University of the Witwatersrand
Savanna woodlands are vitally important in providing ecological services (e.g. erosion protection, micro-climate) and economic services (e.g. timber, food, fodder non-wood products, and wild-life habitats) that sustain local livelihoods and national economies. Increasing demands and the need for sustainable savanna woodland resource management requires that the ecological, economic, social and cultural values of these resources be explored and brought to the attention of decision makers and the general public. The identification and better understanding of the structure and dynamics of woodland community types, patterns of species distribution and quantitative properties of their diversity is important to the conservation and sustainable management of these woodlands. This study seeks to contribute to a better understanding of Nakasongola woodland community types, species diversity patterns and environment correlates, natural regeneration processes (i.e. sprouting and seedling establishment) and identifying livelihood strategies adopted by households, woody species utilised, and the contribution of charcoal production to household livelihoods. Data on vegetation and environmental variables were collected using 75 rectangular 20 x 50 m (0.1 ha) plots. Data on land use and land cover changes, and relevant associated socio-economic parameters were collected through the analysis of multi-temporal satellite imagery and field observations, as well as interviews of local households and key informants. The basic major livelihood activities for the rural households in this savanna dryland are charcoal production, subsistence crop cultivation and livestock grazing. However, it, sometimes, includes various combinations of activities, i.e. charcoal production and subsistence crop cultivation for both food and cash, and livestock keeping for income generation through selling the livestock products such as milk and, sometimes, the whole animal. At least 24 woody species, including fruit trees (Mangifera indica and Artocarpus heterophyllus), are frequently harvested, including 16 species that are considered the most utilized for charcoal production. Charcoal production, being the major source of income to the rural households, contributes on average US$ 259 ± 46 (S.E.) per household annually. There were significant differences in charcoal production (Kruskal-Wallis; H = 31.42, p < 0.0001), producer sale prices per bag of charcoal (H = 35.62, p < 0.0001), and annual incomes from charcoal production (H = 32.44, p < 0.0001) per households across the 8 sub-counties. Most of the youth (≤ 20 years old) derive their livelihoods from charcoal production, a small amount of trade, offering labour services, livestock keeping, fishing, bee keeping and earth brick making. Charcoal production, livestock keeping and hunting are carried out particularly by men, whereas, crop cultivation, and collection of fire wood, medicinal plants and fruits are carried out, mainly, by women. However, men are also engaged in cultivation only during the rainy seasons. There have been significant land cover changes in the area during the period 1984 to 2001, resulting in a 64% decrease in dense woodland cover, and an 80% increase in areas under cultivation/settlements. These changes are attributed to significant spatial expansion in agriculture, increased commercialisation of charcoal production, grazing and human population growth.