Human population dynamics and land abandonment around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: Implications for protected Area management
There is an increasing trend of land abandonment around National Parks of Western Uganda accelerating food insecurity in those regions. This study assessed the population dynamics and land abandonment in Nteko parish (South) and Ishaya villages in the (North) of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Household surveys, focus group discussions and key informant interviews were used to identify the causes and perceived implications of immigration, emigration and land abandonment while field observations, use of satellite remote sensing, geographical information systems techniques and household surveys were carried out to determine land abandonment trends using three sets of orthorectified and cloud free Landsat TM/ETM temporal images of 1987, 2000 and 2011 of 30 metres spatial resolution. The images were processed using Erdas imaging (1999) software following unsupervised classification procedures involving tropical high forest, grazing lands, small scale farming, tea plantations and shrubs as sub classes. Stella Computer Software Model (version 8.1) was used to stimulate population dynamic changes between 1990 and 2009. Most participants were male (74%), and natives of the parishes in which they were residing (71%), and were of (26 – 35) years and 34 – 45 years age groups (reflecting the high national population of the youth in these age categories). The households had an average household size of 6 – 7 members (a large number assumed to provide adequate household labour for agricultural production), and the majority of the household heads were subsistence farmers with no formal education. The underlying factors that influenced population dynamics in the areas around Bwindi impenetrable National Park showed unprecedented emigration from the study area in the previous five years from the time of this study and the emigrants settled majorly outside Kisoro and Kanungu districs, while the immigrants were few and came in from areas outside Nteko and Ishya study areas. Evidence of agricultural land abandonment in the two study areas based on the observation during the study transect walks and acreage estimates of land provided by the participants was overwhelming. Subsequent conversion of land into a buffer zone by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in 2004/2005 and the increasing incidence of vermin are as the most outstanding causes of emigration and agricultural land abandonment. The perceived implications included; loss of fertile agricultural land to tea and tree plantations and dependence on forest resources, secondary forest regeneration along areas where land was abandoned. Emigration has led to displacement of communities and reduced population in some areas.