Rights, resources and rewards - Benet landscape, Uganda

20 July 2013 | International news release

The Mount Elgon region straddles Kenya and the east of Uganda, extending over an area of approximately 772,000 ha, of which 221,000 ha have been set aside as reserves and national parks. The remaining 550,000ha consist of farmlands and settlements. Mount Elgon itself rises 4,321 m above sea level and stretches over a distance of 80 km from north to south and 50 km wide. It nourishes a vast array of rivers and streams that feed into the important river systems of Africa, most notably the Nile. The area is important for species conservation thanks to the richness of endemic plant and animal species found on the mountain.

The Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy (LLS) intervention in this area targeted a relatively small part of the overall landscape, an area referred to as the 'Benet landscape' in Uganda, after its indigenous forest-dwelling inhabitants. The Benet landscape has long been a source of tension between the Benet peoples and the Mount Elgon National Park authorities following a 30-year old decision to resettle the Benet peoples outside the boundaries of the national park. In part as a result of these tensions, but also because of poorly-defined land tenure rights, unsustainable cattle grazing and crop-growing practices, the land in the Benet landscape has been degraded and no natural forests remain in the Benet landscape, not even remnants. Furthermore, efforts by the Benet to eke out a livelihood had failed to yield important benefits.

LLS interventions implemented in the landscape sought to improve the income opportunities of the Benet people through efforts to rehabilitate the severely degraded landscape through the planting of contours, improve farming and crop cultivation practices, and develop products, such as milk and honey, for sale in local and regional markets. The goal was that interventions would yield co-benefits in terms of improved livelihoods and environmental rehabilitation and conservation. Going forward, the objective was to take the lessons learned and scale them up in neighbouring landscapes and beyond.

The LLS interventions used a multi-stakeholder approach to engage with local communities and local and national authorities as part of efforts to identify common needs and approaches and common goals. At the same time, the approach sought to address tensions between the Benet indigenous people and the park authorities surrounding natural resource use and access rights.

As a result of the interventions described in detail in the following report, considerable progress was made to diffuse tensions, improve farming practices, increase and diversify products for sale at markets, enhance livelihoods and contribute to protection of the landscape. Much of the emphasis of the interventions was on stakeholder engagement to ensure that measures implemented corresponded to local needs and prevailing conditions and on learning-by-doing.

The project yielded a host of important lessons, including the need to manage expectations of stakeholders and communities. The LLS in the Benet landscape has on the whole been successful and the area and its communities have been selected as a REDO+ pilot site as part of efforts to tackle climate change.