• Jakob Christensen
  • Stefan Steen Jensen
This thesis addresses one of the most pressing issues in contemporary natural resource management: the drivers behind deforestation of privately held natural forests. Uganda is one of the hotspots for deforestation. Despite having a well-crafted policy and institutional framework for curbing deforestation, the country’s private forests, which make up around 70% of the combined forest cover, are predicted to be extinct in 20 years.
The empirical data for this thesis was primarily collected at household-level in Kibaale district in Western Uganda. Interviews with representatives from different levels of government together with experts and different stakeholders furthermore make up the empirical foundation of the thesis. We apply a complex multifactor theoretical framework for analyzing the data. The framework breaks down the drivers of deforestation into three interconnected factors; the historical drivers, the proximate drivers, and the underlying drivers.
The first part of the analysis applies a historical analytical approach to study the shifts in and discourses of land-use practices from the colonial period until the present. It is argued that land-use practices changed drastically with colonialization. This happened on the basis of a discourse of exploitation where agriculture is commercialized and profit ultimately is valued over conservation at the detriment of private forests. Consequently, in today’s Uganda, cash-cropping often takes prominence over forest conservation at the expense of the private forests.
The second part of the analysis identifies how the loss of forest cover is directly impacted by a high demand for arable land prompted by soaring poverty and rampant population growth. Conversely, often-mentioned explanations of deforestation (e.g. wood extraction and infrastructure expansion) only play a cameo role.
The third and last part explains that the proximate drivers are not so much causes of deforestation as mechanisms by which the true underlying causes are transformed into actions that degrade the environ-ment. It is argued that the underlying driver of deforestation is an inability of relevant institutions to im-plement the country’s otherwise well-crafted policy framework for conservation of private natural forests. The policies are not being implemented due to a low priority of the forestry sector in the International Financial Institutions and the central government, and the forestry institutions are therefore under-resourced and unable to fulfill their mandates. Consequently, alternative livelihood options, to substitute harmful agricultural practices with sustainable livelihood options, are not being offered. The institutions are therefore not able to turn the negative trends at the proximate level. The negative consequences are accelerated by an unwillingness to deal with the soaring population growth and a continuing promotion of cash cropping.
On a final note, the thesis forwards two general recommendations concerning the necessary actions that need to be taken to ensure the survival and sustainability of this vital resource.
Publication date19 Dec 2011
Number of pages90
ID: 58276430