Uganda: Building Drought Resilience Through Land and Water Management Project (#482)

The recurrence of droughts in the Aswa-Agago Sub-Catchment in Uganda has for long compromised the survival of populations and ecosystems in the area. The immediate livelihood options have included indiscriminate tree cutting, vast wetland drainage, and bush burning thus, leading to degradation of already fragile ecosystems. This case study synthesizes the project results implemented in the Aswa-Agago basin. The project focus is to build drought resilience of dry land communities through improved land and water management.

Background and Problems

The Aswa-Agago Sub-Catchment lies in the cattle corridor of Uganda, which is characterised by semi-arid conditions, subject to high rainfall variability and recurrent droughts. The people relied on nomadic pastoralism as a strategy to cope with resource variability. However, these practices have been under pressure from the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts. The immediate livelihood options therefore have included indiscriminate tree cutting, vast wetland drainage, and bush burning thus, leading to degradation of already fragile ecosystems.

Decisions and Actions Taken

To restore these ecosystems, the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) implemented a 3-year project to halt natural resource mismanagement in the River Sub-Catchment. The first step was to establish village, parish, and Sub-Catchment management committees. The management committees were elected with significant number of women who also constitute majority of water users. With these platforms, the project promoted community dialogues and training sessions which empowered the people to make decisions to improve their resilience to drought.

The second step was to diversify livelihoods and markets through establishing a community environment conservation fund. Managed by village committees, the fund provides loans to members of the community in the event of an emergency. 

A third step was to improve natural infrastructure around water points by constructing drainage channels and waterways to connect neighboring farms. Water harvesting structures including ponds, wells, pans and hand pumps were also installed for water development. 


Communities have noticed increases in water volumes, particularly during dry seasons, with some streams no longer drying up. Communities have also become healthy due to a reduction in incidences of water-borne diseases. Further, steps were taken to strengthen natural resource governance processes, which included drafting of a management framework involving new guidelines for environmental conservation, improving water resource management and sharing experiences across different sectors and governance levels. As a result, rangelands have been restored and a river buffer zone established. Pastures and wetland resources within the project sites have also begun to recover.

Lessons learned and replicability

  • Capacity development and active involvement of stakeholders promotes learning and strengthens decision making as it helps to integrate development programs into local government structures. Strong community institutions are prerequisites for long-term sustainability to promote resilience of natural resources.
  • Basin management may be decentralized into sub-catchment plans to promote an even more tailored approach to community livelihoods needs. 
  • Appropriate funding mechanism is needed for implementation of infrastructure that was agreed in consultation processes. The revolving fund and soft loans are the options that might be more effective comparing to one-time grant, as it increases an ownership to the infrastructure built. 

The case study was developed by IUCN and published in Building Resilience to Drought: Learning from Experience in the Horn of Africa (WMO, GWP, IGAD, 2016). GWP Eastern Africa provided the study for IWRM ToolBox.

Photo credit: African buffalos waterside in Uganda, by Achim Prill/

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