Assessment of wetland use and attitudes towards conservation by local communities: a case study of Gitundwe wetland in Kisoro district, Uganda
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Wetlands commonly called swamps in Uganda are estimated to cover about 13% of the total land surface (about 30,000km2) of the country and represent a considerable ecological, social and economic value. However, this coverage is gradually dropping as a result pressure from anthropogenic activities. A case study of Gitundwe wetland in Kisoro district south western Uganda was carried out. The major objectives of this study were to compare the extent of wetland cover for 20years (1999,2009 and 2019), assess community awareness about the impacts of their activities taking place in Gitundwe wetland and their attitudes towards wetland conservation. Landsatmages of 1999, 2009 and 2019 covering Gitundwe wetland were downloaded from United States Geological/Earth explorer. The images revealed that there was a progressive reduction in the wetland size which covered an area of 7.84km2before encroachment at around 1930’s. In 1999, the wetland vegetation had reduced to 5.46km2 (70%), in 2009 it reduced to 4.34km2(55%) and to 3.25km2 (42%) in 2019 and the reasons for the reduction were due to agriculture which increased from 13% in 1999 to 35% in 2019, built up areas from 5% in 1999 to 8% in 2019 and woodlots from 12% to 16% in 2019. Information about wetland use and people’s attitudes towards wetland conservation was collected from people in the five villages sorrounding the wetland and these are Butuga, Gasaro, Buhayo, Mukozi and Kiraro where a total of 86 respondents were interviewed using questionaires and data collected was analysed usings SPSS and Microsoft Excel Packages.The results revealed that activities taking place in the wetland include crop cultivation with 93%, Papyrus harvesting 33%, Brick making 14%, fire wood collection 17%and tourism 13%. The study revealed that the wetland users are aware of the impacts of the activities taking place in the wetland however they look at Gitundwe wetland as their only source of livelihood to the increasing population of the area thus continued wetland encroachment. People’s attitude towards wetland conservation was positive where by 47%of the respondents strongly agreed that there should be conservation education programs to people using Gitundwe wetland, 38% agreed, 14% neutral, 1% disagreed and none strongly disagreed. The study therefore recommended that there should be sensitization and education of wetland users at grass root level about the wetland values and services especially non provisioning services on a broader spectrum. It also recommended introduction of poverty eradication and family planning programs to this community as these will help to reduce on the over dependence on the wetland for crop growing to ensure food security and lower the poverty levels of the communities around the wetland.