KADEKA: The journey towards sustainable livelihoods and management of Echuya Forest, Kisoro, Uganda

Kanaba Community Development and Echuya Forest Conservation Association (KADECA) is a cooperative of 147 members operating in Kanaba Sub-county in Kisoro District in Uganda and is a member of ARCOS Community Network since 2016.

The cooperative was established in 2002 with the aim to engage local communities in restoration and conservation of Echuya Forest Reserve and reduce their dependency on forest resources through providing them with the capacity to develop alternative livelihoods initiatives.

Echuya Forest Reserve lies within the Albertine Rift Afromontane area, which makes it the centre of endemism that contains a variety of species only confined to this unique ecosystem. The forest was highly threatened by human activities mostly encroachment due to the search for agricultural land, illegal honey collection and water fetching, large-scale extraction of bamboo and other trees inside the forest, and the papyrus from Muchuya Swamp located on the top of the forest.

As a solution, the government of Uganda through a participatory approach established KADECA to jointly manage and restore the forest. In the beginning, local communities tended to resist when the government restricted the use of Echuya resources. But after the establishment of KADECA, the group was supported financially and given skills to invest in a diversity of income generating activities including handcraft, business-oriented agriculture, beekeeping, wine manufacturing, ecotourism and saving and credit schemes. They also developed tree nurseries for agroforestry and restoration of the forest, as well as securing the availability of raw materials (mostly bamboo) outside Echuya.

Among KADECA, few sub-groups were formed to jointly monitor activities inside and outside the forest. Information sharing was reinforced to allow communities to report on illegal activities and get feedback from the local government on correction measures against the reported issues. As a result, illegal activities in and outside Echuya have been stopped. No bush fires anymore, no illegal bamboo cutting and tree cutting, no illegal harvesting of papyrus. In addition, community’s behaviour and mindset has improved.

They are now focusing on protecting and restoring Echuya forest while building sustainability of their livelihoods. Cooperative turnover significantly increased from UGX 200,000 in 2010 to UGX 30,000,000 in 2018. However, KADECA is facing some challenges including climate variability, lack of enough technical skills, lack of enough manure, some bamboo species disappearing and few among local community who are still too rigid to adopt to new technologies.