Mbale as the venue of the 3rd World Mountain Forum was selected because of its proximity to Mount Elgon, a transboundary mountain ecosystem shared by Uganda and Kenya with the highest point being Wagagai standing at a height of 4,321 m. Mount Elgon was listed as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve in 2005 due to its considerable plant diversity (including several rare species of Afromontane flora), cultural significance, and role as a water catchment area.
Apart from being one of the most important biodiverse areas and a water tower for both Uganda and Kenya, Mt. Elgon also serves as a catchment area for the drainage systems of three lakes: Victoria, Turkana and Kyoga. Mount Elgon’s Afromontane forests in particular provide a range of foods, fibres and fodder for the people living around the mountain including the Benet and Ndorobo people in Sebei sub-region. The mountain contains globally threatened species, some of which are endemic to the Afromontane region, making it one of the major tourist attractions in Africa.
The field visit during the forum has been planned on the last day of the event (20th October 2017) and three sites have been selected to be visited by different participants according to their interest in the four sub-themes of the forum namely Mountain and Climate Change, Mountain communities and livelihoods, Mountain ecosystem services and Sustainable mountain agriculture.
These sites are the following:
1. Wanale: community’s stewardship in balancing livelihood activities with nature conservation
Located at 20km south east of Mbale town, Wanale is an impressive mountain complete with escarpments, deep valleys, water-streaked cliffs, caves and rocks. Standing at a height of 2,100m above sea level, the mountain can be viewed from all areas in Mbale and neighbouring districts. It covers a huge portion of Bugisu’s land surface and Mbale town literally lies at its foot. Named after one of the sons of Masaba, the patriarch of the Bagisu, Mt. Wanale is believed to be the place where Nabarwa, the Kalenjin woman who prevailed upon Masaba to get circumcised before they got married, came from on her way from Kenya. The Nkokonjeru name that Semei Kakungulu’s people use to refer to that mountain came from the legend that Wanale; son of Masaba reared only white chicken.
Apart from the staggering beauty of the landscape of Wanale and the outstanding scenic view at the top of the mountain, participants who will subscribe to this location will have the opportunity to visit community woodlot plantations in Budwale sub-county as well as the new afforested areas restored by Wanale communities. In addition, a visit to Khauka cave cultural and historical site will be arranged. Historically, Khauka caves acted as shelters for the local people, their livestock and later on, a source of manure in the form of bat droppings. To date, they are used by climbers and their porters as campsites.
2. Bududa: effects of climate change in mountains and what communities are doing to cope with increasing climate-driven hazards
Located some 45Km south of Mbale town, Bududa is most known for the killer landslides that brought Mt Elgon to local and international media’s attention in the recent past. Sadly, not much is being said about the tremendous effort that local communities are making to cope with such events that are likely to intensify with the increasing evidence of climate change affecting precipitation regimes and thus threatening both the lives and livelihoods of these communities. Participants visiting this site will experience first-hand the extent of these notorious landslides and how they affected communities. They will then be taken to a tour of the various sustainable practices that are being carried out by local people to mitigate climate-driven hazards and increase their resilience to climate change.
3. Kapkwai: Leveraging mountain ecosystem services for the benefit of mountain people
The Kapkwai exploration centre is one of the starting points for the mountain climbing expeditions in Mt Elgon. The centre is located at around 25Km from Mbale town and the road to the centre offers a stunning view of the Karamoja plains, Lake Kyoga, and the slopes of Mt. Elgon. Participants who will be planning to visit Kapkwai will have the opportunity to see some of the famous sites of Mt Elgon such as the Sipi water falls, cultural caves, as well as the rocks and cultural sites for Sabiny rituals.
In addition, the group will also be taken to tour in communities in Kapkwai who have been supported boost their livelihoods and reduce their dependence on the mountain forests through a series of activities such as bamboo domestication, biogas and manure production.
The equipment and recommended garments for the field will depend on the site chosen but in general, gumboots, raincoat, a hat and good walking shoes are highly recommended. For the visit to the Khauka caves (Wanale site), please carry along headlamps and nose masks for your cave expedition and experience.
For the participants who will take the Bududa itinerary, it is highly advised to bring your gumboots to help you in the off-road treks that you will make to reach various fields where sustainable practices are being taken by local communities in the area.
The field visit is optional. Participants will contribute to expenses associated with the field visit (transport, snacks, entry fees, etc.) and a flat fee will be soon fixed and communicated to participants. On the first day of the forum, participants who are taking part in the field visit will be asked to pass at the registration desk to pay for the fee and indicate which group they will join. In general, participants interested in climate change (Theme 1) will be advised to join the Bududa group, those interested in mountain communities and livelihoods (Theme 2) will be advised to join the Wanale group while those interested in mountain ecosystem services (Theme 3) will be asked to join the Kapkwai group. For the participants interested in sustainable mountain agriculture, they will be able to join ether Bududa group or Kapkwai group since the two sites have interesting agriculture-related community initiatives that will be visited.
The field visit is being organized with the objective to give an opportunity to participants to experience the issues related to Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) and actions that are being carried out by stakeholders (governments, international programmes, civil society groups and communities) to address these issues.
The participants will have an opportunity to talk with communities, local leaders, park managers, etc. on the potential of mountains as pillars of sustainable development and discuss how pressures from global change (including climate change) can be mitigated or adapted to.
Specific activities that will be carried by each group will depend on the visited site, but in general these will include visits to community groups, nature walks in the mountain forest, visit of natural features such as rocks and caves, bird watching, fishing in waterfalls’ plunge pools, etc