Restoring degraded forests in Uganda

Indigenous tree nursery at TBG


Under the Bonn Challenge, Uganda has pledged to restore 2.5 million ha of land by 2020. This pledge represents a huge opportunity for delivering species conservation, increasing biodiversity on farms, and delivering genetically and taxonomically diverse ecological restoration that benefits people and wildlife. Uganda has 849 native tree species; 30 are globally threatened.

Tooro Botanical Gardens (TBG) is situated in Fort Portal in Western Uganda. TBG has been working with local communities to bring 52 ha of degraded forest reserves under restoration and operates the largest native tree nursery in Uganda, producing around 40,000 native tree seedlings per year. The first phase of the project brought one Central Forest Reserve and two Local Forest Reserves under restoration, generated information on native species, and established demonstration sites that showcase species diverse forest restoration and provide benefits to neighbouring communities, e.g. through employment.

In the second phase of this project, TBG is now scaling up its efforts across Uganda and has established four new indigenous tree nurseries next to areas identified as high priorities for restoration. The project aims to raise awareness of the diversity of native tree species, increase supply of native seedlings and plant native trees in additional degraded areas.

Quick Facts

Geographic Region:

Country or Territory:

Tropical Forest

Tropical Forest - Moist Broadleaf

Area being restored:
80 hectares

Project Lead:
Tooro Botanical Gardens

Organization Type:
NGO / Nonprofit Organization

Project Partners:
Botanic Gardens Conservation International Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanic Gardens National Forestry Authority

Project Stage:

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Agriculture & Livestock, Deforestation, Urbanization, Transportation & Industry

Degradation Description

The majority of designated forest reserves in Uganda were cleared, and subsequently planted with non-native species and encroached for agriculture. Many are close to urban areas and this has led to a loss of green spaces for urban dwellers, ecosystem services and biodiversity.

Defining the Reference Ecosystem

The reference ecosystem is based on diverse sources of information (e.g. multiple extant reference sites, field indicators, historical records, predictive data).

Reference Ecosystem Description

The TBG team conducted botanical surveys in Kibale Forest National Park, the nearest remaining forest area to the restoration sites. Historical references were also used to supplement survey work, including forestry records and herbarium vouchers.

Project Goals

  • To raise awareness of the diversity of native tree species in Uganda
  • To increase the supply of genetically and species diverse tree seedlings for restoration
  • To restore degraded forest reserves to benefit biodiversity
  • To provide employment opportunities for rural communities


Monitoring Details:
TBG measures survival rates, height, canopy width and root collar diameter of a sample of trees at all planting sites. These are measured at the end of each rainy season. The average survival rate of seedlings planted out across the restoration sites so far is 83%. Top performing species showed 99% survival in 2018.

Start date, including baseline data collection:

End Date:


Rural communities are primary stakeholders in this project, particularly women as they have limited employment opportunities in rural areas. Communities are trained in seed collection, propagation and nursery management skills. Engagement and sensitization of local leaders, NGOs and government,  and school and higher education groups, has been a key component of work at TBG. Forest restoration training courses are also offered by TBG.

How this project eliminated existing threats to the ecosystem:
To avoid further encroachment at sites, communities are involved in restoration activities, e.g. offered employment and allowed to plant leguminous vegetables in between young trees.

How this project reinstated appropriate physical conditions (e.g. hydrology, substrate)",:
Planting of native species to improve soil conditions and reduce run-off.

How this project achieved a desirable species composition:
An average of 80 native tree species are planted at each site.

How this project reinstated structural diversity (e.g. strata, faunal food webs, spatial habitat diversity):
Planting of framework species to attract seed dispersers.

How this project reestablished external exchanges with the surrounding landscape (e.g. migration, gene flow, hydrology):
The sites improve connectivity to other forest patches.

Activities were undertaken to address any socio-economic aspects of the project:
Community involvement in nurseries and planting activities, which helped gain support from neighbouring communities.

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
Encroachment at planted sites greatly reduced throughout the project timeframe. Local people also planted native trees in their homesteads to remove pressure on planted resources.

Reinstate appropriate physical conditions",:
Increased canopy cover and decreased soil erosion.

Achieve a desirable species composition:
An average of 80 native tree species are planted at each site.

Reinstate structural diversity:
The diversity of birds recorded at the TBG site increased significantly.

Factors limiting recovery of the ecosystem:
At some sites continuing community engagement is required to ensure long-term success of planting efforts.

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
TBG supplied communities neighbouring restoration sites with desirable seedlings free of charge (over 41,000 seedlings were distributed over the duration of the project). The four new nurseries established are employing 60 people as seed collectors and 40 people as nursery workers (overall).

Provision of basic necessities such as food, water, timber, fiber, fuel, etc.:
The diversity of native tree species given to communities provide them with fruit and other Non Timber Forest Products.

Cultural dimensions such as recreational, aesthetic and/or spiritual:
The project has improved the aesthetic value of the forest reserves. It is envisaged that these areas will be used for recreation in future.

Regulation of climate, floods, disease, erosion, water quality, etc.:
Reduced soil erosion through tree planting.

Has the project had any negative consequences for surrounding communities or given rise to new socio-economic or political challenges?:
Communities were previously using the sites for cultivation, but this was illegal. Initial adverse feelings towards the project interventions were mitigated through outreach, employment of local community members, e.g. in nurseries, has enhanced community support for the project.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Different community engagement processes are required at different sites
  • The project was helpful for determining the propagation techniques and growing requirements for different species, many of which had never been propagated before
  • Careful communication is required during the site clearance phase, i.e. to inform people of the long-term objectives of the project

Long-Term Management

Restoration work was carried out in collaboration with local forest offices, who are responsible for long-term management of the sites. Engagement with policymakers throughout the first phase of the project has also paved the way for the expansion of restoration activities to other areas.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

Ashden Trust (2012 – 2018) and Darwin Initiative (2019 – 2021): £10-£15,000 per year for propagation and planting activities

Primary Contact

Godfrey Ruyonga

Tooro Botanical Gardens

Fort Portal


Organizational Contact