MAPPING FOREST DEGRADATION IN UGANDA
The lush tropical jungles, rainforests, savannahs, lakes and rivers of Uganda are home to an astonishing array of biodiversity. As well as supporting wildlife, which is vital for the country’s heritage and tourism industry, the forest resources of Uganda are essential to the local population’s livelihoods. However, these valuable forest resources are disappearing rapidly, at a rate of 135,200 hectares annually. If this continues, most of the country’s forests will disappear in the coming century. It is therefore essential to obtain forest resource information for effective policymaking, reporting, planning and sustainable management, all of which are critical in combating climate change. The National Forestry Authority of Uganda has been working to develop reliable forest resource information using satellite land monitoring systems, managed by the remote sensing/geographical information system (GIS) unit, comprising a small, specialized team within the Authority. With the support of UN-REDD, this unit is now considered one of the most strategic within the Authority, providing support in mapping, reporting and data production for various projects across the country, including a FAO/Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) wood fuel assessment project that is designed to map land area changes around refugee settlements. Compared to deforestation, forest degradation is harder to detect and quantify. However, in the summer of 2019, the remote sensing/GIS unit took on the challenging task of assessing forest degradation across Uganda for the first time in its history. With the help of the innovative FAO SEPAL platform, the first estimates of forest degradation have recently been generated. SEPAL reports and photographic evidence indicate a high rate of deforestation and forest degradation in the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, a 41,000-hectare protected area that is home to significant biodiversity, but that is facing growing human pressure from a nearby refugee settlement.
“Ugandan people depend on forests and trees for cooking, heating and eating,” says Edward Senyonjo, National Forestry Authority Coordinator of NFIs. “This is why we should guide the local communities to better manage their forest resources, to avoid degradation and deforestation and to improve sustainability.
John Diisi, National Forest Authority Remote Sensing Lab Coordinator, says, “Mapping is key in addressing forest deforestation in Uganda since you cannot manage what you don’t know. The level of degradation determines where our intervention is more urgent and what areas need more protection or restoration.”
“Mapping is key in addressing forest deforestation in Uganda since you cannot manage what you don’t know. The level of degradation determines where our intervention is more urgent and what areas need more protection or restoration.”National Forest Authority Remote Sensing Lab Coordinator
Diisi was part of the team that worked on the Authority’s report from June to August 2019. With technical expertise provided by FAO, the report covers data and trends for the period 2016–2019 that will support policymaking and management decisions to protect the Bugoma ecosystem. This marks an important strategic step towards the sustainable management of Ugandan forests. As the first-ever forest degradation report produced in the country, it lays the foundation for similar work to be done in the future in other parts of Uganda.