Uganda is home to one of the richest rainforests in Africa, but population growth, unsustainable land use and climate change put increasing pressure on nature and livelihoods. Conserving these can only be done through strong collaboration between local, national and international networks of local communities, civil society, government and businesses. IUCN NL strengthens processes to connect different levels of nature conservation by supporting communities and civil society groups in Uganda, together with our partner organisation ECOTRUST.

The Murchison-Semliki Landscape is located in the Northern Albertine Rift. The landscape is rich in natural resources such as lakes, rivers, national parks, game reserves, tropical high forests, savanna grasslands, woodlands and wetlands. It hosts many of Africa’s animal and plant species and is home to 3.7 million people.

Uganda’s population has increased by 40% in the last 40 years, which means more and more food and land is needed for people to survive. ‘Some Ugandans are getting wealthier, but many still struggle to earn a living and meet their basic needs. The increasing demand for land leads to serious threats to the Ugandan rainforests’, says Jan Willem den Besten, Senior Expert Green Finance with IUCN NL.

Fragmented forest

Oil and gas industries have come into the Murchison-Semliki Landscape, leading to rapid deforestation in this biodiverse area. Pauline Nantongo, of partner organisation ECOTRUST, says: ‘The deforestation has caused different parts of the forest to become separated into large and small patches. This makes it difficult for many species to find food and shelter, which is why ECOTRUST tries to maintain the connectivity between the blocks of forests.’

Business approach to restoration

ECOTRUST is an implementing partner of the IUCN NL Mobilising More for Climate (MoMo4C) initiative, which is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ‘We take a business approach to landscape restoration, with the goal of improving climate resilience and biodiversity in the landscape. We see the corridors that we are creating as the start of a value chain that delivers different climate services for a diverse set of local and global actors,’ Nantongo explains.

IUCN NL developed a short documentary to showcase the approach that ECOTRUST and MoMo4C take to restore landscapes and make these attractive to investors on the local and national level.

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Attracting investments

In this multi-stakeholder partnership, ECOTRUST develops conservation arrangements with smallholder farmers to protect and restore forests and other natural ecosystems across and around the wildlife corridors. ‘They developed a Landscape Action Plan in which all stakeholders have a say,’ Nantongo explains. ‘It outlines how key climate and other environmental challenges will be tackled in the years to come. This outline forms the basis for a Landscape Investment Plan, designed to attract investments to finance the landscape needs, with a particular focus on women and youth.’

Scaling up projects

Financing for the restoration projects comes from carbon offsetting by private sector companies that ECOTRUST works together with directly. ‘Normally, companies and banks wouldn’t invest in small farmers because of their size and the financial risk that is involved. But by scaling up the projects, ECOTRUST makes the restoration projects interesting and viable for the financial sector to invest in’, Den Besten explains.

Community association for restoration

ECOTRUST says the key is to unite farmers and other inhabitants in a local community association that takes care of the forest and supports its restoration. ‘They have a detailed management and monitoring plan that they use to monitor the forest. This helps to remove the threats to the forest and allow it to regenerate.’

Connecting local to global

Den Besten: ‘The key in sustainable planning and management of a landscape like Murchison-Semliki is to connect communities and governments at the local, regional and national level but at the same time connect them to international policymakers and companies.’

Nature-based solutions

‘The landscape restoration and connectivity that ECOTRUST works on is a great example of a nature-based solution,’ says Den Besten. ‘By restoring the ecosystems that have been degraded due to deforestation and extreme weather events caused by climate change, we can improve climate resilience, which is crucial for the smallholder farmers in the landscape.’