State of biomass resources in refugee-hosting landscapes: the case of Rhino Camp and Imvepi Refugee Settlements in West Nile, Uganda

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Already under pressure from demands such as charcoal and tobacco curing, woody vegetation in refugee-hosting areas in West Nile region in northwestern Uganda currently faces extreme extraction pressure. A large influx of refugees from South Sudan has caused a significant loss of biomass as they have sought to meet their basic needs. The main drivers of biomass loss are energy and shelter. This assessment focuses on the two refugee settlements in West Nile’s Arua district. Imvepi and Rhino Camp Refugee Settlements are located in swathes of woody savannah that also contain some closed woodland. The refugees co-exist with the host communities, and both communities consist almost entirely of farming families that are highly natural resource dependent. The assessment has two main aims: 1) to understand the status of vegetation in Imvepi and Rhino Camp Refugee Settlements and in the surrounding area or buffer zone, much of which is inhabited by the host community; and 2) to estimate the biomass potential in the landscape, particularly the above-ground biomass (AGB), which is the portion of biomass that communities require for direct use. Key findings from this assessment include: • The average density of standing trees with a diameter at breast height (dbh) of more than 10 cm was 75, 152 and 62 trees per hectare (ha) in the buffer area, Imvepi Refugee Settlement and Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement, respectively. • A total of 81 tree species were identified; of these, 73 were native and eight were exotic. In all three areas, the most commonly occurring tree species were indigenous. • The two refugee settlements are dominated by Acacia spp, Grewia spp and Combretum spp. Leading species in the buffer zone include Isoberlina doka, Pseudocedrela kotschyi, Combretum spp and Bridelia scleroneura. • Extraction pressure is intense. The average number of tree stumps was 33, 51 and 56 per ha in the buffer zone, Imvepi Refugee Settlement and Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement, respectively. • Some species are under particularly intense extraction pressure. Stumps of Acacia hockii, Combretum spp and Bridelia scleroneura were the most common. • In all three areas, trees with a dbh of more than 20 cm were the most likely to be cut down, leading to a sharp decline in mature trees. • The AGB of trees was found to be 395,790 tons in the buffer zone, 368,035 tons in Imvepi Refugee Settlement, and 659,521 tons in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement. Total tree woody biomass across the area was 1,423,345 tons. • Largely consisting of Harrisonia abyssinica, Lantana camara and Capsicum frutescens, shrubs contributed 71,841 tons of AGB. • Total woody biomass was an estimated 1,495,186 tons. • Given the rates of use, and if refugees utilize only AGB within the two settlements, the area would be stripped bare in just 4 to 7 years. • Drawing on AGB in areas outside the refugee settlements could extend this time period, but result in conflicts with host communities. Urgent measures are needed to stem biomass and species diversity loss. This assessment makes multiple recommendations on the way forward, including: 1. Conduct inventories of plot content prior to plot allocation so that management options can be put in place by and for the refugees. 2. District officials, refugee and host communities, agencies and other stakeholders to build a system to enable the planting, growing, regeneration and protection of trees. 3. Ensure consensus on priority areas to plant, regenerate and protect. 4. Agree on how to control burning of biomass and contain livestock. 5. Ensure that endangered tree species are marked, and awareness is created about their importance.
Authors: Duguma, L.A.; Ariani, C.; Watson, C.A.; Okia, C.A.; Nzyoka, J.
Subjects: biomass, landscape
Publication type: Working Paper, Paper
Year: 20192019

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