Communities Catapult Wetlands Management Planning in Otuke District
Integrating risk management into policies and investments, and scaling up good practices from 2011-2018 led to increased resilience in the Otuke district. Communities in the Partners for Resilience (PfR) project site in the Otuke district realized the interconnectedness of integrating climate change adaptation (CCA), Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Ecosystem Management and Restoration (EMR) approaches quickly. They acknowledged the linkages between national policy and traditional rules, and norms and values attached to trees, wetlands, and ecosystems.
In 2013, as a result of increasing degradation of trees for charcoal and wetland encroachment for rice growing, the Partners for Resilience team was approached by the Otuke District’s Natural Resources Department to support the restoration of degraded wetlands and forest reserves. This was a logical link to the gaps identified during the Climate Vulnerability and Assessment (CVCA) assessment in 2011. The study showed high level of wetland cultivation as an adaptation measure. Conflicts were common due to individuals owning wetlands adjacent to their land. Denial to access of wetland resources, particularly to women, was common.
CARE, together with the district natural resources office, hit the ground by breaking the odds and conducted separate dialogues with communities living adjacent to Agony and Aminopio wetlands in the Ogor sub-county between 2014- 2015. The purpose of these consultations was to assess the level of degradation, seek community opinion on the values of the wetland and their proposal for sustainable use. Communities welcomed the idea and recommended the guidance of development of wetland management plans for awareness raising on policy provision and technical guidance.
CARE hired a consultant to facilitate the process of developing community participatory wetland management plans for the upper stream (Aminopio) and lower stream (Agony) wetlands. This exercise taught community members about wetland policy and the value of wetlands in the environment such as water supply, materials for crafts, food, boundary and modifying local climate. It triggered meetings which led to the development of two community participatory wetland management plans for Agony and Aminopio wetlands which were approved by the Commissioner for Wetlands in the Ministry of Water and Environment in 2015.
CARE, together with the district natural resources department, facilitated awareness on the process of developing participatory wetland management plans. Using this knowledge, the community developed the Tee Abaala wetland management plan. This was accompanied by the development of bye-laws and pictorials on benefits derived from the wetlands.
The same community developed an action plan which includes songs, musical instrumentals, dance, and drama. They use this to sensitize communities on the need to sustainably use wetlands. They conduct community dialogues and meetings to rally peers to manage and use wetlands sustainably. The community members also influenced the inclusion of the wetland management into the parish development plan of Anepmoroto.
Currently, with the guidance of the wetland management committee, they also educate peers on the dangers of wetland cultivation which lead to siltation, loss of biodiversity, destruction of food crops, among others.
The community has mobilized peers in the village and demarcated Te-abaala wetland to burr cultivation in the eye of the wetland. They used readily available materials in the area and, at the same time, the local tree species are used for making sisal ropes that are then sold by the community. Access to grazing land, water points, fish, craft materials and other food is zoned and observed.
No more conflicts here: Women and girls freely access water at designated spots.
Across the wetland, the neighboring village is seen growing rice. According to members of the wetland management committee, two meetings have already been conducted to raise their awareness on wetland policy. A third meeting is scheduled. So far, the members of this village commit to abide by the existing regulations and jointly plan the use of the wetlands on their side.
Other activities taking place in the wetland include beekeeping. This is dominated by women who often play the role of providing food for the family.
The Te-abaala wetland committee has continued to be invited to district and national functions where they demonstrate wetland management and restoration like World Wetlands Day and International Biodiversity Day. They present songs, dances, drama, and music at these events to rally stakeholders to promote the sustainable use of wetlands.
On September 3, 2018, the Te-abaala wetland management committee was visited by the PfR Mali team. They showcased their engagement in wetland management and restoration and conducted a guided tour of the wetland. The demarcated wetland areas were visible. You could see men and women fully involved.
From this, one of the guests exclaimed: “You people know more about the wetland than my colleagues in the Netherlands,” said Kim Ogonda. Additionally, an article was written by the Mali Team that claimed this was the best “integrated approach to wetland conservation.” Participation of the community in wetland management and restoration has also attracted media to write news articles in Uganda.
Investing in community structures plays a crucial function in replicating good practices. Putting communities at the center of policy, investments and practice sustains good approaches, creates ownership, reduces conflicts and enhances harmony. Currently, the Te-abaala community demonstrate increasing interest to ensure wetlands are sustainably used over generations.