Can Recognition and Respect of Forest Resource Rights save Echuya Central Forest Reserve? A Precursor for Appropriate Collaborative Forest Management
Recognition and respect for tenure and forest resource rights has for long been considered essential for policy makers to promote forest conservation. Several initiatives have indeed been undertaken to promote recognition and respect for such rights. One such initiative was the introduction of Collaborative Forest Management (CFM) in Echuya Central Forest Reserve (ECFR) in Southwestern Uganda in 2007. The objective of this paper is to assess the role of recognition and respect for tenure rights in CFM for conservation of Echuya. This study used cross sectional and explanatory designs. Purposive and simple random sampling techniques were used to select respondents from local community members, District and local council leaders, National forestry authority officials and conservation organisations. These provided data which was collected using household surveys, focus group discussions and key informant interviews. Results showed that recognition and respect for tenure and forest resource rights significantly influence forest conservation (P-value ≤ 0.05). However, poverty compels local community members to violate CFM agreements and forest policy restrictions and stealthy harvest forest resources to meet their household demands. It is therefore concluded that livelihood support among forest adjacent communities is critical in fostering recognition and respect for forest and tenure rights for conservation of Echuya. At the same time, it is essential to enforce stringent punitive measures on community members and government officials who degrade the forest reserve.