Wetlands cover about 30,000 km2 of Uganda’s land area and are considered to be important ecosystems, which contribute considerably to the national economy and rural livelihoods. However, these important ecosystems are currently under increasing threat due to factors such as population growth, economic reforms, and the desire for increase in per capita income and other pressures of the development process. Threats include among others uncontrolled conversion of the wetlands into agricultural areas and unplanned developments and wetland uses which may have adverse effects on the capacity of the wetlands to perform natural functions. In order to address these threats, there is need to promote wise use of the wetland ecosystem by developing guidelines that will assist the various districts in developing ordinances and bye-laws to regulate the use of wetlands in their areas of jurisdiction.
Wetlands in Uganda are highly biodiverse containing different species of birds, fish and plant communities. They also provide a wide range of ecological goods and services that are important to the community livelihoods. However, wetlands in Uganda continue to be highly degraded and least protected.
In 2008, GEF through UNDP provided funding to address this challenge through a four-year project -; Community Based Conservation of Wetlands Biodiversity in Uganda (COBWEB). The International Union for Conservation of nature (IUCN) in collaboration with the Wetlands Management Department (WMD), Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE), NatureUganda (NU) and Uganda Wildlife Society (UWS), are implementing a four-year project titled “Extending wetland protected areas through community conservation initiatives” in eastern and western Uganda (COBWEB).
The project aims at strengthening the Ugandan Protected Area (PA) network by expanding the coverage of the PA network to include the country’s biologically important wetland ecosystems. The project will develop, pilot and adopt suitable PA management models in two respective wetland systems adjacent to two terrestrial PA networks in Eastern and Western Uganda. Management will be geared to the specific needs of wetlands and will allow for development of protection and sustainable management strategies that shall be implemented by rural communities and be adoptable to others.