Paying local communities for ecosystem services: The Chimpanzee Conservation Corridor

Chimpanzees in Uganda are under threat as their habitat is lost to agriculture and human settlements. Central to this problem is the attitude of most farmers that chimpanzees and forest habitat conservation are a threat to their own livelihoods. IIED and Chimpanzee Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT) showed how an equitable and financially sustainable payment scheme can compensate local landholders for conserving and restoring forest habitats and for protecting chimpanzee populations.

2010 - 2013

Uganda is rich in biodiversity and has more species of primates than anywhere else on Earth of similar area. It is particularly noted for its chimpanzee population, estimated at 5,000 individuals. But the survival of chimpanzees throughout Uganda is under threat. This is because of the bushmeat trade, habitat loss and fragmentation due to agriculture and human settlement, and conflicts with farmers.

At the heart of this problem is the fact that most farmers do not see chimpanzees and the conservation of forest habitats as a contribution to their livelihoods. They see it as a threat. Incentive schemes need to be developed that tackle the problem at source by appropriately compensating farmers and providing tangible incentives for conservation.

What did IIED do?

This project set up a payments for environmental services (PES) scheme to provide incentives to individual landowners to conserve and restore forest habitats important for chimpanzees and other flora and fauna.

By making forest conservation a livelihood opportunity, a payment scheme can give social benefits as well as meeting environmental aims. Further funding was secured to deliver additional livelihood incentives to demonstrate its long-term commitment to improved social welfare and enhancement of conservation outcomes.

The main aim was to have more than 50% of contracted forest owners engaged in additional forest-based enterprises that ultimately improve their short-term and long-term household income potentials thereby making biodiversity conservation a more attractive land-use option.

The project focused on an area of private and communal land between the Budongo and Bugoma forest reserves in the Hoima District. This area forms part of the northern corridor for chimpanzees and is home to some of Uganda’s largest chimpanzee populations living outside the protected areas.

Clearing of forests for cash crops such as tobacco and rice in this area is threatening the survival of these chimpanzee populations. This fragmentation of forests also risks isolating the populations in the Budongo and Bugoma reserves, therefore halting natural inter-breeding across different populations. Further, the loss of these forest habitats is also threatening other ecosystem services in particular carbon storage and access to clean water.

The project team worked with smallholder farmers in a participatory process. Forest management practices needed to conserve chimpanzee habitats in the corridor area were determined while working out the payment packages of cash and in-kind support measures which will provide incentives for conservation.

The ecosystem services produced by the proposed scheme, in particular carbon and biodiversity, was planned to be estimated in a rigorous process to meet the needs of the relevant standard-setting organisations such as CCBS and VCS for carbon. This will provide the necessary base for attracting buyers and finance. The most appropriate institutional arrangements for operating the scheme will be worked out, building on local organisational capacity.

A key priority will be to make sure that systems are in place such as a estimated ‘without PES baseline scenario’ and control group surveys.  This means that the scheme can be rigorously checked for its biodiversity and livelihood benefits at a later stage. In this way it will avoid credibility problems experienced by PES schemes, which often lack an adequate counterfactual or control group for comparison.

This video highlights the key work chimpanzee monitors do to protect chimpanzee livelihoods in Uganda. Local communities are often blamed for forest degradation but this work in partnership with CSWCT highlights the role of local champions in forest conservation and reduction of human-chimpanzee conflict.

The project was designed to create incentives for local communities to conserve and restore forest habitats important for chimpanzees as well as other biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The lessons from this scheme were intended to be used by the government of Uganda in a replication strategy for PES in other critical forest areas. The project strengthened the Government’s capacity to promote forest carbon projects with biodiversity and livelihood benefits, allowing it to access emerging REDD finance streams to meet CBD commitments.