Now there is no land: a story of ethnic migration in a protected area landscape in western Uganda

“All this here was once for the Toro Kingdom, but now there are many Bakiga here. We are brothers and welcomed them, but now the land is too little and we do not know what the future will be like in this place” (Toro Kingdom regent).

Abstract

Migration is a major factor shaping protected area landscapes. Combining historical narratives with interview, census, and satellite data, we investigate the ways in which migration has transformed the landscape surrounding Kibale National Park in western Uganda. We show that the region has gone from sparsely populated bushland to densely settled subsistence agricultural landscape occupied by tens of thousands of small-scale farming households since the last half of the twentieth century. Population density closer to the park has grown to 1.5 times higher than places more distant from the park. Migration to areas near the park has not necessarily been driven by economic benefits from the park itself, but rather by important push and pull factors at different scales. Results indicate that understanding the social and cultural underpinnings of human migration to, and environmental change along, the borders of protected areas is fundamental to developing appropriate people–park policy as a result of neighboring land use intensification brought about by changing demographics.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Prior to Kigezi being administered as a district by the colonial government, this area was comprised of Bakiga and also known as Bushengyera, Kayoza, Mpororo, and Bufumbira. The Bakiga were a highly decentralized society where power was diffused through various family units. The region acquired the name “Kigezi” from a misinterpretation of the word ikigezi (meaning small lake in Rufumbira/Kinyarwanda) (Denoon 1972). Although Kigezi does not formally exist in name, it continues to represent the cultural home of the Bakiga. Thus, we refer to it in the present tense.

  2. 2.

    The general policy under the Game Management Authority, the Forestry Department and then under Uganda Wildlife Authority was, and is, to prohibit settlement within these areas (some settlements in Queen Elizabeth National Park exist, but they have a negligible effect on overall population density).

  3. 3.

    The regent for Rukirabasaija Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV (King Oyo) was responsible for overseeing King Oyo's growth into the role of King and with handling the cultural affairs of the Kingdom during the King's youth.

  4. 4.

    Due to major differences in topography and intensity of cultivation, using Kigezi as a control site was not possible, as we had hoped.

  5. 5.

    The total is greater than 100 % because 13 % of the survey households self-identified more than one tribal affiliation.

  6. 6.

    Sub-counties are subdivided over time as new sub-counties are created. When KNP was created, there were fewer, but bigger sub-counties adjacent to the park boundary, whose areas extended farther from the park, compared to the present.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by National Science Foundation (0624265, 1114977) and National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration, and NASA Terrestrial Ecology (NNX08AL29G) grants. We are grateful to Ahabyona Peter for his hard work and dedication, Kangabe Edith, who was gracious in providing time and her network, Elvira Breytenbach for her tireless effort at the National Archives, and Justin McMullen, Silvia Bellasai, and Irene Feretti for data entry. Makerere University Biological Field Station, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Council for Science and Technology and many local officials provided useful assistance and granted permission for this research. We thank Christina Herrick for additional work on the satellite analysis. We also thank our study participants who gave their valuable time and knowledge.

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Hartter, J., Ryan, S.J., MacKenzie, C.A. et al. Now there is no land: a story of ethnic migration in a protected area landscape in western Uganda. Popul Environ 36, 452–479 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-014-0227-y

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Keywords

  • Migration
  • Landscape transformation
  • Population growth
  • Kibale National Park
  • Uganda
  • Protected areas