Improving socio-economic livelihoods of local communities to foster wetland restoration/regeneration and sustainable use of natural resources in Nzuguto community wetland

Photo by Mwebesa Herbert
Published: 14 June 2023
Last edited: 14 June 2023
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The estimated 56.6hecatres Nzuguto wetland system, is the biggest water reservoir, as well as a catchment for streams draining from Lake Mugogo and Nkugute in the south and Katsyoha-Kitomi forest reserve in the east.  Management is mandated at the local government together with host communities. Strategically located in the middle of several villages, the wetland has been subjected to threats due to unregulated access that has seen 90% of its buffer reclaimed for agriculture, afforestation, brick manufacturing; leading to vegetation loss, soil and water loss; poor water quality, hence creating an unhealthy environment unable to support the wildlife within. With grant from IUCN, funded by EU, under the BIOPAMA Action Component, Rubirizi District LG implemented a project that promoted the improvement livelihoods of the host communities, whilst enhancing natural regeneration and restoration of Nzuguto wetland through household/individual level engagement and support.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Freshwater ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Ecosystem services
Fisheries and aquaculture
Food security
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Health and human wellbeing
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Water provision and management
One Health
Water, sanitation and hygiene
Erratic rainfall
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Physical resource extraction
Lack of food security
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty


Rubirizi, Uganda


  • Uncontrolled human activity; harvesting craft materials, fuel wood extraction, harvesting poles and logs for construction, charcoal burning, fishing, poaching, encroachment for agricultural purposes, uncontrolled burning etc.
  • Loss of water due to poor agricultural practices at the edge of the wetland - reclaimed for crop growing, afforestation and brick laying
  • Excessive harvest of wetland products like Papyrus 
  • Reduction of the indigenous tree species 
  • Threats to the Grey crowned crane breeding habitats due to constant fires, as the wetland is a prime breeding habitat for the species
  • Poor agricultural practices, as using pesticides and fertilizers have disrupted water quality
  • Water cycle and drainage disruption
  • Increase in vermins and problem animals like monkeys due to destruction of their habitats
  • Abject poverty in the area due to unemployment, lack of alternatives for income generation
  • Increase in diseases and malnutrition due to an unhealthy environment 


  • Direct beneficiaries over 170 homesteads amounting to approximately 1,000 inviduals!
  • Kamweru Fishermen Association 35 MEMBER ASSOCIATION
  • Nzuguto Fish Farmers Association 10MEMBER ASSOCIATION
  • Nzuguto Beekeepers Association 16MEMBER ASSOCIATION

How do the building blocks interact?

Seeking political bleesing of all initiatives in the governement structure are very crucial for the success of any governement project. This is the reason why it was the first step in the process.

Having the general public views and opinions, plus introducing them to a new undertaking in their community, combined with neccesary trainings and education, are also parts of succesiful project implementation. Thus, all the building blocks are connected as they represent project implementantion cycle.


Project activities have significantly reduced encroachment especially by members owning arable land at the edge of the wetland brought about by different interventions and engagements during project implementation. There has been a commendable change of attitude/mind-set by the local people towards conservation of the natural resources in their community. This has been brought about by opportunities that came along with the project including direct employment by the project in terms of casual labour force , apiary and fisheries projects, community empowerment to own and manage their own resources for future generations, basic household items handouts, safe water access through the protected springs etc. close to 200 households have benefited from the above. This has further been manifested by a sense of pride and belonging, self-esteem that is evident amongst local women and youth praising the impact of BIOPAMA project in their area; brought about especially by the formulation of a wetland management committee among the community members.

Since the inception of this project, there is a visual and evident regeneration of the vegetation especially in the wetland, as compared to the last couple of years due to reduced access by the local people.


Deo Muhumuza

In the mid 80’s, we only had two sources of water in our village. One gravity flow scheme community tap water, and another natural source in Nzuguto wetland. The tap water was unreliable especially during the dry season. Unlike Nzuguto wetland source that was permanent throughout the year, with permanent pools,streams in and out. The vegetation was impenetrable with lots of different species of trees, grasses, papyrus sections, palm trees, wild ginger plants etc. There were also several species of animals like black and white colobus monkeys, Vervet monkeys, sitatungas, mongoose, genet cats; reptiles like rock pythons, fish plus several species of birds.

The human population was low at the time, and everyone would find their way in the wetland, harvest as much as they could for domestic use without causing any threat.

Between mid 90’s and early 2000’s, new human activities like commercial charcoal burning, firewood collection, brick laying, emerged in the wetland. Hunting for antelopes and other mammals intensified and encroaching for agricultural activities for people to expand their arable land also increased. Constant fires to clear the bush for access were becoming rampant.

Toward mid 2000’s monkeys like the colobus, Sitatungas were wiped out; wetland buffer  began to shrink, and big trees were cut down. As a result, by the end of 2019, we had started experiencing water shortage in the wetland. The permanent streams and rivers started drying out in dry season. The situation kept on getting worse and affected the nearby crater lake whose source is from the wetland.

Until 2015, I joined a community based organization dubbed Environmental Conservation Association whose objective was to improve livelihoods of the local people whilst conserving the environment with Nzuguto wetland as their main focus. I joined and sensitized members about sustainable use of the wetland, introduced ecotourism activities by creating tourist trails in the wetland, motivated members by lobbying for support from tourists.

For the first time, I saw a natural regeneration of the habitats, a motivated community; until 2020 when the COVID -19 Pandemic Lockdown set it. The communities resorted to a NATURAL RESOURCE –BASED LIVELIHOOD and the wetland experienced its historical destruction.

Thanks to BIOPAMA Rapid Response Grant, we are registering great success in restoring this great habitat!

Contributed by

ugandapal_42879's picture

Deogratius Muhumuza Rubirizi District Local Government, Uganda Eco Tours Company Limited

Other contributors

Dave the Cave Campsite
Rubirizi District Local Government