Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve is located in Western Uganda, covers an area of 392 Km2 and situated South of Lake George and Kazinga channel in the Albertine Rift eco-region, characterized by a high number of endemic species (NFA, 1999, Franks, 2003). The core landscape surrounding the primary conservation area of Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve covers approximately 870 km2. Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve is one of Uganda’s few remaining medium altitude moist forests. It was designated as a forest reserve in 1932 covering Kasyoha (77 Km2) and Kitomi (90 Km2) and regazzeted later as Kasyoha Kitomi Forest Reserve in 1948. Lately, the Lubare ridge in the South and Kakasi in the North, were added to the Reserve in 1996 and 1997 respectively.
The first management plan was written in 1957. The forest management is under the jurisdiction of the Districts of Bushenyi, Ibanda and Kamwengye. The forest borders Kanyambogo to the North, Kalinzu / Maramagambo Forest Reserves to the South-east, Kyamuhanga tea estate/Bitoma and Ndangaro parishes to the South, Rwanjere to the East and Kyambura Wildlife Reserve (UG008) and Queen Elizabeth National Park (UG007) to the west. The area covering Mwongyera and Butoma parishes acts as a biodiversity corridor connecting the Wildlife Reserve and the National Park with the Forest. There are exoduses of animals from the Park to the Forest and vice versa. The area also borders with the Kazinga channel to the west which connects Lake Albert and Lake George. The lakes function as a source of river Kyambula which traverses the whole Forest Reserve. Kasyoha-Kitomi provides ecological services for Lake George which has the most fisheries in the country. It lies within the Albertine Rift.
The altitude ranges from 975 – 2136 m above sea level. Most of the Forest is found along the valleys of the Western ranges. The rainfall is bimodal with quantity of 1250 – 1400mm per year (Raben et al., 2007). It has a minimum temperature ranges of 13 – 15oC and maximum temperatures ranges of 25 – 26oC.
Kasyoha-Kitomi provides ecological services for Lake George which has the most fisheries in the country. It lies within the Albertine Rift eco-region characterised by a high number of endemic species (NFA, 1999, Franks, 2003).
The vegetation of Kasyoha-Kitomi has been described by Langdale-Brown et al. (1964) and classed into Parinari forest described as medium altitude moist-evergreen forest (Kasyoha); Albizia-Markhamia forest described as medium altitude moist-semi deciduous forest (Kitomi and Kakasi); Forest/Savanna mosaic at high altitude (Lubare ridge and South-west of Kasyoha) and, post-cultivation Hyparrhenia-Pteridium community (Southern part of Kasyoha). The major Forest types as described by Langdale-Brown et al. (1964) are therefore medium altitude, moist evergreen and medium altitude moist semi-deciduous Forest; with grasslands.
The current number of bird species recorded from Kasyoha-Kitomi stands at 308 species (Plumptre et al, 2003) and over 276 species of birds has been reported from this Forest Reserve (Howard and Davenport, 1996) of which the White-napped Pigeon (Columbia albinucha) and Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) are considered globally Near-threatened. Kasyoha-Kitomi has one confirmed Albertine Rift endemic species (Blue-headed Sunbird). The other biome restricted species include Afep Pigeon, Black Bee-eater, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Blue-throated Roller, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, White-collared Olive-back, Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater, Shelley's Greenbul, Equatorial Akalat and Mountain Illadopsis among others .
Non-bird biodiversity: Kasyoha-Kitomi exhibit a diversity of wildlife, including one threatened species and one IUCN listed species of mammals. The mammals include among others, the elephant (L. africana), chimpanzee (P. troglodytes) and L’hoest’s monkey (C. l’hoesti). The small mammals recorded in Kasyoha-Kitomi according to Howard and Davenport (1996), include three uncommon forest dependent shrews – Northern Swamp Musk Shrew, Eastern Musk Shrew and Hero Shrew. The Albertine endemic, Woosnam’s Brush-furred Rat is also recorded. It habours one threatened species and one IUCN-listed species of reptile, four Albertine Rift endemic species of amphibians, two threatened and two IUCN-listed species of amphibians.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The high population densities, in-migration and lack of fertile land cause a general trend of land shortage in Kastoha-Kitomi landscape. The land shortage has increased the pressure on the forest reserve for fertile land and fuel wood. Currently only small short shrubs and reeds are common outside the forest, the majority of the larger trees has been exploited for timber and fuel wood.
Over the last 10years, the forest has undergone degradation affecting the livelihoods of the adjacent communities. With the increasing population, pressure is building on land and other forest resources since most community members around the forest derive their livelihoods from the forest. The area surrounding Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve is densely populated ranging from 150 to 200 people per square kilometre. Kasyoha-Kitomi landscape supports a population of about 200,000 people, 50,000 of whom live in villages adjacent to the forest.
As the natural resource become scarcer, conflicts between natural managers and the local communities escalate. As a result, NatureUganda with funding from WWF initiated a project: Participatory Environmental Management (PEMA) through a programme of Collaborative Forest Management with the National Forest Authority and the Local Communities as the major collaborators. The aim of this project was to develop innovative approaches for managing conservation hot spots within a rural landscape that took into consideration the needs of the resident communities, national and international stakeholders.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve is surrounded by a densely populated community putting a lot of pressure on the forest resources. Nature Uganda in 2004 initiated a project Participatory Environmental Management (PEMA Phase I) to introduce the Collaborative Forest Management approach. The project has now entered the Phase II and is negotiating CFM agreements with the local communities.
The Western side of the Forest Reserve which includes Mwongyera and Butoha is adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kyambura Game Reserve. The area acts as a biodiversity corridor connecting the National Park with the Forest. There are exoduses of animals from the Park to the Forest and vice versa. The area also borders with the Kazinga channel which connects Lake Albert and Lake George. The lakes function as a source of river Kyambula which traverses the whole Forest Reserve.
Habitat and land use
The Forest contains a high number of endemic plants and animals. The vegetation of Kasyoha-Kitomi has been described by Langdale-Brown et al. (1964) and is classed into Parinari forest described as medium altitude moist-evergreen forest (Kasyoha); Albizia-Markhamia forest described as medium altitude moist-semi deciduous forest (Kitomi and Kakasi); Forest/Savanna mosaic at high altitude (Lubare ridge and South-west of Kasyoha) and, post-cultivation Hyparrhenia-Pteridium community (Southern part of Kasyoha). The Forest is managed by the National Forest Authority and the main land use form is forestry. NFA alongside forestry, promotes multiple resource use under the CFM programme, eco-tourism and research programmes. It also promotes forest plantation in patches within the landscape although not necessarily in the forest. Being an important corridor for the adjacent National Parks, the Reserve is an important conservation area.
The Forest is a Central Forest Reserve which is managed by National Forest Authority on behave of the Government of Uganda. This therefore means that the Forest Reserve is owned by the Government. The communities are being involved in the management as well through the CFM aproach.
Site access / Land-owner requests
The Forest Reserve is used for a number of activities. The prime being forestry. Formally the the communities were not allowed to access the resources and this created conflicts between the managers and the local commuinities. The communities are now being involved in the management as well through the CFM aproach. This means that they can access some resources with authority from NFA.
National Biodiversity Data Bank Hosted by Makerere University Institute of Environment and Natural Resources.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 17/01/2022.