Participatory Wetlands Mapping by the Community

The wetlands of Kusa, Koguta, Yala and Dunga have not always been as they are today. This is both in size and the amount of resources that they have, i.e the abundance and diversity of both flora and fauna. There has been seen to be a significant decline in these attributes over the last two decades.

In Yala swamp for instance, Balaeniceps rex, commonly known as the shoebill, is a bird that has completely been driven out of Yala swamp because of habitat destruction.  This shows that the diversity of fauna in the swamp has been affected.

DSC04478From the social survey that has been conducted in all the four wetlands, it is being reported that all the wetland areas have been experiencing a steady rise in wetland decline of between 2 to 6% per annum. Though this is just from the citizen science, GPS maps developed of the areas have been able to confirm the decline in the wetlands.

 

This decline has been attributed to the fact that these communities are poor and they depend majorly on the resources from the wetlands for their survival. There has also been an increase in population over the last couple of years and this has had the effect of not having enough land area to support this growing population. This has hence seen the community members to encroach into the wetland areas, majorly for settlement and farming.

We have set out to conduct mapping DSC04495exercises and have a pictorial indication of how the wetlands looked in the past, how they are now and how the community anticipates them to look like in the next couple of years, if the goals of conservation, sustainability and wise use have been achieve.

 

We are doing this by involving local people in the respective wetland communities to help in gathering local knowledge of the past and present uses, issues and conditions of the wetlands.

Community Mobilization for Wetland Protection and Conservation

When there is a natural resource in a commmunity, the members of that community tend to own it, and think of it as their own, as is the case with Dunga, Kusa, Koguta and the Yala swamp. Owning something, or rather presuming to own something, dictates that you have to look after it and ensure that it is well taken care of.

But many a times, especially in the case of natural resources and even more so in the ones which have no payment of ecosystem services policy, this is not the case. The community members do not recognize the function of conservation because they are only driven by harvesting and exploitation of the wetland resources for economic gain.

Even if this is so, there is an infinitesimal percentage of the community, which thinks along the line of conservation, the kind of people who can ones in a while stop and ask themselves, ‘If we as a community continue harvesting these resources unsustainably to the point of depletion, then what next?’ people who see sense in taking care of something that has been helping them feed their families and take their children to school for generations.

DSC04475It is this small group of people, this minute cohort, that we have targeted in these four wetland areas, to educate, train and make them vessels and pillars of communication on conservation, wise use and sustanability, to the rest of the community.

 

There are numerous economic activities in these wetland areas, so we have selected persons representing each of these common interest groups, to form a Village Environment Committee whose main aim is to enable village environment grass root governance. These common interest groups include Farmers, Youths, Traders, Fishermen, Savings and loaning groups, The disabled, Professionals, Spiritual leaders, Village elders, Mining, Local administration, Conservationists, Weavers.

Through this Village Environment Committee we have been able to see the wetlands from the community’s point of view, we conducted training and workshops that have educated them on the importance of conserving their wetlands and we have also been able to come up with a joint action plan to enable the protection of the wetland from further depletion.