Unravelling the opportunity, ‘opportunity cost’ and threats of eucalyptus cultivation to adjacent farming households in Luweero district, Uganda.
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Cultivation of Eucalyptus was identified as one of the options for integrated watershed management in Luwero district yet the species has been blamed for ecologically adverse effects such as disrupting the hydrological cycles. The adverse ecological effects have been contested. Furthermore, there has not been a comprehensive analysis of Eucalyptus’ effects on the livelihoods of farming communities in the vicinity. This study was conducted to assess the opportunities, opportunity costs and threats of Eucalyptus plantations to the livelihood of neighbouring farming communities in Luwero district, central Uganda. A structure questionnaire was administered to a random sample of 50 respondents in Luwero district. Among the opportunities evaluated were access to jobs, land for food production, access to free or purchased fuel wood, access to fodder and access building poles. The opportunity costs investigated were availability of water for household consumption and reduction in crop yields. The treats assessed was conflict between neighbouring farms. The data were subjected to multivariate analysis to cluster the respondents into farm types. Non-parametric tests (Chi Square Test) used to test the hypotheses guiding this study. More farming households reported accessing free firewood (χ2 = 5.120; df = 1; Sig. = 0.024) from the Eucalyptus plantations in Luwero district and they judged the opportunity as being important to their livelihood (χ2 = 12.182; df = 2; Sig. = 0.002). This opportunity cut across Farm types in Luwero district. Neighbouring farming households were not allowed to cultivate food crops (χ2 = 23.120; df = 1; Sig. < 0.001) in the Eucalyptus plantation. They also could not harvest free fodder (χ2 = 25.920; df = 1; Sig. < 0.001) from the Eucalyptus plantations. The neighbouring farming household were unanimous in their view that Eucalyptus reduced ground water sources and their crop yields. This was noted as a potential retrigger for conflict. Even though this was not yet statistically significant, there is a high likelihood for social strife to erupt since the majority of Eucalyptus growers were non-residents to the village in which the affected farming communities. It was recommended that areas where Eucalyptus cultivation is unlikely to pose a threat to depletion of ground water sources be identified for promotion of the agroforestry species. It was also recommended that further studies be conducted to establish alternative tree/shrub species that do not possess the negative effects observed with Eucalyptus. Keywords: Agroforestry, Building poles, Firewood, Rural livelihood, Uganda