|National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetland Resources (Ministry of Natural Resources - Uganda, 1995, 23 p.)|
Wetlands, commonly known as swamps in Uganda, are a natural resource of considerable importance like forests, rangelands, arableland and fisheries.
The term "Wetlands" refers to an area where plants and animals have become adapted to temporary or permanent flooding by saline, brackish or fresh water.
For our purposes these include permanently flooded areas with sedge or grass swamp, swamp forest or high altitude mountain bog, as well as seasonal flood plains and depressions without flow ('Mbuga' or Dambos).
All wetlands are characterised by impeded drainage, but vary in detail depending on the period of flooding, depth of water, altitude, fertility of the surrounding soil and other environmental factors They are nevertheless all characterized by having distinctive plants and animals which are adapted to flooding.
Uganda's rich endowment in wetlands, which accounts for about 10% of the land area, is mainly due to her geological past. Many wetlands originated with the upwarping of land associated with the formation of the Rift Valley. The warping was spread over a wide area impending and even reversing river flow.
The wide distribution of wetlands means a large proportion of the population have access to the utilization of wetlands, resulting in extensive degradation of the wetlands. This calls for particular urgency in their efficient management and sustainable utilization.
Wetland resources in Uganda have traditionally been used by the people as a source of building materials, for crafts, furniture and as hunting and fishing areas. Seasonal wetland margins have been used for grazing cattle, growing arable crops, and for domestic water. Wetlands provide important habitat for wildlife.
The high productivity and economic potential of wetlands in Uganda has barely been tapped and experience so far shows it will not be easy. Many attempts at conversion to farmland have failed because fertility was dependant upon an inflow of organic matter and sediment or on retaining a high water table.