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Effect of expanding sugar-cane farming on community woodfuel collecting areas. Case study in Masindi, Uganda

by Wim Klunne1 and Charles Mugisha M.Sc.2

1 Biomass and rural energy modelling specialist, Forest Science Division of the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC), Enschede, ITC, PO Box 6, 7500 AA Enschede, The Netherlands. e-mail: <klunne@itc.nl> Website: http://www.itc.nl/~klunne/(Main contact for further information)

2 Nyabyeya Forestry College in Masindi, Uganda.

Introduction

In most developing countries, dependence on biomass fuel as a source of energy is very high, especially in rural areas; Uganda is no exception. Over 87% of the population in Uganda live in rural areas (1) and are reliant for nearly all their energy needs on biomass (2). The availability of biomass fuel depends largely on how land is being utilized. Land use changes are therefore a crucial factor in determining the availability of fuel-wood at household level. Commercial agriculture expansion has a large impact on the locations from which local people collect their woodfuel.

Masindi district

Over the last couple of years dramatic changes in land use have occurred in rural areas in Uganda. In 1972, the dictator Idi Amin forced the Asians to leave Uganda at short notice, leaving behind all their possessions. Particularly in rural areas, large estates were left fallow and, to some extent, were occupied by the local population. The current Museveni regime welcomes ousted Asians to reclaim their land.

Two sub-counties of the Masindi district were regions of severe fighting in the 1970s. Besides the land left behind by ousted Asians, the state-owned Kinyara sugar estate was abandoned. Large areas were left unattended and were also a major source of woodfuel for the local population.

With the return of peace in Uganda, a start was made to reactivate the Kinyara sugar estate. At present, the estate is managed by an international consortium, Kinyara Sugar Works, which reclaimed the land and planted sugar-cane. Besides the Kinyara-owned land (the so-called nucleus estate), the factory has now started to work with out-growers. Outgrowers are local farmers growing sugar-cane on their land aided by the estate, which clears bushes and trees from the land, ploughs it, plants young cane and harvests the yield. Farmers assisted in this way live within a 10 km radius of the nucleus sugar estate. Recently the area in which Kinyara has facilitated outgrowers was extended to a 15 km radius. An increase to 20 km can be expected in the near future (3).

Dloppement des fermes commerciales et impact sur les zones de collecte de bois de feu. Etude de cas du dloppement de la canne & sucre dans le district de Masindi, Ouganda
Cet article montre que les populations proches des zones de production de canne ucre sont contraintes d'abandonner leurs zones traditionnelles de collecte de bois de feu et rechercher de nouveaux endroits. Afin d'atter ces probls, l'auteur recommande des plantations orte croissance destin a production de bois de feu et servant de zones tampon entre villages et for. L'auteur sugg la mise en place de petites aires plant en eucalyptus dans les rons impropres a culture de la canne ucre.

Responses of the local population

The area under study lies between the protected Budongo Forest Reserve and the current sugar estate. Villages in this area can be grouped into three different groups:

1) the area next to the sugar-cane fields
2) the area adjacent to the protected forest
3) the area in between areas 1 and 2.

From each region, one village was selected in which household interviews were conducted to investigate the current and past situation regarding the source of biomass energy used. The villages of Kabango, Nyabyeya and Nyantonzi were selected respectively. Table 1 gives an overview of the results of the household interview conducted in July 1998.

Table 1 Percentage of total number of respondents collecting woodfuel from certain land uses now and in the past

Region

Village

Year

Natural woodlands

Private farms

Private fallow land

Protected riverine forest

Sugar-cane cleared area

Average distance

1

Kabango

1998

12

46

19

19

12

1.5


1960

46

31

23

0

-

1.0

2

Nyabyeya

1998

4

0

15

89

0

1.1


1960

41

4

0

30

-

0.6

3

Nyantonzi

1998

48

48

0

44

0

1.9


1960

56

36

16

4

-

1.6

The village in the first region (Kabango) showed very clear evidence of wood scarcity. As shown in Table 1, villagers used to collect their fuel wood mainly from natural woodlands, which are now converted into sugar-cane growing areas. At present, nearly 50% of the households in Region 1 buy charcoal from traders who use wood from land being cleared for sugar-cane growing. This source is temporary and will cease to exist when all the potential sugar-cane growing area has been cleared.

The village near to the protected forest (Nyabyeya) shows a shift in collecting fuel from natural woodlands to protected forest resources. Analysis indicates that the original fuel wood collecting area of woodland is now in used for subsistence farming, leaving the protected forest as the only nearby source. Access to this resource is still permitted, but government policies might alter this situation.

The third village (Nyantonzi), in the intermediate area, also shows a much higher dependence on the protected forest reserve but, unexpectedly, no reliance on the cleared sugar-cane area.


Figure 1: Land use in 1960

Land use change analysis

Land cover maps were produced for the situation in I960 and in 1998. The I960 land use map (Figure 1) was based on an existing map of I960. Classification of land use in the table was based on any information provided on the map. Although incomplete, it clearly shows the sugar-cane growing area as well as forested areas.

The 1998 land-use map (Figure 2) was based on the available land use map of 1996, as produced by the National Biomass Study, updated by mapping new sugar-cane growing areas with a handheld GPS satellite receiver. Newly cleared wooded areas were mapped in the same way. The results are shown in Table 2. It can be seen that the land lost in the woodland and grassland categories nearly equal the increase in commercial and subsistence farming.

An intermediate map for the year 1987 was also produced by estimates based on the answers received from the interviews. The purpose of this map is to determine the expansion of sugar-cane growing fields (see figure 3). The three maps together clearly show that the major land use changes took place in the last decade only.

Concluding remarks

The data collected in this study show clear evidence of a rapid expansion of the sugar-cane growing area. As a result, local people near the sugar-cane estates have had to go to different areas from those they were using previously to collect their wood. In the current situation, local woodfuel demand can be met by using wood from land cleared in preparation for sugar-cane growing. This supply is not sustain-able. In order to facilitate local wood energy planning, more research will be needed to quantify the demand of wood by the local people and the available biomass in the area.

Table 2: Area of land cover changes from year 1960 to 1998. (Area figures x 1000 ha)

Land Cover

Land cover type

Area

Area

Area and nature of change

% change

1

Fully stocked dense tropical high forest

27.6

26.4

Decreased by 1.2

-4.3

2

Degraded tropical high forest/woodland

0.0

0.7

tropical high forest degraded by 0.7

2.51

3

Plantation (mixed Forest)

0.0

0.3

New cover type 0.3

-

4

Woodland

21.0

14.7

Decreased by 6.3

-30.0

5

Grassland

10.0

6.2

Decreased by 3.8

-38,0

6

Commercial Farmland (sugarcane)

0.7

6.2

Increased by 5.5

78.0

7

Subsistence Farmland

14.0

18.4

Increased by 4.4

31.4

8

Wetlands

0.4

0.4

Remained the same

0.0

9

Built up area

0.1

0.3

Increased by 0.2

200.0

Total area

73.8

73.8

1 as percentage of original area of land cover class 1

Possible interventions may be triggered by increasing scarcity of woodfuels and by the re-activation of improved stoves programmes in the area. The Nyabyeya Forestry College in Masindi might play a pivotal role in this by integrating the promotion and utilization of their pekope stove as part of their educational programme.

To solve future fuelwood problems and to conserve the protected Budongo forest it is recommended that fuel-wood plantations are established as a buffer between the forest and villages. Indigenous fast growing species which can be coppiced, as already planted by farmers around their homesteads, might be planted in participatory forest management projects on the degraded areas around Budongo forest.

A rapidly accessible new source of wood fuel for local people could be formed by the small patches of eucalyptus that are planted by Kinyara on their estate in areas not suitable for sugar-cane. Originally these trees were planted to discourage illegal homes being built on the land. Using the trees as woodfuel will give them a more positive function.

Furthermore, government policies have to be formulated that compel companies involved in wood depletion to contribute directly to the replenishment of wood resources.

This article is based on Mugisha, C.H. (1999) Impact of land use change on fuel wood collecting areas: application of remote sensing and GIS. A case study for Budongo and Biiso sub-counties Masindi district Uganda. MSc thesis ITC Forest Science Division, Enschede, the Netherlands.

1. Uganda Government Statistical Department Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, (1991). The 1991 Population and Housing Census Analytical Report on Household and Housing characteristics.

2. ESD Final Report to Forest Department Ministry of Natural Resources (July 1996). A Study of Woody Biomass Derived Energy Supplies in Uganda

3. Personal communications with Kinyara plant manager


Figure 2: Land use in 1998


Figure 3: Land use in 1987