Attitudes of communities towards wetland conservation programmes: A case of Lutembe Bay Wetland, Wakiso District, Uganda
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This study was conducted on the basis that understanding the attitudes of communities towards the conservation of Lutembe bay wetland is important in designing and implementing successful wetland conservation programmes. The wetland is an important habitat for globally vulnerable, threatened species of animals and birds and a main migration stop-over for various bird species from different countries. Despite being a Ramsar site and an Important Bird Area, the wetland system is threatened by human activities. The overall objective of the study was to assess attitudes of communities towards the conservation of Lutembe Bay wetland. Specifically the study assessed local use of the wetland; communities’ knowledge of local conservation programmes and attitudes towards them; local participation in the conservation programmes; and the nature of conflicts surrounding the conservation of the wetland. Semi-structured interviews, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and direct observations were used to collect the data. A total of 240 respondents from areas within a radius of 5 km from the wetland were involved in the household questionnaire survey. Results of the study indicated that people surrounding Lutembe Bay wetland were directly involved in its use mostly for cultivation purposes, and their awareness about the conservation programmes of the wetland was low with only 44% of the respondents aware. A small percentage (47%) of the respondents participated in the conservation programmes of the wetland while practicing of activities prohibited in Lutembe Bay wetland was the major cause of the conflicts associated with its conservation and use. Regression results revealed that use of the wetland was significantly (P< 0.004) higher among male headed households while awareness of conservation programmes significantly improved with older respondents (P< 0.003), and respondents who attained higher level of formal education were significantly (P< 0.002) more likely to be aware of the conservation programmes. Respondents who owned land were significantly (P< 0.1) more willing to participate in the conservation of the wetland, while respondents further away (in the distance of 5km) from the wetland were significantly (P< 0.05) less willing to participate in the conservation of the wetland. Therefore successful conservation of the wetland will depend on integration of conservation programmes in the school curriculum right from primary to increase awareness on all relevant information and local support for conservation and management of the wetland and also the need to introduce by-laws to eliminate unlawful use of the wetland.