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Strengthening community sustainable forest management capacity: a case study of lunk County, South Sudan

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  • Save International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(7): 249-260 DOI: 10.5923/j.ijaf.20130307.01 Strengthening Capacities of Communities for Sustainable Forest Management: The Case of Renk County, South Sudan Loice M. A. Omoro1, Edinam K. Glover2,* 1Viikki Tropical Resources Institute, Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland 2Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, Finland Abstract Local commun ities in Ren k, South Sudan collectively own their land and therefore, should be able to benefit fro m its resources. However, the co mmunit ies are unable to do so due to inadequacies in capacity to manage particularly the forests resources in a way that can sustain both the resources and the people. Strengthening capacities for co mmunit ies and institutions is underscored to be central in ensuring sustainable use of resources. This study assessed the capacities of the local co mmun ities in imp lementing sustainable forest management as well as the capacities of research and development institutions to provide the necessary training and extension services to strengthen the capacities of the communit ies to implement sustainable forest management. A cross -sectional survey of respondents representing 21% of the estimated population of 67,182 in Renk was interv iewed using participatory methodologies and semi-structured questionnaire. Results showed that sustainable forestry activities are limited in Ren k County although the communities are aware of the benefits of forests. The study highlighted some of the challenges affecting forestry development and sustainable forestry practices which, are mainly related to inadequate capacities within the forestry institution and among the communities to effectively implement sustainable forestry. The study concludes that by streng thening capacities and collaboration between institutions and stakeholders, Renk County has opportunities to benefit fro m sustainable forestry. Keywords Capacity Bu ild ing, Co mmunity Knowledge, Forest Governance, Perception, Ren k County, Skills, South Sudan 1. Introduction Within the development co mmunity, capacity strengthening is debated and developing countries in particular are encouraged to strengthen the capacities within their public and private institutions in order to address challenges of sustainable development[1, 2]. Capacity strengthening is the enhancement of existing human and institutional capabilities to imp lement policies and other activities for develop ment. It is a process undertaken externally or internally with the aim of imp roving the performances of regional and national development activities. The process of capacity strengthening includes strengthening of skills and competencies, train ing of individuals, and infrastructural develop ment of research and development institutions[3]. According to the United Nations Develop ment Programme (UNDP), Capacity strengthening is synonymously used with capacity build in g * Corresponding author: (Edinam K. Glover) Published online at Copyright © 2013 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved and is stated to be a continuous development process involving many stakeholders; who among others include governmental, non-governmental organizations, local communit ies and academics who steer development. Capacity building is also considered to be essential for sustainable development because it enables people to optimally allocate and effectively use factors of production (i.e., land, labour and capital) as well as making management and power relation decisions[4, 5]. Studies have shown that differences in education levels as an aspect of capacity building influences labour productivity with regard to investment decision making. In a study,[6] four years’ of schooling was found to increase farmers’ output by 8.7 % while in another[7] found that farmers invested on high pay-off inputs such as hybrids based on their levels of educational.[8] suggests that the benefits of capacity building are best observed at community level and he argues that at this level, capacity building enhances the communit ies’ moral sense of duty with respect to resource use. Agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa has declined due to many reasons among which are limited train ing opportunities, aging of qualified staff and disproportionate recruit ment of qualified staff in 250 Loice M . A. Omoro et al.: Strengthening Capacities of Communities for Sustainable Forest M anagement: The Case of Renk County, South Sudan institutions charged with development[12]. The situation is even more acute in the forestry sector where in many of the sub-Saharan African countries forestry is not a major backbone of the economy because value-addition and fair trade in timber and timber products is min imal[13]. This is due to either weak or limited human resource development restricting the abilit ies to effectively carry out forestry research which, consequently affect the develop ment of forest resources into inco me-generating enterprises that could generate revenue and alleviate rural poverty[18]. Consequently, there is increased need for strengthening of capacity at organizational levels to include identification of capacity gaps and existing knowledge in order to plan and execute appropriate interventions so as to make proper investments for sustainable forest management[2, 9, 10, 11, 13]. Sustainable forest management has been variously defined[14, 15, 16 and it entails all ways of managing forest resources for specific objectives which ensure continuous flow of the desired products and service. In the newly independent country of South Sudan there are numerous capacity gaps that beset development activities and these include implementation of sustainable forest management. In particular, these are limitations on human resource capacities in institutions that are charged with forestry development. The Civil Authority for the New Sudan[17] o f 1996 was to build the capacities of personnel to administer and deliver public services to the people of South Sudan. Institutions were set up to offer education and training in several sectors including fo restry[18].[19] point out that training cannot be divorced fro m education because the purpose of formal education is to impart knowledge and develop capacities of individuals to be resourceful and self-reliant. Unfo rtunately, institutions that offer middle and field level train ings for personnel to steer forestry development at the community level are inadequate or altogether not available, underscoring the need for strengthening of capacities of institutions and communit ies. In Renk County, the losses on forest ecosystem are more pronounced because these resources are limited, consequently, appropriate activities and methodologies are needed to deter or alternatively alter the rates of losses of remain ing forest resources as part of sustainable forest management[20, 21, 22]. Unfortunately, in the absence of middle and field level staff or with staff whose capacities are limited, strengthening of capacities are necessary to effectively provide extension services to enable co mmunities undertake sustainable forest management. Extension is a process which enables local people to beco me familiar with new knowledge and skills and through which government support services can learn about local priorities and needs [23]. Against this backdrop, this study reports on the interventions regarding capacity strengthening in sustainable forestry for local co mmun ities and institutions in Renk County. Specifically the study assessed knowledge and skills in forestry activities by local co mmun ities ; capacities of institutions in promoting sustainable forestry; and finally makes reco mmendations on ways of strengthening communit ies and institutional capacities fo r sustainable forest management. 2. Materials and Methods 2.1. Study Area This study was conducted in Ren k County (Fig.1) which is one of the eleven counties in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan. Ren k County occupies an area of about 32,000 square kilo meters in the north of the state and has two distinct seasons. The wet season occurs during the months of June-October while the dry season occurs between November and May. The population of Renk county is estimated at 67,182[24] and the people main ly rely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods. In South Sudan, forests and woodlands cover about 29% of the total land area and co mprise ma inly of tropica l forests of mahogany and teaks in the south and acacia woodlands in the north. There were no forest management instituted during the war and this is said to have contributed to the irony that in some reg ions (e.g. Western Equatoria) forests remained intact because of the limited trade then with the North, and yet in other regions (e.g. Eastern Equatoria) the army cleared the forests for trade to finance the war[24]. Renk County on the other hand, is located to the far north of South Sudan and in a relatively drier area. It is not endowed with as much forest resources as other parts of South Sudan. The original forest cover in the country was estimated as 6.5% but has since decreased to 0% during the period between 1973 and 2006[25]. There are few remaining tree resources which are sparsely populated and consist ma inly of acacia woodlands which are constantly overexp loited for charcoal making fo r the readily available markets in the North. The trees are also poorly harvested for gum tapping through debarking or by fire all of which continue to deplete these resources. In the past, forest sustained people’s livelihoods through provisions of gums, resins and fodder especially during drought periods [20]. International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(7): 249-260 251 Figure 1. Map of South Sudan showing the study area in Renk County Source: Wikipeadia and Lamptess Report; 2010/Afrikan Sarvi 2.2. Data Collection Methods Several participatory methodologies were emp loyed for data collection. These were focused group discussions (FGDs)[26, 27, 28], SWOT analysis[31] and participant observation during visits to the villages. Indiv idual interviews using semi-structured checklists were also held with d ifferent members of staff fro m three government departments with bearing on forest resources. Table 1 shows the categorizat ion of the respondents and the respective methodology adopted in gathering data. The focused group discussions with commun ities were facilitated through translations from Eng lish to Arabic wh ile group discussions and interviews with indiv idual government staff were conducted in Eng lish. Background informat ion and other secondary data were obtained fro m an earlier report[30] which was used to cross check the informat ion fro m the field. Other information was obtained through observations during the field visits. In many of the villages, the respondents’ numbers varied between 5-10 people depending on the size of the village. Many of the respondents were males with exceptions of one Village, Sheikh Mohammed where there were 3 females and among the University staff where there were four wo men and 6 men. Four male govern ment personnel were interviewed, each representing the four departments of Forest, Livestock, Agriculture and County Co mmission. Other respondents 125 respondents were commun ity members fro m 8 villages 252 Loice M . A. Omoro et al.: Strengthening Capacities of Communities for Sustainable Forest M anagement: The Case of Renk County, South Sudan namely, Go z Roum (30), Magara (17), Mohamed Sheikh Village (5 including 3), Go z Famin (35 men) Nger Village (5), Sheikh Yasin (7), Abu Khadra(13) and Geiga villages(15). The UNU staffs were 7 with 2 local opinion leaders includ ing chiefs making a total of 9. In total 147 respondents were interviewed. During both the FGDs and indiv idual interviews, a checklist of questions was used to capture the informat ion to accomplish the study objectives. In addition, other participatory methods of SWOT analyses were used to cross check and identify specific issues during the focused group discussions. Background informat ion and other secondary data obtained from an earlier report[32] were used to cross check the informat ion collected fro m the field. Table 1. Cat egories of Focused Group Discussions and Individual Interviews held Respondent Code A-1* A-2** Type of Respondents Community members Community Sheikhs B-1* B-2** Lect urers Government Staff: -Renk County Commission -Liv est ock -Forest ry Ent ity 8 Villages 8 Villages and in Renk Upper Nile University Renk Town Note: * Denotes Focused Group Discussions ** Denotes Individual Interviews; A denotes communities; and B denotes Government/University staff 2.3. Data analyses The responses obtained from the interviewees were analysed using content analysis in relation to the study objectives[7, 5]. SWOT analyses were accomp lished by dividing the part icipants into four groups and each group was asked to discuss what they understood to be Strengths, Weakness Opportunity or Weakness in respect of sustainable forestry in Renk; after which the outcomes were jo intly discussed in a plenary and endorsed. The content analyses were based on 6 categories outlined in Table 2. Table 2. Content Analyses Categories Category # 1 2 3 4 5 6 Cat ego ry Livelihood sources St at us of Forest ry in Renk Import ance of forest s to communit ies Forestry Education and Training Challenges of sust ainable forest ry Forestry Extension in Renk 3. Results and Discussions The respondents had common opinions on all the categories across the villages as would be expected in Focused group discussions[1, 26, 31, 33]. The results from each of the categories under which the analyses were done are as follows: 3.1. Res pondents and Li velihood Sources Results of a proportionate random sample representing 22% of the estimated total population of 67,182 showed that the respondents fro m the 8 villages mentioned that their major sources of livelihood were agriculture and livestock although a study by[51] shows that other sources such as emp loyment (45%) and petty trading (26%) are increasingly becoming more pronounced. Agriculture is practiced at three scales namely: mechanized agriculture both large scale (average 1000 feddans1 ) and small scale (range 180-250 feddans) wh ich is rain-fed; and irrigated agriculture. Mechanized rain-fed and irrigated agriculture are specifically for production of Dura, sorghum although respondents stated that previously cotton was the majo r crop in the irrigation schemes but has since been abandoned due to high costs and pest infestations. The Dura is sold both locally and in other markets and the local sales offer opportunities for the communit ies to engage in petty trading. Although agriculture was mentioned to be disaggregated, the respondents stated that they do not own the large mechanized farms instead the owners come fro m other areas outside Renk County areas such as Kosti, Khartoum and Rebek. The participation of the locals in these farms is therefore, reduced to being casual labourers who when hired by the large scale farme rs derive their livelihoods. As men work in the mechanized farms, the wo men farm in home gardens where they practice mixed farming and emp loy measures for soil fertility imp rovement by using animal manure. A common challenge mentioned by the respondents was low crop yields fro m farms that have been observed over time. During the interviews, observation made in the fields was that, there was widespread infestation of Striga hermonthica, a weed considered as an indicator for low soil fertility[34, 35]. Striga infestation is co mmon in many parts including Sudan where [33] many farmers in the Republic of Sudan mentioned Striga weed as a problem especially in fields that are continuously under monocropping[ibid.]. As[36] rightly points out, Striga problem in Africa is intimately associated with intensification of land use associated with monocropping of cereals as is the case in Renk where it is co mmon on mechanized farms for production of Dura. Inclusion of trees on farms in different configuration is one way in wh ich soil fert ility can be enhanced on such farms[37, 28, 38]. In the mechanized farms, soil fertility improvement are supposed to be based on recommendations by then government of Sudan’s decree of 1994 which stipulates that 10% of the total area under mechanized farms be p lanted with shelterbelts. Planting or retention of natural forest of Acacia senegal, Acacia seyal, Acacia mellifera and Acacia seyal var. fistula in sloppy farms and stream banks[21, 22]. Similarly, the South Sudan’s forest policy also stresses that 10% of the mechanized farms be under trees. However, these recommendations are not adhered to by the mechanized farmers and therefore, many of the mechanized 1 1 Feddan=0.42 ha International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(7): 249-260 253 farms are devoid of trees because the farmers perceive these recommendations to be in the interests of the government[39]. This finding shows a capacity gap among the farmers and is an indication that the co mmunit ies are not aware of the role of trees in soil fert ility improvement. Integration of fast growing nitrogen fixing trees into the farms as reinforcements to create shelter belts or as imp roved fallows as advocated for in the forest policies can alleviate soil fertility challenge as well as form part of sustainable forest management. The trees would also provide other valuable products[40] and services; including spreading risks in case of crop failure to strengthen the economic[41], social[21] and ecological basis of agricultura l production[41] in this county. 3.2. Knowledge on Importance of Trees An assessment of knowledge and skills the local communit ies have in forestry activit ies based on interviews, showed varied responses regarding the importance of forests. The majo rity of respondents from group discussions stated that they were aware of the values of trees in the landscape and that trees are useful as sources of livelihood. They gave the examp le of Acacia seyal from which gum is extracted for sale (Ngeer and Go z Roum villages). Field observations further indicated that in all the villages visited, there were trees around the villages including farms. When asked why the communit ies retained trees on their farms, the respondents had mixed views: In some villages (Magara and Go z Rou m), the co mmunit ies’ perception was that when trees are left standing on farms they “attract rain”. In the other villages, some respondents expressed their reservations about retaining trees on their farms. Their assertions were that when trees are retained on farms they compete with crops for water, light and nutrients and therefore, would only consider retaining the trees if they did not pose any competition with crops. The reservations that farmers have about trees competing with crops are true in some instances depending on the type of trees in question. A study in Morogoro, Tanzania (with rainfall measuring 870 mm a-1) to assess roots of some five tree species (including nitrogen fixing Leucaena. leucocephala) grown with maize showed that the trees had twice as many fine roots density as maize[43]. Such high root density in trees can favour trees over crops with regard to water and nutrient uptakes and therefore, corroborates the negative perceptions reported by the local people. Nevertheless, despite the negative perceptions, trees when grown together with arable crops have been shown to play many positive roles which favour arable crops as well. Trees do improve soil fert ility; enhance water retention and regulate soil temperature all of which affect crop production[44, 45, 46, 47, 48]. Use of Azadirachta indica as windbreaks in Niger resulted in millet yield increase of 23%[9] while in Burkina Faso and Senegal planting of Acacia albida (Feidherbia albida) led to millet yield increases of 50%[4, 49]. Similarly a study to compare fields planted with trees and those without in Burkina Faso showed average yield increases in millet and sorghum production of 10% on fields with trees than those without[50]. In some cases however, some of the respondents expressed the view that trees are “planted by God” and would therefore, pre fer to have more open agricultura l fie lds rather than fields dotted with trees. This belief was shown to have created difficu lties in pro moting baobab trees (Adanisonia digitata) wh ich has mult iple uses[48] and clear propriety user rights in Southern Niger[51]. The farmers perceived that these trees were div ine g ifts and growing them would imp ly tempering with divine courses of action (ib id.). Understanding such perceptions as held by the people provides opportunity for strengthening their capacities and to design appropriate sustainable forest activit ies involving their participation. Such perceptions may also be an indication that some of the community members have not identified benefits from trees and therefore, have paid less attention to forestry activities. This is a challenge which underscores the need for capacity strengthening to enlighten the communit ies about the values other than spiritual va lues associated with sustainable forest management. 3.3. Communities’ Perceptions on Forest Management The responses regarding local commun ities’ perceptions on current forest management practices instituted in the county and the impacts such managements have had on the forest resources are shown in Table 3. When asked about the specific consequences human activ ities have had on the tree resources, the respondents mentioned the impacts from extensive cutting of Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal for charcoal production and for firewood that has led to the reduction in cover of the said species; and instead, there have been increased cover of the landscape by the less valuable species of Acacia nubicans. Charcoal production is also a source of livelihood in South Sudan. It is made fro m the sparse tree resources of Acacia senegal and A. seyal considered to produce quality charcoal. The charcoal is sold in the urban markets in Renk and in Sudan. Wood collection for act ivities as charcoal making in such dry areas deplete the wood resources since the demand exceeds the natural regeneration[51, 39]. Acute fuelwood shortages affect about 112 million people in 18 African countries [52] and in the Sahel, nearly a ll trees on common and unprotected lands are harvested for the urban markets [53] perpetuating this depletion. In Sudan where 75% of the energy requirement is met by fuelwood (22 million m³per year[54] this means that approximately 400 million acacia trees are cut annually[3] to meet this demand; leading to majo r land degradation as it strives to meet the quest for fuelwood[22]. When asked what measures they would institute to increase tree cover, some of the respondents (Go z Fami, Sheikh Yasin and Abu Khadra) mentioned the fo llo wing: tree protection fro m animals by engaging guards; and institute local bye-laws to safeguard tree owners whose trees may be damaged by animals by imposing fines and 254 Loice M . A. Omoro et al.: Strengthening Capacities of Communities for Sustainable Forest M anagement: The Case of Renk County, South Sudan penalizing people found to mis manage the trees. The respondents mentioned the benefits of managing forest resources, particularly the Acacia seyal and A.senegal as being their value in gum production. This benefit can be an incentive to motivate the commun ities to engage in forest management as study elsewhere shows [31, 34] and be used as an entry point for strengthening the capacities of the communit ies on sustainable gum harvesting techniques. Table 3. Forest management and perceived impacts Forest management ■ Rampant felling of trees for charcoal production ■ Frequent uncontrolled fires ■ Unsustainable gum harvesting (i.e., burning or debarking) ■ Limited awareness on the importance of trees ■ Limited technologies(gum harvesting/ charcoal making ■ Poor linkages and extension services ■ Inadequate resources Impact ■ Degraded landscape devoid of trees ■ Depletion of the few existing trees and subsequent reduced tree cover ■ Death of gum tree ■ More degradation of the limited forest resources ■ Limited planting of trees on landscape ■ -Inability for sustainable gum harvesting ■ Limited information on species choices ■ Poor coverage of extension services Based on the responses, the communities in Renk County are willing to plant multipurpose trees and in particular interested in planting Acacia senegal wh ich is valued for gum production and other industrial and med icinal properties[53]; the Forest Department also as has been established in this study, plans to establish Acacia seyal and Balanites aegyptiaca plantations; these tree species have been listed to be among the threatened or endangered species[53]. The responses by the community and the Forest department are indicat ions that future sustainable forest management can be instituted in this study area. Furthermo re, the results show the commit ments by the communities in Renk to take care of trees once planted including readiness to implement punitive measures to safeguard the trees as also found by[54] that the communities in Renk are not only willing to plant trees but are ready to institute governance rules to maintain tree cover. 3.4. Capacity Strengthening at Instituti onal Levels for the Enhancement of Sustainable Forestry This objective was accomp lished by interviewing respondents in two institutions that carry out forestry education and development in Renk County namely the the University of Upper Nile (UNU) and Forest Depart ment (FD) res p ectiv ely . We sought to establish fro m the Fo rest Depart ment (FD), the extent of forest cover in Ren k County, and the department acknowledged that the forest cover is low but have plans to improve the situation as per some six p riority areas (Table 4). Table 4. Priority areas of Population Activities to Promote Forest Cover to Counter Growing Deficits Priority Area 1. To enhance ext ension act ivit ies and implement policies which focus on educat ing the people 2. To decentralize and establish more nurseries close to the communities (in Bomas2 and Payams3) 3. To reserve some land for forests since agricult ure is the most dominat e land use 4. To est ablish plantat ions to be managed by FD e.g., Eucalyptus, Balanite eagyptiaca plantations. 5. To encourage income generation by establishing Acacia seyal plantations for gum p ro duct ion 6. To implement land ownership policy to control activities which affect development of the forest s e.g. indiscriminat e cutt ing of t rees for charcoal. Activities currently undertaken ■ Follow up on individuals who obtain seedling from the FD nursery to advice on management of the seedlings ■ Training of teachers in 20 primary schools ■ A central nursery is in place ■ Beautification of streets in Renk Town ■ Planting of trees in schools and around government buildings in Renk ■ Not in place ■ Not in place ■ Not in place ■ Not in place Activities in plan ■ Tree nurseries in 4 villages to be established ■ 7 Community forests to be in it iat ed ■ Yet to be accomplished ■ Yet to be accomplished ■ Yet to be accomplished 2 Village 3 Location International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(7): 249-260 255 The status of forests in Renk County is quite limited, recorded as 0% in 2006[25] although, fro m field observations there are trees sparsely growing of different species in the landscape as well as in and around the villages. The Forest Depart ment has a proposed forest Policy statement[57] which at the t ime of the study was yet to be ratified and outlines 8 national goals for the Forestry sector in South Sudan. A mong the policy ob jectives are: to maintain the ecological characteristics of protected areas, forest reserves and areas outside the forests; promotion of the health and vitality of forest ecosystem; and to ensure free undisturbed natural evolution of these ecosystems[34]. In principle, these objectives justify imp lementation of sustainable forest management. At the time of the study, the FD was experiencing challenges with respect to personnel and less developed extension infrastructure to enable the department institute and imp lement sustainable forest manage ment. 3.4.1. Current Extension Services in Ren k The Forest Department (FD) had only two qualified personnel who were based in the County. There was one trained staff who together with some unskilled staff worked in the central nursery; while at the Bo ma level, (there are a total of 5 Bo mas) there are forest guards who do not have any training in forestry but are emp loyed to guard the forests. The staffing situation was not any better given that some of the qualified staff had attained retire ment age and were like ly to leave worsening the staffing challenge. Aging of qualified staff and disproportionate staff recruit ment has been shown to affect agricultural productivity elsewhere in Africa [12] and in the same manner this is true for the case of FD in Renk. In addition, the department suffers fro m lack of adequate logistical support which exacerbates the problems in delivering extension services. As a result, the extension services offered by the Forest Department are limited to visiting and train ing indiv idual co mmun ity members particularly those individuals who obtain their seedlings fro m the Depart ment’s central nursery. During such visits, advice is restricted to in formation related to planting and tendering techniques of seedlings. The other extension activities by the department are through campaigns which are conducted annually to encourage communit ies to plant trees. As explained earlie r, in South Sudan, the seedlings are mainly obtained fro m the government run central nursery. This is a major setback for farmers who may want to intensify landuse by introducing trees on their farms. The disadvantages of reliance on the central nursery not only include logistical challenges but also that seedlings produced are not based on farmers’ needs but on perceived national and the FD’s policies and fail to address the community needs as typical in many regions [24]. Capacity strengthening therefore would enable the co mmunit ies to raise their own tree seedling which would suit their needs and hence encompass sustainable forestry. Furthermore, communit ies would be empowered to have their own individual farmer’s nurseries which are known to produce more seedlings cumu latively and at lower costs than centralised nurseries such as group nurseries [56]. Despite the constraints of the FD, there are plans to establish 7 community forests (in Magara, Go z Famin, Geiga, Killo 5, Wagara and Killo 15, Gezira Bala) although 3 villages were not aware of such plans. In Magara, for instance, the respondents mentioned that land had been demarcated seven years earlier for the establishment of Acacia senegal plantation. The respondents did not mention having had contacts with the Forest Department personnel for any advice or support. However, some of the Sheikhs mentioned that they require extension services because many of the people in their communit ies are poor and need to interact with the extension services and to be educated to change their attitude towards being self reliant and to manage their environ ment. Other than information pertain ing to tree planting, there were neither well defined technologies nor sustainable forest management related informat ion that was being promoted by the FD during the study and the department mentioned specifically limitations of skills in handling many interventions. In particular, three aspects were mentioned in which the FD is limited and yet are af fecting fo restry development in the country. These were challenges on: a). Charcoal Production As monetary economy increases in the county and communit ies begin to engage in petty trade[24], they are increasingly exp loring other alternative sources of inco me and charcoal making is one such alternatives. Charcoal making in Ren k County is poorly done with earth kilns which require more use of tree resources because of the low efficiencies of the kilns[8]. The consequence of this is the depletion of the few tree resources left in the landscape in order to produce enough charcoal for sale. Introduction of more efficient ways for charcoal production and selection of trees for charcoal making are so me of the technologies and skills the FD can be imparted with in o rder to also build capacities of the co mmunit ies who currently are not making the charcoal in any sustainable way. Wood fuel (i.e., firewood and charcoal) is still a major source of energy in Africa and cannot be dispensed with although as incomes improve, more people opt for other alternatives as LPG and electricity especially in the urban centres[57]. Despite the fact that the amounts of wood used as firewood or charcoal being similar due to higher efficiencies of charcoal stoves than wood stoves [61]; charcoal has an advantage over firewood because it has a higher calorific value (32-33MJ/kg) than firewood (18-19MJ/kg) and its production is necessary especially for the urban markets and inco me for the local communit ies[62]. The only drawback however, is the process of charcoal making in wh ich losses ranging from 71-76% occur because of technologies used (e.g. earth kilns) especially in Africa[ibid.]. Since charcoal making uses forest biomass there is the risk that these resources can get 256 Loice M . A. Omoro et al.: Strengthening Capacities of Communities for Sustainable Forest M anagement: The Case of Renk County, South Sudan depleted unless proper management is instituted[36] and such would include use of more efficient methods and technologies to improve charcoal making. In Africa, there have been proven technologies which improve yields by 45%[62] and such requires capacity building[61]. Encouraging and pro moting alternative d iversified plantation species or species producing less dense charcoal holds promise for sustainable charcoal ma king and use[ibid.) and can be incorporated in the capacity building. b). Inadequate Technologies for Gum Arabic Har ves ting Many of the community members reported using fires to remove thorns from the Acacia seyal trees or removal of the barks fro m the trees to ease harvesting of gu ms both of which contribute to the degradation of the scarce tree resources and do not represent sustainable forest management. There are techniques that can be imparted to the FD staff to be ab le to train the gum tappers to ensure the trees are not adversely affected after gum harvesting. Use of an imp roved gum-harvesting tool locally called “sunki” for instance, may replace the traditional, inefficient harvesting techniques of making incisions into the tree with traditional small bladed axe. These older tapping methods do not yield the maximu m amount of gum fro m the tree[63]. Damage to the wood should be min imal to produce superior quality product and such can be achieved through use of “sunki”. Adoption of improved gum-harvesting techniques may strengthen the rural economy and building sustainability [64] in the forest ecosystems upon which rural livelihoods depend. c). Wil d Fires Fires are used for management of pastures, however, in many cases in Renk, these fires spread out and burn areas not intended for such management. The consequences are that the few trees in the landscape are burnt out.[37] reported that range fires that are set intentionally for pasture improvement affect about 35% of the natural range productivity. Fires also affect ecosystem structures and function and result into changes in land surface. Therefore, whereas fires stimu late grass for fodder provision, alternative sources of fodder such as through forestry may be effective in controlling fires than using fire control techniques[49]. There are no skills in using prescribed fires as a tool in pasture management in Renk, although the FD indicated that there are plans to construct fire control measures of fire cut lines to control fire outbreaks. A strategy[59] that Forest department has is to hold discussions with the local Sheikhs to institute fire control measu res including having to report incidences of fires to the department. 3.4.2. Forestry Education and Training The Upper Nile University has a campus located in Renk which offers train ing in forestry. During the study, linkages between the Forest Depart ment and the University were explored, as well as lin kage between the University and the local co mmun ity with a v iew to establishing how forestry development is being conducted in the county. The responses received from both the department and the University was that there are no formal working relations between the two institutions except forwarding of relevant departmental reports to the university. The university’ relation with the Forest Department on the other hand is limited to the Un iversity supplying graduates into the labour market, so me of whom may or may not be absorbed by the Forest Department.[4] underscores the need for partnership and collaboration between stakeholders to enhance research and development. Therefore, there can be immense mutual benefits for both institutions for the develop ment of fo restry in the county if these two institutions collaborated[53]. Through collaborations, many aspects of capacity strengthening for both institutions can be achieved. During the discussions with respondents fro m both institutions, specific areas of collaboration between the department and the University were high lighted and these were that: Upper Nile Un iversity (UNU) staff could prov ide in-service training to the Forest Depart ment staff; generate and develop technology through research on issues identified by the department regarding sustainable forestry (e.g. f ire control and management, gum tapping and charcoal production) that they lack skills in. UNU could generate, develop and undertake adaptation trials on technologies as use of trees and shrubs for soil fertility enhancement in the demonstration farm wh ich can also be used for extension. The Forest Department on the other hand could assist the University to assign students to undertake outreach activities among the communities on various aspects of forest management. Collaboration between UNU and the commun ities was also explored. It was reported however, that this collaboration existed in the past with commun ities in Malakal, the State’s capital through local med ia. This is a practice yet to be introduced in Renk to complement the Forest Depart ments’ campa igns especially to h ighlight seasonal messages such as tree planting or gu m tapping that can be undertaken only during certain seasons. Dissemination activities in any form have significant positive influences on both research and development[66]. It is through dissemination that new informat ion fro m research can reach the target audience and to enhance their capacities to implement the ideas. In Ren k, d issemination activities are limited and needs to be expanded beyond the med ia. UNU could be encouraged to undertake other outreach programmes and field visits through students’ attachments who would work and share their knowledge and skills with the farmers. Currently, UNU has a demonstration farm where different trials are established and monitored. This is an infrastructure wh ich the UNU can use to reach the farmers when they attend field days to observe new technologies that have been successfully tried. The field days would offer the commun ities the opportunities to observe and choose which technologies to adopt and for the University to engage with communities to identify capacity International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(7): 249-260 257 gaps and therefore, to respond by establishing research to address the communit ies’ needs[18]. 3.5. Areas of Investment for Future Strengthening Capacity for Sustainable Forestry While at t imes the loca l co mmun ities are assumed to lack capacities or knowledge to manage forests,[67] suggests that this is not always true because in such cases, the communit ies may not share the same objectives as those institutions promoting forest management. In the case of Renk however, we established that capacity gaps were the case. We also established the desire by the communit ies to engage in forest management and as had been observed by[68] in Ma li. We a lso found that the local co mmunities in Renk have different perceptions about forest resources and their management, and are willing to participate in forest management. Responses fro m SWOT analyses about the implementation of forestry extension services are shown in Table 5. We also established the limited capacity of the Forest Depart ment to deliver forestry extension services to the communit ies despite the desire by the co mmunit ies to be trained.[65] also found that the communities in Renk desire to be provided with training and extension services on forestry. To address this gap, the Forest Department should increase coverage and attain good depth of reach in the communit ies by using selected community members as resource persons. The commun ity resource persons would be trained centrally by the Department regularly to reduce logistical hardships while maximising on the limited staff. In turn, the trained Co mmunity Resource Persons would train and work with commun ities to pro mote sustainable forestry. In many development programmes, the use of local communit ies as resource persons is a co mmon phenomenon. Such persons are often selected by the communities therefore, they are trusted and have the potential to influence the community to willingly adopt innovations as has been the case in India[69] and Haiti[70] . When local persons are used to provide extension services, it reduces the risk of the informat ion reaching only the local people with economic power who are often favoured and perceived to readily adopt innovation and therefore provided with the extension services[71]. Therefore, local persons are community members who share similar socio-economic background and therefore, interact readily with many of the p eers . The SWOT results and the responses showed that there is a need to provide capacity building to the Forest Department as well as the communities. In particular, capacity building for the Forest Department will enable the FD to carry out effective extension services to the communities. The major setback of inadequate technical capacities by the Forest Depart ment can also be improved through collaboration with the UNU. Th is will enable UNU to provide regularized in-service trainings to the unskilled FD staff in themat ic areas to address the needs of the communities with regard to sustainable forest manage ment inc luding technological gaps that have been identified by the FD. Such trainings would create a critical mass of skilled t rainers at the department who would in turn train the commun ity resource persons to be able to train the rest of the commun ity members. Table 5. Result s of SWOT Analyses on forestry ext ension Strength Combined Community and Forest Department analysis on forestry extension services FD has staff and some capacity to implement Forestry Inadequately trained FD staff, some of whom work as Ext en sio n v o lunt eers FD has a supporting policy on increasing tree cover by 10% Limited resources for FD to carry out extension work Weaknesses and 5% on mechanized farms and Irrigated farms respectively Knowledge of limited technologies by both FD and UNU (e.g. UNU can provide technical support, training and outreach harvesting techniques) act iv it ies Weak linkages between FD, UNU, Research and farmers Cooperation from local Administration to incorporate trees in Attitude of the people towards tree planting landscape Inadequate knowledge of the role of forests in environment by Well defined livestock routes and communities are aware of some communities consequences of damages from livest ock Poor road networks Forest as a source of income to the local population Expansive land area The communities are available and willing to be involved St aff and st udent s of UNU who can be involved in specific outreach activities There is room for research act ivities Long periods of rainfall Indigenous Knowledge System can be tapped and enriched Indigenous trees can be planted instead on new introductions Increasing population-hence labour available Local leaders are influential hence can be used to pass Threats Fire Drought Expansion of mechanized agriculture Clear felling of trees-tradition Mono-cropping-soil degradation Middlemen exploit with pricing Lack of funds in fo rmat ion Primary and secondary school students to extend the ideas Opportunities 258 Loice M . A. Omoro et al.: Strengthening Capacities of Communities for Sustainable Forest M anagement: The Case of Renk County, South Sudan 4. Conclusions and Recommendations Sustainable forest management is currently not being practiced in Renk on account of inadequate capacities of forestry institutions and the communit ies. Consequently there is continuous pressure on the remaining limited forest resources, resulting in degradation and further depletion of the resources. There is however, scope and justification to increase forest resources in Ren k due to the interest of the communit ies as well as fro m the Fo rest Depart ment. Trees are a mong the source of income for livelihood for the people of Ren k County. However, the multip le challenges affecting the sustainability of these resources require co mprehensive approach in instituting effective plans for sustainable forest management. As a first step, unsustainable practices that deplete forest resources (wild forest fires, inefficient charcoal production, unsustainable gum harvesting) can be addressed through provision of appropriate technologies. This can be achieved through capacity strengthening from sound training and research-extension-farmer linkages. Such capacities will introduce new skills and appropriate technologies to be used. Thus, there is need to utilize and strengthen existing capacities of both the department and the communit ies to create synergy for sustainable forest management in Renk County. [8] Fletcher, S., 2003. Stakeholder representation and the democratic basis of coastal partnerships in the UK. M arine Policy 27, 229–240. [9] UNCED, 1992. Earth Summit Agenda 21. Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development: United Nations, New York. 300 p. [10] Parson, E. A., P.M . Haas, and M . A. Levy, 1992. 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