The Pocket Forest: Biodiversity for Kafuga

Project Location: Rubuguri, Kirundo Sub-county Kisoro District South Western Uganda

Start Date: February 2015

Est. completion Date: January 2016

The Pocket Forest: Biodiversity for Kafuga

Background:

The Kafuga Pocket Forest can be found about 35km from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) in south-western Uganda. Kafuga is a fascinating ancient rainforest with rugged, mist-covered hills and narrow valleys dating back to over 25,000 years. The nearby Impenetrable Forest is home to a 320 mountain gorillas, and is unsurprisingly a popular tourist spot as a result.

However the Kafuga Pocket Forest is not as well protected as its neighbour. Yet it was once being described as an ecological island forest of international importance and the richest conservation area in Uganda owing to the exceptional diversity of both its flora and fauna.

Situated in one of the country’s most densely populated rural areas means the forest has been utilised extensively for timber and firewood with land taken over for small-holdings and the hunting of some animals for wild meat.  This increasing encroachment has resulted in the loss of flora and fauna, disrupting habitats for chimpanzees and birdlife such as the African owl and the grey crowned crane.

ITF Project Involvement

Now help is at hand through a community initiative of Pro-biodiversity Conservationists in Uganda (PROBICOU) funded by ITF’s Sustainable Community Forestry Programme. It is hoped that through this project to increase biodiversity, there will be a surge of eco-tourism with visitors coming to see amazing, native wildlife. This should generate additional income for local people and further encourage the protection of these biodiversity zones, as well as becoming a hot spot for research.

Community Engagement

To balance the needs of people and biodiversity, management zones will be created around Kafuga Pocket Forest which will establish protection areas for wildlife and habitats and separate areas for people to generate income.

This is to involve extensive community engagement as Robert Tumwesigye Baganda of PROBICOU explains, ‘the local community leadership was engaged in the development of this project and together helped in identifying project priority interventions. They will therefore play a critical role in the implementation of this project especially in mobilizing community members as well as in project evaluation.’

The local communities are 1,200 families belonging to three Bantu peoples, the Bakiga, Bafumbira and Banyarwanda who cultivate the land immediately surrounding the forest. And also to 50 to 100 Batwa families who had to move out of Bwindi when it became a national park in 1964.

To engage with the wide range of peoples, four community tree nurseries will be set up to establish a ready source of new plants with seeds being provided for by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Kisoro District Local Government (KDLG). In turn, 30,000 trees will be planted through a tree day event for 500 community members.

Project Goals

This project has far-reaching goals. It will engage with as many people as possible by putting up of posters about the project in local languages and by using radio and television spots. PROBICOU hope that by raising public awareness, the Kafuga Pocket Forest can once more become, an ecological island forest of international importance,’ and its flora and fauna returned to, ‘East Africa’s richest.’

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