How one forestry company is helping Ugandan farmers improve their living while tackling encroachment issues
When Rogers Kutesa moved to the village of Kyabajojo in central Uganda, he was looking for land where he could farm and let his cattle graze. The land he had just left was fragmented, and he had struggled to make a living. Despite high hopes, his situation did not initially improve in Kyabajojo, until he came across a locally-based forestry company named global-woods.
“Global-woods has supported us in many ways to help us grow as modern farmers – like training workshops in planting and the use of fertilizer.”
In 2012, the company gave Rogers manure for his coffee and banana plantations and a cow that supplied milk for his family. The cow gave birth to a calf which Rogers named Kent. Rogers decided to sell the cow to another family who needed additional income and to keep Kent for himself. Kent, now a fully grown cow, recently gave birth to her calf. Rogers named the new addition Hope, as a symbol of how his life and spirits have improved.
Rogers’ plantations now feed his family, and they have plenty of surplus to sell. The income he receives from these sales covers school fees for his five children and pays for a water tank. “Everything comes from here,” he says, sweeping his hand proudly towards his leafy banana trees.
Investing in people
Rogers and other farmers in the area have signed a protocol with global-woods to protect the Kikonda forest reserve surrounding Kyabajojo. However, all this progress did not happen overnight.
When global-woods received a farming licence for more than 12,000 ha in the Kikonda forest reserve, they rapidly found themselves facing one of Uganda’s major challenges: Encroachment. The land is not demarcated in this country, and as a result land tenure is not always strictly respected.
Global-woods engaged with communities to understand the reasons why families living around the concession encroached on reserves, and these discussions confirmed the needs of the community to use the reserves for their livelihoods. The company, therefore, took action to help the local farmers and solve the encroachment issue by investing in communities and people like Rogers. Global-woods set up a corporate responsibility programme that contributes to building sustainable livelihoods for cattle keepers and cultivators. The people who received assistance from this programme made up most of those who previously encroached on the Kikonda reserve.
Today, crop growers are supported in improving their land fertility, production and post-harvest management. Cattle keepers receive the assistance that has improved breeding, feeding, output and animal health. So far, global-woods has supported 1,012 crop growers and 367 cattle keepers.
Farmers supporting themselves
Fred Muwalampya once planted subsistence crops in Kikonda Forest Reserve when his land in the Kazo area became infested with weeds. “I knew it was illegal to plant in the forest,” he says. “But I took the risk for the sake of good soil.”
This all changed in 2012 when he started working with forestry company global-woods. “I learned that my soil could be as fertile as the forest if I cleared the weeds, mulched and used manure.” He began planting his maize in rows with the correct spacing. Within a year, his plot was chosen as one of the best in two counties.
Fred now gets 2.8 tons of maize per acre, per season and employs ten other individuals in seasonal jobs. He is gradually adding more livestock to diversify his farming. Profits from his current crop will settle the global-woods loan that paid for a crib for maize storage. Fred now pays school fees for ten children. He’s also building a brick house, bought additional land from his neighbours, and plans to buy a car. “My land is good,” he says, stooping to pluck a weed from the thickly mulched soil.
Global-woods also sponsored him to attend a study tour to a leading banana farmer in southern Uganda. And he constantly interacts with the company’s agriculture extension officers.
The company has trained around 6,000 adults and 3,000 school children from neighbouring villages in environmental conservation and sustainable forestry activities.
FSC certification is central to the approach of the company. Their programme relates to FSC Principle 4 which directs companies to contribute to maintaining or enhancing communities’ social and economic wellbeing.
“We’ve had to adapt ourselves to this environment,” says global-woods Sustainability Manager JohnMary Kisembo, “It’s through our corporate social responsibility and management processes – structured around FSC Principles and Criteria – that we can deal with the land challenges and operate. If we’d waited for others to resolve land issues, we would not have this forest today.”