With a population of close to 35m people, a total area of 241,038 square kilometres, and a forest cover of 4.9 million hectares, which represent just around 14.5% of the total area, Uganda is the most deforested country in East Africa. Besides, between 1990 and 2005, it experienced a 15% decrease in forest cover driven by increased land use for agriculture (71.2% of land area) and exploitation of forest resources for other uses including energy.
So, it can be said to have been justifiably selected, along with Peru and Indonesia, by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in its global comparative study on securing tenure rights for forest dependent communities, using the participatory prospective analysis (PPA) or foresight and scenarios building method. Preceding the proper field study, there was a Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop to expose the local experts and resource persons to the methods of PPA and prepare them to engage with forest communities, peoples and other stakeholders.
I was one of the trainees. I had joined the training workshop as a representative for young agricultural professionals and as YPARD Foresight focal point, facilitated by GFAR and YPARD, to support the facilitation of the workshop while getting better trained in the rudiments of PPA and foresight scenarios building exercises.
Building possible future scenarios together
The workshop started in an engaging manner, with the opportunity for participants to reflect a bit on the focus of the workshop and express their hopes and fears for forest tenure security in Uganda and their individual communities on a written card. Afterwards they proceeded with the reading of these, while also introducing themselves to other participants to better understand their backgrounds and areas of expertise.
The brief introduction revealed the diversity of background of the participants. Representatives of women groups, the National Forest Agency, government, youth organizations, forest communities, academia and other stakeholders that interact with forests were all present.
The across-board representation brought together diverse but equally important views and experiences that were later translated into enriched discussions during the process of identifying forces shaping the future of forest tenure security and measuring their mutual influences.
This engaging and highly interactive beginning set the tone for a 5-day knowledge exchange and learning experience. As a co-learner I was able not only to build on and deepen my previous knowledge in foresight, but also to learn the basics of facilitating a participatory prospective analysis (PPA) engagement. As a supporting facilitator, I had the opportunity to practice my acquired foresight facilitation skills with the benefit of guidance from Dr Robin Bourgeois, GFAR Senior Foresight Expert and lead trainer and facilitator of the workshop.
Foresight thinking for a better future
During the training, participants could learn how to use participatory processes to define a foresight topic (especially as different stakeholders often have different definitions), as well as to agree on a future timeframe – optimally between 10 – 25 years.
I and the other trainees were able to practice and improve our foresight facilitation capacity and experience. By using structural analysis to identify driving forces and measure their mutual influences in a balance way, and eventually building scenarios together, participants also explored ways to have a pre-laid down consensus building or voting rules on making decisions on factors or issues on which there are no unanimous agreement.
By the end of the training, most participants – including myself – had gained the required knowledge and skills to feel confident enough to lead and facilitate a foresight scenarios’ building engagement in their different domains. Now, Uganda forest tenure and its forest’s dependent communities can benefit from their new skills. As for me, my improved skills will be channelled further into engaging and training more young professionals to get involved in harnessing the potentials of foresight thinking for their futures.