categories were compared by oneway analysis of variance. Multiple regression analysis was used to show the influence of household pressure, forest size, the distance of the forest from roads and forest administrative office, and the market demand of the forest produce on the capacity of forest agencies to regulate timber harvesting. The findings reveals that local organisations supported devolved forest management functions such as forest monitoring, tree planting, environmental education, networking, collaborative and integrated planning, resource mobilisation and formulation of byelaws. The role of forestry in the livelihoods of the people, the desire to control forest degradation and access to forest revenue, donor and central government fiscal support were the most important incentives in decentralised forest management. However, limited capacity in terms of qualified staff, funds, facilities and equipment and inadequate decision-making powers over fiscal resources from forestry, inequitable distribution of forest revenue and unclear forest and tree tenure hindered decentralised forest management. The diversity and richness indices, density, diameter at breast height and basal area of trees were significantly higher in central forest reserves, intermediate in private and lower in local forest reserves. The frequency of human disturbances was significantly higher in local forest reserves than in private and central forest reserves. The variation in composition and structure of the local forest reserves is partly attributed to human disturbances. The capacity of the forest agencies to regulate forest resources use in the Mpigi forests was significantly affected by the size of forest, and its location in relation to the well-maintained roads, forest administrative office and the number of households in close proximity and the market demand of the forest produce. Large forests in close proximity to densely populated areas and far a way from roads and the forest administrative office were more affected by timber harvesting. The results demonstrated that local governments are not yet efficient in monitoring and regulating forest use and maintaining the condition of forests in Uganda. Local organisations need to play an increased role in the implementation of the Forest Policy, the National Forestry and Tree Planting and the Local Government Acts for successful decentralisation of forest management and to recruit more technical staff, strengthen internal sources of revenue and develop integrated forestry work plans. There is also a need for the central government to integrate and co-ordinate local and central interests, and facilitate a working relationship with local governments, civil society and the private sector involved in forestry. Forest owners and managers in the Mpigi forests and Ugandaâ s tropical forests in general need to manage human impacts so as to balance utilisation and conservation forest resources. There is need for longterm studies to fully understand the real significance of ownership on the composition and structure of the Mpigi forests and forests in other districts of Uganda.